Mau'umae Ridge
Pu'ulanipo P500

Wed, Dec 21, 2016
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My boots were still wet from the previous day's journey up the Manana Trail, but I'd brought another pair that were still unused. With freshly washed pants and socks, I was ready to make another excursion to the Ko'olau Summit (which is how one describes any hike that reaches the crest of the range). Today's hike was along the Mau'umae Trail, alternately called Mau'umae Ridge or Lanipo. The trail follows the Mau'umae Ridge for three miles to reach the crest at Kainawa'aunui, climbing from 1,000ft to more than 2,500ft, with the usual ups and downs that one typically finds on these ridges. A quarter mile south on the Ko'olau crest rises Puu Lanipo, the highest point in the area with more than 600ft of prominence. Getting to the TH is fairly easy if you use the Google Maps - just navigate to Maunalani Circle in Honolulu. The trail starts near the summit of Mau'umae Ridge (according to LoJ; the ridge of course goes much higher, all the way to the Ko'olau Summit), which is fenced off by the Honolulu Water Dept. A side trail off the main one goes up to the backside of the fenced area where you can find the fallen remains of the 1920's era benchmark. After a short climb, the trail descends almost 300ft along an open, rocky ridge which can be a little discouraging to some on the return. The descent and first half mile of trail overlooks Honolulu neighborhoods in the valleys on both sides of the ridge. Alongside the trail are strawberry guava trees, the fruit littering the path. I'm told they have a bitter taste so didn't bother to try one. Ok, even if I hadn't heard that I probably wouldn't have tried one - I'm not very brave about eating trailside foodstuffs. Eat the wrong shit and it can kill you, or worse, give you a tummy ache.

The guava gives way to forest which then gives way to a LOT of uluhe ferns which pretty much cover most of the trail for the second half. The trail also becomes increasingly wet, boggy and muddy and it only gets worse the further you go, for two reasons. First, the clouds come over the crest from the windward side and most of these burnoff by the time they reach Honolulu at the coast. At the crest they never seem to burn off and 90%+ of the time you'll find yourself in the clouds and mist (or rain). And secondly, most people turn around when the trail starts to get shitty so it tends to be more overgrown and sketchy the higher up you go through disuse. There are 4-5 ropes and webbings to help on the dicier sections and because it was so wet today I was more than happy to make the most of them. It was wetter than the previous day and I found my feet swimming inside my boots long before I reached the crest. Just before I was completely enveloped in the clouds, I was happy to get a a brief view to the north looking down into Ka'au Crater. There's another trail that goes up that way and on to the crest at Palikea - that would be on tap for another day.

It took about two hours to reach the end of the trail at Kainawa'aunui and at first I didn't know I'd gone over the last of Mau'umae Ridge. There was no sign like I'd found the previous day announcing the trail's end and the dangers that await the foolhardy that attempt to go further. But a quick check of the GPSr confirmed the location and a walk up to the far edge on the small grassy knoll got me a blast of mist-filled wind blowing up from the almost sheer cliffs found on the windward side. I couldn't see Puu Lanipo through the clouds but the GPSr showed it only 0.22mi away. The Ko'olau Summit Trail can be pretty dicey in places, but between these two summits I didn't find it too bad, despite the low visibility, high winds and what soon became a stiff rain. I had to go up one intermediate bump to get to the higher one on the other side, traveling along the narrow crest with steep drops off one side or the other, often both. There is a trail plowed through the ferns and other hardy plants that seem to thrive on perpetual rain, but it can be steep and muddy slog nonetheless. It's not surprising that many adventurers that make it to the end of the trail forgo the sidetrip to Lanipo. There is a benchmark near the summit buried in the ferns somewhere - I found a nearby reference mark but not the benchmark (though to be honest I didn't really look very much, I was hoping it would be more obvious). The highpoint is a short distance south of the benchmark, though without too much to write home about with such limited visibility. I've read the views can be quite spectacular if you can catch it on one those rare clear days.

I returned back to Mau'umae Ridge and descended the same way, finding the clouds had lowered some and moved further leeward than when I had started. The result was few views until the last half mile. Oh well, you can't have everything. I finished up shortly after 1p, about 4.5hrs roundtrip for the six mile effort. Now to get out of these wet boots...


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