Wednesday, May 11, 2011

5-10-2011: Moanalua Saddle to Red Hill Ridge

Ever since the day we did Ohulehule SE Ridge, the Hawaiian Islands have been through over a week of nonstop soaking rains.  From two waterspouts in Waikiki, to nature's fireworks, the islands have been experiencing some of the most unusual weather patterns not seen in a long time.  While this is no 40 days and nights, the constant rains have transformed O`ahu into a saturated sponge.  This didn't stop us from hiking a grueling loop in Moanalua Valley.

The plan was to hike into Moanalua Valley via the valley road and connect to the Moanalua Saddle via Kulana`ahane Trail.  Once at the summit, we were to turn left and head along the northwest side of the saddle to reach the terminus of Red Hill Ridge.  From there, we were to descend back to Moanalua Valley via the "Godek" shortcut, which saves you from doing the other half of Red Hill (but will have to hike the entire valley road back).  Joining me would be Marcus, Leslie, and myself.

Off we went at 8:30am along the rather dull 3 mile road walk to eventually reach the signed junction to Kulana`ahane on this very wet and rainy day.  The streams were flowing over the road on the crossings, a hint of a very wet Moanalua Valley, but refreshing to the feet everytime we forded across.

Once on the Kulana`ahane Trail, Leslie decided he would explore an unnamed waterfall that was flowing off the side of Middle Ridge while Marcus and I went on to the summit.  From the waterfall, he would turn back and head back the way he came.  We soon acquired the saddle crest and things looked very bleak.  Low clouds blew over the saddle, at times revealing the still beautiful Haiku Valley below and the runway strip of Kaneohe Marine Corp base.  Looking to our left, the ridge disappeared into the clouds and did not look inviting at all.

Not to be discouraged, we marched on.  Almost immediately, the trail is nearly lost in thick overgrowth.  At first, the trail contours the leeward side of the crest and then moves back to the crest.  This pattern of crest and contour remained for a while until the climbing begins.  We only spotted two white ropes (not really needed) during the climbs.  As we got higher, the ridge became more windswept.  To the right, the clouds shrouded the big drop into Haiku Valley, although we can clearly hear the cars on the H-3.  There are a couple of eroded spots that fall towards the death drop, the remains of a landslide.

Despite all the thick overgrowth, we didn't realize that Red Hill was a lot closer than we expected it to be.  Before we knew it, we came across a metal stake and 3 ribbons, marking the topping out point.  In fact, it was so short that I wasn't convinced that this was the summit, but since I hiked Red Hill last year, I was familiar with this clearing.  With visibility only maybe some 30 feet in any direction, a disoriented hiker can get lost very quickly.  To be honest, I feel more comfortable hiking without the shroud because the clouds envelope a sense of uncertainty.  Whether if the drop is 50ft or 2,000ft, it all looks the same in the clouds!  On top of that, visual navigation is almost non existent.  By this time, the rain was beginning to pour at a steady rate. 

We wasted no time and immediately began our trek down the rollercoasting Red Hill Ridge.  With all this rain in full force, I nicknamed it "Wet Hill Ridge" and the name stuck for the duration of the hike.  Gradually we dropped below the cloud decks and we could make out all the paralleling ridges of Bowman, Tripler, and Middle Ridge on the east side and then Halawa, H-3, and Aiea Ridge on ewa side.  We were attempting to look for the junction with the Godek shortcut and we saw one, although the trail was nearly gone, almost completely overtaken by Uluhe.  In fact, the lack of a distinct trail made me dismiss it as being the Godek junction and we continued makai along the ridge.  By the time we reached the narrow portions with the "rope railings", I realized that we missed the junction.  Not wanting to waste time turning around, we decided to do Red Hill Ridge in it's entirely, a decision we would later regret.

After numerous ups and downs which seemingly went on forever, the trail reached the jeep road and the first powerline tower, it's three cables stretching across Moanalua Valley to the tower erected on Tripler Ridge.  I thought of a zipline traversing these cables, what killer views and speed it would be, that is until you reached the saddle of the powerlines!  Eventually the road intersects a side trail coming up from Moanalua Valley.  This trail would take us all the way to the basketball courts just outside of Moanalua Valley Park, the starting point of today's hike.  We were back at the cars by 4:30pm, with Leslie finishing a little after 5 after apparently having to bushwhack to and from the waterfall that was flowing off Middle Ridge!

Despite all being completely soaked to the bone with rain nearly the entire duration of the hike, we can finally cross this off our list.  Red Hill Ridge is a brutal ridge, rain or shine!


1 comment:

  1. Great write-up David!!
    I actually enjoyed the hike, despite the miserable conditions. But I wont do it again!!