Mon, Dec 23, 2019
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These unofficially named summits are located in the Waianae Range of western Oahu, on ridgelines separating the Makua, Ohikilolo and Makaha Valleys. Access is from the west in Ohikilolo Valley, at the end of Keaau Homesteads Rd. The looping hike is 6.2mi in length with 3,500ft of gain. Nandor had provided me a GPX track that was super helpful and all I needed to complete the hike in a bit over 5hrs. Unlike the previous day's muddy hike to Ka'ala, today's weather was much better and the entire route dry. Great views all day long, too.
I started just after 8a, having driven Keaau Homesteads Rd as far as I could, through a first open gate at the highway, but stopped by a second gate just past Ohikilolo Adventure Park (not what you might think - this is a horseback riding establishment). I parked on the wide, mowed shoulder outside the adventure park and started up the road from there. Ample signs let you know this is a hunting area, the current month for gamebirds only. The area is open for hunting Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. I have no idea if hiking is allowed on other days, but I didn't see anything to suggest I was violating some statute of the Forest Reserve. The first mile follows up to an equestrian staging area and then up a rocky road heading inland, gaining moderate elevation. Around the one mile mark I noted the fork for the two branches of the GPX track and headed right to do it counterclockwise (it seems the more common direction might be in the opposite direction, but I saw no advantage/disadvantage either way). There are a number of unsigned trails that fork off from the road, so here's where the GPX track is helpful to get you to the start of Middle Ridge. The road gives out, branching off as trails, and I followed one that crossed a dry streambed before turning northeast towards Middle Ridge. I noticed after a short time that the trail I followed was off the GPX track some, so I moved left to try and find the suggested trail in that direction. I never found what I was looking for, though. I found myself at the base of Middle Ridge climbing steeply up through heavy brush, floundering to gain ground for perhaps 10-15min before stumbling upon a good trail to the right - probably the same one I had abandoned. Live and learn. Very soon thereafter, the first of perhaps a dozen ropes appeared, handlines to help as the ridge begins to steepen appreciably. The ground was dry today so no need for the help, but they could be quite helpful in wet conditions, especially going down the ridge. The tall grass gives way to shorter versions of the same, fine views and a narrowing ridgeline that winds its way quite impressively up to Kea'au Middle. The trail is well-defined here and marked periodically with ribbons. Views are present along most of the ridge, with the Ohikilolo Ridge to the north looking fantastical with fluted aretes covered in lush green dropping precipitously to the gorge below. To the right rises Kea'au Ridge, not quite as vertical as Ohikilolo Ridge, but still very picturesque. There is a knife-edge(ish) section halfway up the route that is quite airy, though no need to diverge left or right from the rocky ridgeline. Past this section, an abrupt cliff edge is encountered, the trail moving right, off the ridge to do an ascending traverse through a squat, shady forest. The route moves back to the main ridge above the cliff section, eventually emerging at the very summit of Kea'au Middle. I spent just over two hours from the trailhead to reach this first summit. Lying on the crest between Makaha and Ohikilolo Valleys, the views are stunning and almost surreal, like something invented for a Jurassic Park movie. To the east rises the island highpoint of Mt. Ka'ala, its distinctive flat summit plateau seen in profile. To the northeast rises the day's second peak, Ohikilolo, about 100ft higher than Kea'au Middle. The ridgeline between them is not for the faint of heart and a tougher challenge than the Middle Ridge I had just ascended. There is no well-defined trail along this ridgeline and no ribbons to mark it, but one pretty much stays on the ridge with very few deviations, and these just minor ones to avoid small cliffs. Its pretty airy and often looks like you'll run out of room, but I was happy to find it all goes relatively well. It took me 45min to cover the distance along the ridge from Kea'au Middle to Ohikilolo Ridge where one finds a pig fence running the entire length of this east-west ridge.
Immediately upon gaining Ohikilolo Ridge I noticed a boarded up research cabin on the other side of the fence. I would visit this after first turning right and paying a visit to Ohikilolo with more than 500ft of prominence. Reaching the highpoint is really just a matter of following the pig fence, moving to the north side when difficulties are encountered, and takes all of about ten minutes. Like Kea'au Middle, Ohikilolo has a small, rounded summit open to views in all directions, revealing coastal views to the north and south, with rugged mountains and valleys in all directions. After snapping some photos from the top I turned to follow the Ohikilolo Ridge heading west. Returning to the cabin, I paid it a short visit (doors locked, all windows boarded up), then began the 1.2mi hike along the fence and ridgelinea spur ridge that drops south into Ohikilolo Valley. This spur ridge has a few easy class 3 sections, but mostly a steep class 2 descent, pleasant enough. After about 30min the descent gradient eases as the bottom is nearly reached, changing from a low grass and rocky ridge to tall grass becoming forest. Remembering the trouble I had getting off-route at the start of Middle Ridge, I was quick to get back on the trail when I got off-route a few times. After wading a few hundred feet through very tall grass, I found myself on a more regular trail that came out at a fenceline in the hunting area. There were two trail options here and I followed the one to the right that corresponded to the GPX track. This might not have been a good idea as the trail petered out in a squat forest. It didn't become a bushwhack, but there was a lot of ducking under tree branches before it emerged on a better trail. I think the left branch back at the fence would have been a better choice, leading more quickly to the main road/trail. Regardless, I got back to the road I had traveled in on, and with a mile remaining, I was back to the jeep by 1:15p. A very fun outing, this one.
This page last updated: Fri Dec 27 10:39:34 2019
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