Sat, Apr 22, 2006
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3
later climbed Mon, Dec 24, 2007


A dayhike attempt at Kawaikini, Kauai, HI

Kawaikini is one of the places that the locals are eager to tell you you can't get to. The Kokee park staff are more likely to tell you about the last guy who disappeared in the Alakai Swamp than offer you any help in how to get there. I had been interested in getting to the summit of the "Wettest Place on Earth" ever since I first visited Kauai almost 20 years earlier. Fortunately, there were other folks who were even more interested than myself, and they actually went out there and tried. And in the last year, they were even successful. Even more fortunate was they were happy to share their experiences and post all kinds of useful information on the web. This made for great reading and I eagerly soaked it all up in the months before my planned family vacation to Kauai in April. The problem was that these folks were taking three to five days to reach the summit and return, more time than I could allot, and far more time than I would be interested in spending in the Alakai. Could it be dayhiked? The route-finding would be quite tricky and my best hope was to get a guide who'd been there before. I first contacted Mike who had posted the most comprehensive information and had actually been to the summit. I didn't realize he didn't live on the island and couldn't coordinate our schedules, but besides, he didn't think a dayhike was possible. Next I contacted Don Nelson who had made the best dayhike attempt to date and had been part of the COHPers Gang of Four that had made the summit in a five day effort back in February. At first I think Don thought I was a bit crazy, but in a series of exchanges via email and PMs he came around to thinking I might actually pull it off. His information was invaluable, as my basic plan was to take advantage of the route they had tagged with ribbons through key trailless sections. They had taken 8hrs to forge and tag the mile-long section called "Purgatory" initially, 4hrs upon their return. I would have to travel this section in 2hrs to have a chance at completing the dayhike. Don and I concluded it could be done in 16-18hrs in a very long day.

This report does not go into the details of the route as that is exhaustively covered in reports by Mike at www.waialeale.org and by the Gang of Four on the COHP website. These are excellent references, invaluable for anyone seeking out this summit. I will simply use the named references to the various points along the route in my description.

Being not so far from the equator, Hawaii has little of the long daylight hours that we normally get in the summertime. After my first week on Kauai, I had learned that I'd have 13hrs of good daylight, and maybe another one of poor light - the sun sets fast in the tropics. This meant that some of the dayhike would have to be done by headlamp to keep from getting completely lost in the swamp. I rented a 4x4 (a Saturn Vue) to negotiate the muddy 6mi road and practiced driving some of the other challenging roads around the island. The day before the hike I drove up to Kokee State Park and drove out on the road to see what the conditions were like. I was able to drive 4.5mi of the road, but a huge muddy section of the road blocked further progress. I hiked out to the TH then hiked the first mile of the trail up to the overlook bench. The weather that day was cloudy, but dry and warm - it would have been a good day to head to the summit as it was the second day in a row without rain atop - after getting something like 7 inches in the days prior. I cached a liter of water at the bench in the event that I might need them on the return the following day.

I set the alarm for 2a, expecting to start hiking at 4a. Unfortunately, I set it incorrectly and when I awoke to check the clock it was already 4a. Rats. I had only a few days left and would not get another chance at it. I swore enough to wake my wife, but after explaining to her it was nothing serious, I got dressed and was on my way after a quick breakfast. Daylight came on as I drove up to the start, and at 6:10a I left the car and headed up the road. In half an hour I reached the TH, and at 7:22a I was at the bench. I had four liters of liquid in my pack which made it rather heavy, far more water and chocolate milk than I have ever carried before. I left the the liter I had cached and continued on. It was overcast with poor visibility, a slight drizzle falling intermittently - typical weather in the Alakai. It would rain over 2 inches at the summit this day, a bit more than average, but still quite typical. In less than 15 minutes I was at the raingauge where the trail goes from maintained to unmaintained.

I expected to start having some trouble here given previous reports, but found the unmaintained sections quite good. They were tagged periodically where it was hard to find, and I only lost the trail once before Kaoie Camp, and that only for about a minute. I had no trouble hopping the wet rocks to cross the stream without getting my boots wet. Still, the lack of water-proofing on my shoes combined with wet trail and vegetation as well as the drizzle to ensure that my feet were already wet. I wore neoprene socks instead of regular socks, mostly to keep my feet warm (they were no good at keeping them dry). I just accepted that my feet would be wet all day and consoled myself that I would be warm and cozy at the end of the day instead of sleeping in a swamp.

