Friday, June 24, 2011

6-12-2011: Kawiwi to Kamaile'unu (Kawiwiunu)

I apologize for bringing this tale up so late.  I attended an old college friend's wedding, whom she got married on June 19th, 2011.  The result was me flying all the way to Detroit, Michigan from the 17th up to the 22nd.  Needless to say, I had a great time!

The weather was a rotten one on this day with the Ko'olaus completely drenched with rain.  The clouds also remained over the Wai`anae Mountains but showed some signs of dissipating so Francis and I decided to venture out on the ridges high above the lee side of O`ahu.  Gene Witte would join us after putting aside plans to help maintain a heiau, which ironically happens to be in the same area in Wai`anae Valley.

If one hikes up the Kamaile'unu Ridge from the coast, he/she will reach a point on the ridgeline where the terminus of the normal HTMC club hike is located.  Here, one will get a commanding 360 degree view of much of the entire leeward side of the island.  Looking towards the east, there lies Pu'u Kawiwi and No Name Peak.  If one were to continue along the ridge towards Ka'ala, he/she would drop down very steeply to a saddle with a notch that has a near vertical rock face that has to be traversed, along with a secondary but less minor rock face, before the summit of Kawiwi could be acquired.  The target ridge today was to be the connector between Pu'u Kawiwi and the terminal point of Kamaile'unu Ridge.  Gene opted to show us a different exit from the Kamaile'unu terminus leading us down to Makaha Valley and the towers, thus avoiding having to use the normal club hike in it's entirely.  This area was Gene's stomping grounds so he knew all the ins and outs of the valley.

After staging my car at Makaha Resort and Golf Course, we motored our way via Gene's Taurus towards Wai`anae Valley Rd.  Just before the dirt parking lot and the gate, we passed by a rather large group of hikers, also preparing for a hike in the Wai`anae Valley area.  Almost instantly I spotted Steveo and Udom!  Turns out the HTMC was doing the Wai`anae Ramble the same day of our hike.  The weather was not looking too good as we saw a rain shower pouring further up the valley near Three Poles.  The sky remained overcast.

We shoved off at 8:30am and began our upward grind on the board of water supply road that begins at the end of Wai`anae Valley Rd.  The road is also the same starting point for the Wai`anae Kai Loop and Ka'ala routes.  At a certain point up the road, with Gene leading us, we veered left and through a fire break.  Turns out this was also the location of the same heiau that he was to be maintaining today!  Sure enough after hiking a short way towards the direction of Kawiwi via a fenceline, we ran into Gene's heiau clearing crew and exchanged pleasantries.

Soon enough we arrived at the grassy pasture at the foothill of the ridgeline that climbs up steeply to Kawiwi.  I concluded this was the most direct path as the trail completely avoided the forest that I had to trudge through last time I did Pu'u Kawiwi to No Name.  Not wasting time, we huffed and puffed our way up the grassy slope, taking care to watch our step as the thick grass hid many uneven rock and other obstacles.  At some point up the climb, I received a missed call from Laredo Muredo.  After checking the voicemail, we learned that he was going up the board of water supply road to join us in our trek.  Apparently he was to hike the Wai`anae Ramble with the HTMC, but I guess Steveo or some other people in the group revealed today's extreme hike of the day and decided to follow us.  At about two thirds up the climb, we spotted Laredo chit chatting with Gene's heiau clearing crew below and proceeded his climb to meet us and he did it with much speed.  I still wonder where he gets his power from!

After some 20 minutes or so, Laredo became part of our crew and off we went to tackle the rocky ridge, filled with mucho rock faces comprising the 2nd half of the climb up to Kawiwi.  We began to get pelted by a passing rain shower, but it came and went quickly.  There is one rock face near the summit of Kawiwi where it's a little tricky, but very doable.  We reached the summit sometime between 11 and 11:30, just in time for a lunch snack.  As I gazed at each of the four cardinal directions, I noticed a spectacular cloud dance coming off the Kamaile'unu ridgeline between Kawiwi and No Name!  Makaha Valley was still more or less hidden by clouds and Wai`anae Valley was clear as a bell with views extending as far as Palehua, making up the backside of Makakilo along the Wai`anae Summit Ridge.  After about 30 minutes or so of munching down our snacks, the clouds completely lifted and the beauty of Makaha Valley was revealed.  Even Mt. Ka'ala was beginning to show it's flat topped profile.  Down below, we took in the awesome vistas of the leeward coastline, including the towns of Nanakuli, Ma`ile, and Wai`anae and the vast expanse of Lualualei Valley, dotted with military depots.  Directly makai was the towering backside of the Kamaile'unu terminus!  It looked so close yet so far!

