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Pu'u Heleakala later climbed Dec 30, 2019
Pu'u O Hulu Kai later climbed Dec 20, 2019
I needed to give my stuff and myself a chance to dry out today after yesterday's romp in the wetness of the Koolau Range. I checked the weather report but it wasn't all that helpful. For the Koolau Range the report for the next week varied only slightly in the chance for precipitation, from 40% to 60%. The little icon had dark gray clouds and raindrops mixed in. It looked ominous based on yesterday's experience. The Waianae Range on the west side of the island showed only cloudy or breezy, much more pleasant icons. So I decided to head to the west shore to climb there.
There are a number of rocky summits near the coast around the town of Waianae. I had four of these dialed into the GPS and figured they'd make a good day's workout. They promised to be sunny, warm and sweaty. Not an unwelcome change after the soak-fest.
Most of these small west side summits are a mix of grass and small trees and shrubs. The start off the SW side of the ridge was a bit tedious because of toaster-sized lava rocks hidden in the tall grass. Each step was a bit of a mystery and I had to go slowly and carefully to keep from twisting an ankle or worse. There was some fun rock scrambling mixed in as I approached the ridge, finding the more solid rock portions far better than the grass hazard. Upon reaching the ridge the route did not immediately improve, but when I was about 1/3 of the way up the tall grass relented and a use trail emerged that made things very pleasant. Occasional pink flaggings, sun-bleached to almost white, could be found periodically, but they weren't all that helpful when the ridge was so obvious. It was a long climb, gaining some 1,500ft to an elevation close to 1,900ft, the highest of these coastal summits on the west side.
At the top I found a fire pit, more pink flagging, and a small tin cup hanging from a tree. I noted alternate trails went SW down towards the coast and NE down to a saddle with Palikea, several miles off and more than 1,000ft higher. I wondered if the trail heading NE continued along the ridgeline to Palikea, but could see no sign of it past the saddle. This might be a fun option to explore if I had more time in Oahu as an alternate way to reach Palikea. The views were quite nice, taking in the coast from the islands SW corner stretching up for miles to the NW. To the east was the grand crest of the Waianae Range, Kaala easily visible and cloud-free today, unlike I'd found a few days ago. It was warm and I was working up quite a sweat in the effort. Boy, what a difference a day and a change of venue makes! I returned back down the same route, though I briefly considered following the SW ridgeline down to the coast. I didn't want to do the longish hike back up the pavement at the end.
It was good information, too. The scrambling was fun along the ridge, more pink flaggings if you like that sort of thing. A first cliff that is encountered is short, about 8ft high, with an easy class 3 set of moves with excellent holds to surmount it. A more formidable cliff above this is avoided as the use trail cuts left around the obstacle before climbing back up to a small saddle on the ridgeline. I noted others above me, just reaching the summit, having taken the more standard route up the north side. The summit is peppered with old pillboxes and bunkers from WWII, now heavily covered in graffiti. An old winch powered by a gasoline engine is found rusting along the trail just before the summit. There turned out to be two parties at the summit, a family of three and a second mixed group of teenagers. They were all pleasant enough, I helped take a few photos for them, took a few with my own camera, then continued on the ridge heading east down to towards the saddle. It was even warmer now and with an inconsistent breeze I was getting drenched in my own sweat - this was something new! I was at least happy to have some downhill to give my heart a chance to slow down some. Flaggings are now blue-colored on the traverse, but still not of much use.
There is a large water tank located just right of the saddle, surrounded by an imposing fence. The trail goes neatly around the left side of this and starts up the ridgeline to the second summit. Though it looks somewhat tricky from a distance, the traverse between the two summits was less difficult than the initial ascent and also enjoyable. No WWII artifacts on this summit, just a couple of metal poles to mark the top. I continued east off the second summit, staying on the use trail marked by blue ribbons. Near the bottom a modest cliff is encountered and here the flaggings had some use, directing me to a narrow chute where a handy rope was available to assist with the short vertical section at the end. Below I found a nice trail cutting through the tall grass that took me back to the residential area on the summits' north side, part of Maili. I had about 1.5mi of hiking on sidewalks through the community that weren't all that fun, but it got me back to where I'd left the car.
I spent about half an hour attempting to find ways to reach the two other short summits in Waianae, but they appear to be surrounded by private property with no obvious public access. I hadn't found any info online about either of them, so it didn't surprise me all that much. It was barely noon, so I needed something else to do...
A use trail starts at the bus parking, in the partial break in the stone wall at the north end (it's easy to find). The trail starts off through a bamboo forest, then breaking out dramatically along the ridgeline with a near-vertical drop off the windward side. The trail is not too difficult however (I saw a girl no more than 6yrs old heading down with her family), at least for the first third of a mile as it climbs up to a view hole in the ridgeline. This route must be advertised somewhere, because it seemed fairly popular with locals and tourists alike. An Australian gentleman explained to me in passing that the trail ends at the hole in the rock. I knew otherwise, but kept that to myself.
Indeed, it was not hard to find the trail continuation past the popular turnaround point. Here the route goes from adventurous to E-Ticket. The trail heads left of the ridge to get around a very prominent needle that could not be climbed directly. A series of ropes and straps tied to trees aid one getting up the steep, often slippery slope to the ridgeline above the needle. Back on the ridge, one is confronted with a route that now sticks religiously to the exposed ridgeline, often on both sides. Ropes help with the steepest portions, but the continual exposure made me continually nervous. A stiff wind was blowing over the sawtooth ridge, making balance that much more difficult. At least it wasn't raining. I was really struggling with this one. Where I expected the route to go around a sharp vertical section, there was a thin rope dangling down from above. The summit was still 8/10th of a mile away and I realized this was going to take much more effort than I had expected. The very summit was tucked into the clouds and as I continued along I noticed the cloud layer lowering. The trail was relatively dry now, but I had premonitions of ugliness ahead. Once in the clouds I could get wet fairly quickly and the route would grow slicker. I was tired and it was almost 3p. I checked the GPS and it showed I was still more than 6/10th of a mile. Looking ahead at what appeared to be even scarier sections of the route, I chose to call a halt. This one would need my full attention, better conditions, and more time. I will say that it was by far the most exciting route I had seen yet on Oahu, about as close to my comfort level as I would want. I think I will do a few other of the "expert" summits before returning to this one. I'm very curious to know just how many of these Oahu routes are like this one...
This page last updated: Fri Dec 27 21:23:49 2019
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