I paused for my first break at Kaoie Camp (8:10a), noting the old, musty blankets and sleeping bags hanging inside the aluminum shelter, evidently left by hunters. There were a few pans and such, but not much else. I left a half liter of chocolate milk in the camp for the return, happy to lighten my load if even just a bit. Leaving camp, I had no trouble refinding the trail south of the shelter. It climbed steeply up to a ridge along a yet poorer trail, but one that was far more tagged. In fact it was tagged so frequently that I had no trouble at all making my way to the Arrow (9a). I stepped behind the marked log and followed the old blue tags southeast to Sincocks Bog (10a). I made a small error here - I followed blue ribbons clockwise around the outside of the bog fence, then followed them a few minutes back into the understory of the swamp. I realized I was following a bird transect in the wrong direction, and so returned to the bog. I hopped the fence and walked down to the SE corner of the bog where I soon found the continuation of the blue ribbons. Not long after I came upon Bogette where the real fun begins.

Relying on my GPS, I headed NE to the highpoint of the bog and looked for the orange ribbon marking the start of the "Trail of Destruction" (TOD). This was a key section of the route that Mike had named "Purgatory" that had not had any recent negotiations until visits in January and February. The Gang of Four had "Mitchlerized" this section, meaning it was well-tagged, and I was thrilled to find the first ribbon just outside the bog fence just where they said it would be. I was quick to note that the evidence of destruction was nearly as important as the ribbons themselves - both were needed to keep on the route. In most cases you could see the next ribbon from the current one, but not always. Broken branches, moss wiped off logs by boots, and other clues were often needed. The climbing was up, over, and around all manner of downed logs and other organic obstacles, much as described by others. The route itself is rather circuitous, snaking back and forth and probably doubling the straightline distance. Though it could use a good deal of straightening, I have no harsh words for those who forged it - it is very easy to imagine the difficultly of negotiating this for the first time once you're out there. I made no attempt to straighten it out myself, content to follow from ribbon to ribbon and glad for each additional one I came across. I made very good time and actually enjoyed the jungle nature of this section.

It was 12:15p when I reached Kapoki, the named summit of Waialeale's crater rim. If you didn't know ahead of time it was a crater rim you'd never have guessed in the conditions I found myself in. In fact it was impossible to discern much of the terrain beyond about 200ft in any direction. Here I knew the orange tags ended as the Gang of Four had headed into the crater to camp for the second night. I forged through raw jungle for several hundred yards in search of the blue tags of a bird transect which marked the next section of the route. The drizzle was turning to a light rain and by now I was nearly soaked. My boots had no pretence of dryness left whatsoever as the water sloshed around inside them as I splashed though wet and muddy sections without compunction. I found the blue ribbons after some time and followed these to the FAR RIM of the crater (12:45p). I was making very good time and was beginning to think I could reach Kawaikini despite my late start. I expected to find orange ribbons again, but not finding any, I continued following the blue ones. I paused while I was halfway to END HELL, the last waypoint before the easier 2mi push to the summit begins. Here I made my second major error.

Somehow, I put my GPS away after verifying my position was on route, then I started following the blue ribbons again - only in the wrong direction. The swamp/forest is of such a nature that everything is a jumble and there are no recognizable landmarks. Every wet, decaying downed log looks very much like another. When I next checked my GPS I was back at FAR RIM and it was 1:30p. I'd just blown another 45 minutes. I did a quick calculation were I to continue - 2:15p at END HELL, 3:45p to summit, 5p back to END HELL, 7p before I'd get back to Bogette - and all if I made no additional errors. I decided that would be too close to get back on trail before dark, and no summit was worth possibly getting benighted in the swamp - the thought just seemed too awful to risk. Once decided on returning, I had no regrets and beat a path for home.

It was not as easy returning as I had hoped. Trying to avoid the circuitous path I took between the orange and blue tagged sections, I tried to negotiate a straighter route back to Kapoki when my GPS showed I was within a few hundred feet. I started tagging the section with orange ribbon that I had brought along, figuring I would help connect the disjointed sections of the route. After about 10 minutes I noted my GPS showing me getting further from Kapoki than nearer. This was confusing. Back and forth I went through the trees trying to get the GPS to show me getting closer to Kapoki. I was tired of course by this time and completely soaked and I'm sure my brain wasn't working so great either. I eventually found my Kapoki waypoint, but there were no ribbons to tell me where to go. Out came the compass. The needle pointed in a direction I didn't expect. I turned 90 degrees and the needle followed. I turned around some more and found the needle just bounced around in what seemed to be random directions. What the hell? Was there some sort of magnetic anomaly at the summit? I pulled out my backup compass (was I prepared, or what?), and found it behaved in a similar fashion. I couldn't be sure it wasn't just my mind playing tricks, so I averaged the two compasses and headed off to the west in search of orange tags. More jungle thrashing, but within 5 minutes I spotted a ribbon. Hurrah!

