Pu'u Ma'ili'ili P500
Pu'u Kawiwi
Peak 3,020ft P300

Wed, Dec 18, 2019

With: Nandor Szotak

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile

Our first full day on Oahu was a pretty full one, for Dad anyway. I had gotten ahold of Nandor Szotak who I had discovered had climbed almost as many HI peaks as myself. He graciously offered to take me on a looping route to a couple of tricky summits on the west side where I was staying with the family for a few weeks during the holidays. He had some business to attend to in the morning, so I made a solo outing to one of the lower summits in the area as a warm up. That was probably a mistake as the afternoon agenda was a five hour effort with nearly 3,000ft of gain, no easy feet in the rugged Hawaiian ranges. The weather was dry all day, warm for most of it with only a few passing breezes that didn't seem to hang around, even on the ridges. Still, the views in the Waianae Range were the best I'd seen yet - quite a fun day.

Pu'u Ma'ili'ili

This is a fairly easy peak close to the coast, separating the town of Waianae to the north from the Mailiili Stream to the south. I went up the West Ridge and started down the Northeast Ridge before dropping southeast to Mailiili Rd. I found the ascent route more fun and a better scramble than the descent, starting at the Waianae Coast Health Center on the southeast side. The short Honu Trail inside the health center property had a locked gate providing access to the natural terrain behind it. I slipped behind this gate to gain access to the hillside. I then traversed around to the northwest side of the West Ridge and found fun ways up through the cliffs as I climbed above the county sewage treatment plant below. I spent about half an hour to reach the summmit from the Honu Trail start, a fun little jaunt. Once at the summit I took a few pictures of the surrounding countryside and started down the NE Ridge. I vaguely though I might reach another summit about a mile to the north, but that would have made me late for my date with Nandor. So I sort of wandered off the ridge and started to make my way down the south side, picking my way through short cliff sections. The grass was particularly tall here and I had to move carefully to avoid the hidden rocks found underfoot. I eventually made my way down to Mailiili Rd where I found a fence keeping me from stepping on the roadway. I had to struggle a bit to get over the floppy fence, but once accomplished, it was an easy walk down the road to the highway. I had about 1.4mi to hike back to our AirBnB, finishing up before 10a. Nandor had sent me a text that he'd arrive to pick me up at 10:30a, so I had a short time to rehydrate and get ready for the main event.

Puu Kawiwi - Peak 3,020ft

These two summits are located at the northeast end of the Kamaile'unu Ridge that divides the Makaha and Waianae Valleys on the west side of the island. Nandor had done both of these on several occasions and had suggested it since I had done neither and the combination made for a very fun outing. Nandor turned out to be as personable as one could hope. We got on immediately as it quickly became clear that we share a similar passion for the off-the-regular-trail fun in Hawaii. He was funny, knowledgeable and his hungarian-but-more-like-russian accent was a perfect juxtaposition with his local hawaiian knowledge - he could pronounce the names of the various hawaiian-named peaks and places as good as anyone I had ever encountered, certainly better than I ever could. He picked me up at the AirBnB and together we drove to the Ka'ala TH at the end of Waianae Valley Rd. There were a number of vehicles there when we arrived, a few occupied with locals who were hanging out there for purposes we suspect weren't entirely innocent. Nandor's strategy has been to strew old clothes about the interior of his car to make it look like a homeless person's and to give the impression there's nothing of value inside. Not sure if it fools anyone, but his vehicle hasn't been broken into in the four years he's lived on the island.

We started off on the concrete road that marks the first mile or so of the Ka'ala Trail, our first peak easily visible in front of us, along with the steep ascent ridge that we would use. We left the road only ten minutes after starting up, forking left where a wide path has been recently cleared to a cattle fence. This was a boon to our outing since it would save us more than half a mile of heavy brush leading to the base of the peak. We followed the fenceline and clearing to its end where the barbed-wire fence was attached to the lava rock at the base of Pu'u Kawiwi's SE Ridge. The ridge climbs more than 1,600ft in less than half a mile and would take us a solid hour and a half. The brush is moderate and the rock provides much class 3 scrambling. There was little breeze and the air quite warm, the combination making the climb a tiring affair. It was clear from the beginning that Nandor was the stronger climber, but we chatted all the while and he didn't seem to mind a somewhat slower pace.

When we reached the summit of Pu'u Kawiwi at 1p, we took short break at the grassy summit while taking in the views, marveling at our good fortune with the weather. Nandor pointed out a number of summits to the northwest and north that he recognized across the Makaha Valley, none of which I had visited. They looked hard. After our break we turned north to follow the ridge for 0.6mi to No Name Peak, or Peak 3,020ft. It would take most of an hour to cross this rugged ridgeline, with many challenges along the craggy terrain. There were places where a trail was evident, clearly we weren't pioneers on this effort, and scratches on the rocks (apparently steel microspikes are often used on this terrain in wet weather) gave hints of where to go when unsure. We swapped places leading across the terrain and I was happy to have Nandor's experience for consultation to save time when I was uncertain. I must have been concentrating hard all this while because I never thought to pause for a picture until we had already started down from Peak 3,020ft. We were continuing northeast from Peak 3,020ft's summit, intending to follow the ridge until we met up with the Ka'ala Trail and taking that down. Much of this ridge portion is lined with a pig fence that we followed, using it to lower ourselves on difficult steps and other obstacles. At two places we found wooden steps allowing one to get from one side to the other where a use trail made for easier going. A good use trail made this section easier than the last few miles we had covered to reach the two peaks. We were still half a mile from the transmission poles marking the junction with the Ka'ala Trail when we crossed paths with a route going across the ridgeline on either side. This shows up on the old topo maps and my GPSr as an old trail. A quick study showed it might work nicely as a shortcut to the Ka'ala Trail. It looked like a decent trail dropping sharply off the south side, and though we weren't sure if it continued in good shape, we decided to go down that way anyway. It was marked with various colored flags, and though we lost it briefly at one point, it turned out to be a very good way down that would save us a bit of time, too. It eventually intersected the much better Ka'ala Trail a few miles from the TH, and from there it was an easy walk back down to our start. It was 3:30p when we finished up with plenty of daylight remaining. He drove us back to the AirBnB in Waianae where he dropped me off and we parted ways. I was plenty tired by this time and not a little bit dehydrated, but I would recover nicely with a shower and a cold beer. Ahhhh...


Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Sat Jan 18 11:56:32 2020
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: snwbord@hotmail.com