By 3:30p I was back at Bogette, and by 5:15p I was at the Arrow. I expected it to be all easy at this point, but no. My foggy brain started messing with me and I started to doubt I was following the correct ribbons. I stopped far too often to get my GPS to lock and verify I was on route. Back at Kaoie Camp by 6p, I stopped to retrieve my chocolate milk. I had eaten nothing up to this time and had drunk only 1/4 liter of water. All the wetness had kept me from sweating and being thirsty. I had carried way too much water. I drank the chocolate milk more because I didn't want to carry the extra weight than because I was thirsty. My lower back was getting chaffed by my pack due to it's weight and the fact that everything was wet. I adjusted the pack a few times on the return to try and alleviate the rubbing, but it had only minor success.

I recrossed Kaoie Stream making no effort to stay on top of the rocks. With thoroughly wet feet it didn't make any difference whether my feet were submersed or otherwise. I climbed the steep trail up to the ridge, the last significant climbing of the day and was happy to be done with that. I had more confusion on the return to the rain gauge, and wandered off the trail several times. I even found some ribbons heading in the wrong direction, having followed them a few hundred yards before realizing the mistake with the help of my compass and GPS. When I reached the rain gauge at 6:45p I found it to be on the wrong side of the trail from what I had remembered on the way in. Clearly my mind was having a field day with me by this point. I picked up the cached water at the overlook and tossed the bottles in my pack - I would exit with more water than I carried in. I reached the trailhead at 7:30p and shortly thereafter pulled out my headlamp to negotiate the remaining mile and a half back to the car. In what was becoming a more steady rain, I stripped out of all my clothes, putting fresh ones on and a pair of sandals on my feet - I immediately started to feel better. The drive out was a bit trickier with the extra rain, but not too bad. I was quite impressed with the abilities of my little SUV.

When I got back to the condo, the first thing I did was toss my filthy clothes in the wash. Even after several washings the white shirt came out as earth-colored and will probably remain so until it is worn out. My underwear suffered the same fate. The boots I wore were in poor shape when I started, having been rather beat-up in the Kauaian backcountry over the last 10 days. During the hike back the leather portion had separated from the sole in a two inch crack at the toe. I could see my socks poking through at the time, hoping the boot would hold together long enough to get back. It did, and for reward the pair were promptly tossed in the trash - no need to bother trying to clean them. The rest of my gear held up well, though I expect it will be months before my pack is free of the organic detritus it collected on that long day.

Without my two major errors, I would have exited back to the car about the same had I reached the summit. I convinced myself that a dayhike is possible, but I had no time to try again this trip. Maybe in a few years I'll revisit this one, but really I'm hoping someone does it before then so I don't have to. :-)

Here's some more semi-random thoughts on this hike and the conditions I found:


Yes, it rains a lot, but not as much as you might think. 450-465 inches/year is a bit more than 1 inch/day, and that's at the Waialeale rain gauge. A short distance west and the rain drops off considerably. The day I was on the hike the summit received 2 inches of rain - above average, but still manageable. I was soaked through, but not suffering - merely inconvenienced by the water.


You may hear horror stories of bogs that suck your boots off or sink up to your knees. The true bogs (Sincocks and Bogette) are merely mushy and easy to cross. The worst mud holes are along the trail between Koaie Camp and Sincocks. But even the worst only reached up to my calf, and my boots were never sucked off - covered in mud to be sure - but not a serious hazard.


I read that Bob Packard kept his feet dry into the 4th day out there. Don't plan on getting so lucky. I had neoprene socks and gaiters, yet my toes started to get wet within half an hour of starting out. By the second hour my feet were completely soaked. By the 5th hour my insulated, water-proof leather gloves were soaked through. By my turn around 7 1/2 hours into it, all of me and my pack was soaked. The worst of it was chaffing on my lower back where my pack rested against me. Later I dealt with "ass on fire" and chaffing in other sensitive areas. The pain was only realized later, after I returned, so it seemed only a minor inconvenience overall. The neoprene socks were great - wet but comfortable feet, no blisters or lost toenails.


Being wet through, I got a bit chilled, but nothing serious. I wore a polypro longsleeve shirt and long hiking pants which sufficed the entire day. I carried a rain jacket but never used it. As long as I kept moving, the chill was no problem, and the first half of the day was downright comfortable before I got soaked.


It's impressive stuff out there, but not the worst imaginable. California coastal chaparral is decidedly more difficult to negotiate without a trail. Half of the biomass in the Alakai is lush and green, the other half is dead and decaying underneath it. Most of the stuff can be plowed through given enough determination. Fern sections going above head level were the worst and should not be forced through. There are always better ways around. The roots and branches are the most solid obstacles. Sometimes there is so much blowdown that you have to scramble over the moss-covered trees 2-3 feet off the ground. Going light helps in negotiating all the ups and downs and unders through the blowdown. A heavy, shifting backpack would be considerably more burdensome. Clippers would be of no help - most of the stuff up to 3/4" in diameter can be snapped with your hands. I wore heavy leather gloves through most of the day - they were key to manhandling the bushwhack sections. Long pants and long-sleeve shirt were also key.


Don had me worried that having enough water would be a big concern. I decided to carry two liters of water and 2 liters of chocolate milk. It made the pack too heavy for my liking. I drank no water until Sincocks Bog, and drank less than 1/2 liter until my return to Kaoie Camp. If it had been less wet and warmer, I'm sure my consumption would have been a good deal higher. On a next attempt, I'd probably carry just 3 liters. Having hydrated and breakfasted on the drive in, I had no other food until I got back.


Much better than I expected. All the way to Kaoie Camp I would maintain about 3mph. I missed a turn only once that cost me less than a minute. I had no trouble navigating between Kaoie Camp and Sincocks Bog. The route is extremely well-flagged. I spent more time with the GPS just to confirm my position, mostly to give me some peace of mind. In some areas it was absolutely necessary to rely on it. I wasted a bit of time at Sincocks Bog trying to go around the fencing and I ended up following a bird transect a short ways before correcting the mistake. One needs to cross the fence when encountered and follow it SE to a gate (exiting the fenced bog), then further through a bit of unfenced bog before picking up the flagged trail again. At Bogette, cross the fence, then head north/northeast for the highest ground along the fence border - from there the Trail of Destruction can be found. The TOD was awesome and well-flagged. I contributed my own portions of destruction to help establish the trail. Flags, broken branches, moss knocked off logs were all helpful.


This was my weak point on routefinding. I followed the TOD nearly to a point marked KAPOKI on my GPS, then I crashed my own route as close to the waypoint as I could. From there I used a compass to head south for the blue flagged transect as suggested. This was hard, but invigorating. I found it and followed it back up to the crater rim, but I think a shorter course would be to head SE rather than south from Kapoki. On the way back I had a good deal less thrashing. I easily negotiated the well-flagged transect across the crater, up and down, up and down (don't expect a crater floor). I got to the FAR RIM where I expected to find orange flagging again, but didn't. I just kept following the blue since it headed in the right direction, ESE. Rereading the beta later, I should have known the orange flagging wouldn't start up again until I reached END HELL, a quarter mile from where I inadvertently turned around.


The whole day was a twilight of cloud cover. There was no fog at all (except at the bogs) so I could see several hundred feet at a time, but only when I got breaks in the forest. This place is more forest than swamp in reality. The trees were 15-25ft tall almost always - not exactly the stunted forest one could hope for. With no sun and all the views looking similar, it is very easy to get disoriented. You have to trust your GPS and compass. Both were indispensible since the GPS couldn't show you direction unless you were moving in a steady direction. As the day wore on, it was easier for me to get disoriented, especially for the return. I stopped much more often to check the GPS because the terrain seemed unfamiliar. I actually got off route at least twice past Kaoie Camp - where it should have been easy!

Stream Crossings

There are two creek crossings - one at 1/4mi, one at 4mi (Kaoie Camp). With average precipitation, there is no appreciable change in creek levels. I crossed "dry" on the way out, and could have as well on the way back - but I was soaked so I simply walked across the two creeks coming back. Bringing a rope for stream crossings is excessive I think, for a dayhike. If it's raining hard enough to raise the creek level, you should have already turned back.


With 4x4, I was able to drive 3/4 of the total dirt/mud miles to the TH. The road was in poor conditon and had not been serviced in a while. I was stopped at a particularly large mud section with 18-inch deep ruts that I chose not to attempt. I originally planned to use a bike for the dirt road section - that would have been a horrible experience with the road so wet.

Pigs and other Critters

They're out there, evidence of their rooting is abundant. But they aren't to be feared - and they aren't easy to see. In 40 hours of hiking during the week, I saw three of them for only a fleeting moment before they hightailed it out of sight. There was almost no insects at all in the Alakai. Some tiny swarming critters, a few spiders, a couple of centipedes - perhaps a few mice or shrews - nothing of any consequence or concern. No need for bug spray - nary a mosquito or biting fly. There are lots of birds about, and they are especially vocal in the early morning. Many strange and unusual bird calls can be heard - a few can even be seen.


Don was kind enough to send me the full track of waypoints they collected from their own outing. Problem was, I don't have the USB cord to connect my GPS to the computer to upload the coords. Instead, I simply picked out a dozen waypoints that I used to guide by. These turned out to be sufficient for most of the day, though a few more in the vicinity of Kapoki might have saved some time.
END TRAIL22.11415-159.58427
KOAIE CAMP22.11254-159.56192
START HELL22.08111-159.53413
FAR RIM22.07466-159.51818
END HELL22.07354-159.51236
BLUE HOLE22.06845-159.49888


There was no way I would have gotten half as far as I did without the beta provided by Don Nelsen and Mike K. Though I was out there solo in the Alakai, it felt more like a group effort, trying to push the boundary on what is possible. I probably spent more hours studying the route and all the available information than I did on the actual hike. Future adventurers are advised to do likewise. Thanks Mike and Don for all your help!

Following are some email exchanges I had with Mike and Don prior to departure. There are many helpful hints and facts to be found here:

March 8, 2006
Morning Bob,

I'll be heading for China in April but even if I were on Kauai I'd be reluctant to try a one day trip to Kawaikini. It's far beyond my abilities and while there might be a few out there who could pull it off, I doubt anybody could do it first time out. The main obstacle is the one mile bushwhack between Bogette and Kapoki. I'd estimate it'd take an experienced Alakai bushwhacker four or five hours to cover that mile. Bushwhacking the Alakai is grim, hard work. I though I'd bushwhacking before until I tried bushwhacking in Hawaii. What I recommend is drive out the Camp 10 road, park anywhere and bushwhack for a quarter mile to get a taste for it (carry a compass to get back to the road). Then take a dawn to dusk hike out past the bogs and see how far you get by noon. Have a great time in Kauai -- there's lots of fantastic hikes not in the guidebooks.

Adios Volcantrek8 [Mike]

April 4, 2006, by PM

Hi Bob,

There are three 'keys' to getting to the top of Kawaikini: The first and foremost is the weather, the second is to have the right equipment and the last is not getting off-track, especially in the 'purgatory' section of 'trail'.

Of course, we can't do much about the weather! You've probably noticed that since we finished our trip last February, Hawaii has had a lot of rain, even at the lower elevations. At Kawaikini, the gauge recorded over 120 inches from the middle of Feb. to the middle of March and it continues to rain. Here is a handy link to the real-time rain data at the Waialeale site:


Here is the site for the closest stream gauge to the route: (This is not one of the streams we crossed but it is probably representative of them.)


Here's the site that gives water level info for the above stream:


We crossed the streams when the above site said the flow was ~7 cfs and about 1 foot deep. Except for the wet and slippery rocks, it was a piece of cake. I think we could have struggled across if the water was another foot higher, but the speed of the streamflow might have been a problem, knocking us off our feet. The suggestion to take a rope and stash it is a serious one! Any higher flow than that, we would have had to wait it out and from the data, it seems only a day or two and the flow drops to ford-able levels. The streams are at mile in and at two miles in. The weather is pretty much a crap shoot, but Jan. and Feb. tend to be a little drier and often have several days in a row without rain so that is why we timed it when we did. We were very lucky, missing a major deluge by only six days that could have easily ended the trip or much worse!

The problem getting out on the dirt road could be serious in heavy rain because there are two places where streams flow over the road. The road is dirt, not gravel, so can get pretty bad, depending on the maintenance cycle. At least you will be in a warm and dry vehicle while you wait out high water. I'd stock your ride with shoes, clothes, water and some food, just to be on the safe side.

As far as having the right equipment, John and Dave authored the 'Gear Tips' and the 'How to Approach This Climb Tips' sections of our report and the info there is spot on. (I authored the main details of the report and John and I shared the 'specific directions' section.) If you follow the tips, you will be fine. I brought mostly new equipment and my pack weighed just 26 pounds not counting fluids. I never had any problems snagging anything and the pack (REI UL60) was low enough not to ever have to take it off even in the tightest spots. (Sometimes you have to get on your belly under logs!) I took the REI Quarter Dome UL tent and it was great especially nice with the excellent rain fly and it weighed under four pounds. I took the REI Nooksack UL 35 degree bag and even on the fourth night with the bag completely soaked, I stayed warm if not particularly cozy. (Next time I'll wrap the bag and extra clothes in a plastic bag! It was so wet that last day, nothing stayed dry, even with 'waterproof' packs and pack covers.)

All of us participated in the Mitcherizing of the purgatory section, especially John. What took us over 8 hours going in took less than 4 on the return with the flagging (easy to follow) and the 'trail of destruction'. There was no previous flagging at all on that section east of Boggette to Kapoki so it was really slow going! We all felt that knocking down or breaking every thing in our path would help insure that a route gets established. If you follow our route instructions to the letter and take note of the details and notes on the maps I posted, you should be able to get the job done. The only un-flagged section is when you get to the west rim of Kapoki. We beat ourselves up by dropping down the crater rim and across a hideous tangle to the crater floor. The proper route is only about 250 feet south of where we crossed over the rim and from there the well-flagged route leads right across the crater and is fairly clear of brush and very easy to follow. Also, I would be glad to send you the complete GPS track of our route. I could send it in an excel .txt file or a Garmin .gdb file.

I believe the trip could be made in two overnights if the weather cooperated and if you could get to the campsites on the upper rim the first day - but it would be a pretty good workout!

Best regards,


April 5, 2006, by PM

Hi Bob,

I applaud you for considering this trek as a day hike! When I first looked at the map and considered the elevation gain and distance, I felt it was possible as a day hike/run - even from the Kalalau Valley overlook - but then I didn't have any idea of how difficult the bushwhacking sections would end up being.

Now that I know the route, I believe one could do this in one loooong day but, again, the weather conditions would have to be perfect. I have studied my GPS data from last May and data from February-s trip (especially my times where I went off alone to recon) and believe the trip could be done in about 15 to 17 hours. This is still about 25+ miles and about 6,000 vertical, RT, so it-s a pretty tough one-day gig! The big deal about the weather is the sloppy bog and mud that will slow you down - not to mention the fact that GPS doesn-t work as well in bad weather. On our way in last Feb. the trip was considerably better across the bogs on the second day than on the fourth day in the rain coming back - and it had only rained about an inch and a half! Five or ten inches would have had us practically swimming!

(I made an error in my previous response - the second stream crossing is at about 4 miles, not 2 miles.)

The first stream crossing is only miles and a night crossing would be problematical but possible in low water. The next stream (Koaie) is at about 4 miles and with a 2 am start, would still be in dim light but could be accomplished. (The climb-down to the stream is very muddy, steep, and not well marked but with daylight dawning you should be OK.) The climb-out of Koaie Stream Canyon has a particularly dangerous traverse. I think this must be done in the daylight since a fall here would be about thirty feet to a muddy slope that then falls another fifty feet or more into a tangle of vegetation. You would probably survive it - until the feral hogs showed up!

I love Hawaii and try to get back there two or three times a year so will one day try this again. I think if I go in a few days before to spot water, some munchies and a bivy at the start of Purgatory this wouldn't be to too bad!

When are you planning to go and I will get that GPS data to you in time.


April 6, 2006, by PM

Hi Bob,

I couldn't find anything that was better than the general forecast for Kauai for predicting the weather and you are right, that was not so good for predicting what we got on our trip but better than nothing at all. We just went and took our chances and got lucky. It was about 45 degrees our first night out with clear skies but the rest of the time it never got colder than about 50 or warmer than about 60. The temperature range isn't much throughout the year but on average, it should be about 2 or 3 degrees warmer in April according to the data I've seen. The only time I got a little chilled was on the final ridge to the edge of the Blue Hole with about a 30 mph crosswind and drizzling rain. John and Dave commented that it seemed like the Colorado high country in the summertime! Once the skies cleared and the sun came out on our summit day, in spite of a strong relentless wind, it was positively comfortable.

The smaller vegetation with the exception of some of the vines are easily broken so I don't think the loppers would be worth while. Purgatory is pretty well Mitcherized anyway and anything we couldn't break is too big for loppers anyway. The only spot you will have to Mitchlerize yourself, providing no one has retraced our route is the west rim of Kapoki. There's about a 250 foot section running due north and south where we went off route into the crater going east and went past on a bird transect coming back. The waypoints I sent have the correct route so you won't make the same mistake. Just don't miss the turn and keep following our flags into the crater!

Here's the deal on the flags:

Blue to east end of Boggette, orange to the west rim of Kapoki, 250 foot bushwhack due south with no flags, blue flags across Kapoki and then all the way to the top of the box canyon and orange flags on the first part of the ridge. No flags needed after that. There is one exception: About half way into purgatory we were stymied by brush and left the ridge and went SE down the slope wand found a blue flagged bird transect. We followed this NE back to the ridge, did not add any flags and continued our orange flagging once back on the ridge. (This entire detour is about three city blocks - seems farther on the ground but that's all it was - and is detailed on the maps posted at cohp.org.) BTW, here's the link for all the pics from our trip: http://fototime.com/ftweb/bin/ft.dll/detailfs?userid={D3C58769-9326-4837-93AD-4AE9F4F0B2FE}&ndx=0&slideshow=0&AlbumId={5CBB161D-5FC3-45D5-BB03-87674D7BA944}&GroupId={FD22F42A-F8E8-45F2-82D1-C6A8B188CB42}&screenheight=768

I don't think three liters will be enough for a full day. My experience last May was that in 13 hours I drank about twice that and it still wasn't enough - and my system is fairly tolerant of dehydration. (I'm 6' 1" and 180 so I have some reserve but not much) In spite of this being the land of deluges, there are only a few spots with good water on the route. There is a small stream a couple hundred yards south of the route as you pass Arrow, one on the bottom of Kapoki Crater (The Kapoki water is hard to get to unless you are camping in the crater) and another just before the climb-out of the box canyon that leads to the final ridge. Other than the two large streams you cross at the start, (both with coffee-colored water) there is no other running water convenient to the route. Puddles may be everywhere, depending on how recent and how intense the rain but with all the feral hogs, I'd avoid that.

Water near Arrow:


Water in Kapoki Crater:


Water before box canyon: (IMO, the best water source we found.)


There's another stream just north of the final ridge but it would be a pretty tough climb down to it.

The clothes you listed sound about right for this trip. I used a polypro short-sleeved t-shirt under a long-sleeved wool t-shirt and shed the long sleeved one when it wasn't raining. I also had a pair of lightweight poly pro long johns that made the rain pants feel more comfortable since I only wore hiking shorts, not long legged ones under the rain pants. Once the rains started I was a little chilled at night and John loaned me a lightweight fleece vest and that was perfect. Even with a soaked sleeping bag I was warm enough.

The poly pro stuff is excellent but I think wool is even better once wet - and it will likely get wet! You might try everything out in the shower running at 55 degrees and see how it is. The rain gauge data shows that rainfall sometimes reaches a brutal 4 inches/hour!

I wore a comfortable pair of North Face trail running/hiking shoes that are light enough to run in but have just enough insulation for warmth and just enough water resistance and kept my feet dry all the way to Kapoki. After the rain that night, there were just too many puddles and besides, that section east of Kapoki was really mushy in spots, as was the first part of the final ridge. I'm lucky to never have any problems with blisters or from hiking all day with wet feet but it was very nice to take those wet socks and shoes off at the end of each day and put on a dry pair to sleep in! The other guys had regular hiking boots that kept them drier but I'm sure their traction wasn't as good and their boots were way heavier! I also wore a short pair of gaiters that kept the sticks and mud out of my shoes and also kept my laces from snagging and untying.

I addition to my regular pack, I took a fanny pack that made getting to my camera, munchies and water bottle very convenient. On the way in, I also carried a gallon milk jug-type water bottle and over-hydrated on purpose. The crushed bottle hardly took up any room on the way out.

I hope you make it and write up a report and get some pics. A solo attempt takes some serious courage and self confidence - and some luck!

I'll send some cleaned-up versions of the route maps along with the .txt file of the waypoints to your regular e-mail.

Good luck!


April 5, 2006
Hello Bob,

Here are some details from my solo attempt on Kawaikini last May. I've adjusted the times deleting several miscues that took me off-route. I had hiked six miles just to get to the trailhead so wasn't exactly *fresh* but I'm used to these distances. You will probably make better time than this but I thought it might be useful for your planning. Each of these sections is separated out in alternating colors on the attached maps. (I forgot to say so on the maps, but the blue diamonds are the three water sources I linked to in the SP e-mail.)

Trail SectionVertical, outwardTime out/backComments
Trailhead to USGS station+832'/-384':49 / :50Constant ups and downs but cleared, wide, decent footing.
USGS to Koaie+647'/-845':49 / :53Uncleared, constant ups and downs, narrow, over and under logs, mud pits and bogs
Koaie to Arrow+677'/-100'1:03 / :55Uncleared, mostly up, hard to follow, over and under logs, mud pits and bogs.
Arrow to east side of Boggette+192'/-6':59 / :40Follow the ribbons, more even grades, forest opening up, crosses fences, boggy.

Only the first section would be ok in the dark with a suitable light. The rest of the route would be difficult in darkness but you could likely get as far as the ridge above Koaie all right - the climb-down and crossing of Koaie Stream would be very difficult. The flagging is blue until you get to our orange flags at Purgatory and I don't think blue will be so easy to see in the dark.

I did a solo re-con once our group reached Kapoki in Feb. and my time up and out of the crater, across the next series of ridges and valleys to the final headwall was 40 minutes. I'll call that 'East Purgatory'. Also, time from the west rim to the east headwall of Kapoki was 20 minutes, solo. I'll call that 'Kapoki.' Boggette to Kapoki was slow for the team (over 8 hours!) due to route finding problems, uncertainty, Mitchlerizing and time spent flagging but our time coming back was cut exactly in half. Light and solo I think it could be done in less than 2 hours.

The above totals 6 hours and 40 minutes and that gets you to the final ridge and in sight of your goal only 2.1 miles trail distance and about 600 vertical feet away. My only times for that final distance are with the group but my educated guess is 1:30 up and about 1:00 back for a grand RT total of less than16 hours.

Hopefully you have TOPO!4 so you can directly upload the attached .txt file to your GPS. The file matches the route on the maps exactly.

Here's the other sections:
Sectiontimes up/back
East Purgatory:40/:40
Final ridge1:00/:40
Abyss to summit:30/:20

I took a look at your web site (Nice!) and some of your SP work and am well impressed! I think you just might carry this off!

Best regards,


April 9, 2006

A couple of things before you start out: When I was there last May the road was in pretty good shape and had recently been graded but when we traveled it in Feb. it had deteriorated considerably and you can't get to Sugi Grove in a normal car. It is unlikely, due to the recent floods, that the Kauai road department has had the time or resources to re-grade the road so I think it would be a good idea to do a re-con trip first. (I'm sure your family would enjoy the trip and the great views, anyway!) In Feb. it was 'normal' car drivable only as far as the Berry Flat trailhead (about 1.6 miles in) - the road a little past that was very eroded and had a lot of pretty big rocks exposed. It is also steep in spots and always muddy. We bottomed out a couple of times on this part and even had to back up and take another try at one spot before we made it. If you can get a 4wd, even if for just that one day, you will thank yourself later!

Also, if you don't already have it, the best Kauai book, by far, IMHO is 'The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook' by Andrew Doughty and Harriett Friedman. Easily obtainable once you get to the island but your local bookstore or REI probably has it.

Bon voyage and good luck!


PS, I mentioned your plans to the other guys and John Mitchler said: "Tell him to take scuba gear". Bob Packard's comment was to paraphrase Nike's slogan: "Just don't do it"!

April 9, 2006

You can do the down-climb to Koaie in the dark and I would not hesitate to do it in the dark myself - without a heavy pack. It is very steep, muddy and deeply rutted in places but the way is fairly obvious. In complete darkness it will look very forbidding but with care is do-able.

I've attached a couple of photos that I took from the spot where you first arrive at Koaie stream. If the stream is low, you can make your way up the left side bank and cross on the ledge where John is standing. He did so without getting wet. Dave, (seen in the foreground taking a pic of John), Bob and I crossed on the rocks, but in the mid afternoon sun, they were dry and not slippery. If you choose to cross on the rocks in the dark they will probably be very slippery with the night moisture. We found long sticks at the stream banks others had used for balance and support and they served us well but it was still a challenge!

Once on the far bank and south of the hunter's shelter, the trail goes due south for a short distance from the clearing and through some swampy muddy spots that you wouldn't ordinarily think would be the trail. It then arcs left and starts to climb a muddy, steep slope. I got seriously off-route last May by following what turned out to be a hunter's track to the east of the shelter and ended up having to bushwhack straight up the cliff back to the trail. The GPS track I sent will point you in the right direction - provided you have a decent signal. Also, the map I sent was very carefully drawn so should serve you well.

Once you are past the initial muddy, swampy spots, the climb-out is also steep and has a very bad spot about mid-way up the slope where the trail has slid completely away and you will have to use available roots, branches and one conveniently placed tree for belay. The penalty for a slip here is pretty serious but, again, I would not hesitate to do it in the dark with a good light and traveling sans pack.

Volcanotrek8's problem with the bike was the crappy bike - and the pack. With a halfway decent bike you could get all the way to the first stream without any problem and given your vehicle situation I agree it's a good idea if you can find a place to rent a good bike. I'd just bushwhack a few dozen yards off-trail and stash the bike and it should be safe. (Of course, you could get lucky and the road will be fixed when you get there!)

I'm psyched that you are going to do this and truly hope you carry it off. I think you could be the first one to do Kawaikini in a day! (If you do, I will be jealous, of course, but it will just give me another excuse to go back and give it a try! - Like I need an excuse to go to Hawaii!)

Again, good luck!



Anonymous comments on 11/07/06:
i know it is a difficult trek and not a journey for many, but, as a guide on kauai i have traveled many of these unpublicized routes and one should be very careful about bravado language such as "bushwacking" and "mitcherlizing". this is a very fragile ecosystem and bagging this summit by multitudes of chest thumping transients that will follow your gps marked path found on your websites. if this summit path leads to the destruction of the alakai by pounding feet, introduced weeds,loss of bird habitat, erosion... trail closures.. etc...look within.
John comments on 01/29/11:
The previous comment is on the mark in spirit, of course, but given that this area has currently had a fence built right through it shows that the trail clearing needed to be done. The Alakai Swamp is anything but fragile. Having a clear trail keeps people from wandering in circles and tramping down everything. Besides, there are junked cars lying around tons of Kauai trails and I guarantee they ain't from transient tourists. Tourists are *not* the ones trashing these trails!
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