Heading makai from Kawiwi we immediately encountered the first out of two rockfaces to descend.  From the looks of it, it was maybe 20 something feet, but still very vertical.  Fortunately, rope was present and one by one we made it down the cliff face.  Continuing makai, we made our way through typical lee side overgrowth and the ridge began a shallow descent into a low lying saddle before climbing back up to a prominent nub, which supposedly was hiding the infamous notch on the other side!  The clouds were now completely clear of the entire Wai`anae Summit ridge at this point, but remained high to provide us constant shade in the otherwise brutal hot lee side!

On the climb up, we encountered rocks that resembled a jigsaw puzzle, akin to what we saw during the cross over from Kawiwi to No Name.  Past the "jigsaw puzzle" we encountered the "block boulder", a cube shaped boulder about 7ft tall.  Here, we had two choices.  We could either do a mighty pull up to the top of the boulder, go over, and drop some 6 or 7 feet back down to the crest.  Or, we could gingerly scoot to the Makaha Valley side of the block boulder on a very thin ledge to "contour" it to the other side.  We all opted the latter and Gene was off first, followed by me.  The trick here is to actually lower yourself onto the thin ledge, going backwards.  This made for an uneasy feeling as you must feel where the ledge is.  Mess up and you'll find yourself free falling about some 50ft straight down!  We made it over without incident, but this was only the prelude of what was next!

Just beyond block boulder is the top of the nub.  Beyond that, the ridge suddenly drops straight down about 50ft, with a hundred foot drop on both sides!  On the other side was the "oh so close" rocky ascent up to the backside of Kamaile'unu!  We spotted a red rope loop that was anchored to a boulder.  I immediately recognized this red rope as Ras August's as we used this same type of rope on Hahaione Windward.  Pete Clines and his crew traversed this section about a month or two ago.  Francis got out his trusty 4,000lb webbing and looped it around the red rope anchor.  Gene was first to descend the vertical wall.  Next was Laredo, then myself.  The way to attack this wall is to descend a short way to a ledge, then follow the ledge to the right (actually to your left when facing the wall with Kamale'unu behind you).  The ledge will then "switch back" over to your right (Kamaile'unu still behind you) to a broader ledge beyond a tree.  Sounds easy right?  Wrong!  Be wary that this switch back is on an almost non existant ledge, especially after the switchback itself!  Also, you'll be doing the switchback over a 100ft vertical drop!  Once you're on the broader ledge beyond the tree, you'll find yourself at the bottom of the notch.  After gaining some elevation on the otherside, one can look back to see what he/she just accomplished!

Francis was last to descend and even managed to retrieve his webbing (the web was simply looped around the red rope and we simply pulled one side to release once at the bottom).  From there we started our steep upward climb towards Kamaile'unu!  This was actually the easiest part of the entire hike!  Before we knew it, we were at the top, marked by several distinct boulders and of course the three pink ribbons marking the end of the club hike!  We took a group photo and enjoyed the sweeping vistas all around!  Gene proceeded to bomb the Kameile'unu terminus (off trail of course!) with the famous #2!  =)

From the summit, instead of heading makai via the regular Kamaile'unu club trail, Gene lead the way down a side ridge that drops down to the floor of Makaha Valley.  Apparently the ridge was coined as "Knife Edge Ridge", probably by Fred Dodge or by some other early HTMC hardcore trekker.  I have to say there really wasn't anything too knife edge about it, but it was still fun nonetheless.  In fact, this ridge was incredibly easy, even more easier than the ridgeline leading up to Kawiwi from Wai`anae Valley.  There was only one rock face we had to worry about, but it was cake compared to the other two we just did earlier!  While the ridge was rather long, it was far more forgiving then the brutal Kameile'unu Ridge heading makai!  The views from Knife Edge Ridge were world class with views of Makaha Valley like no other!

We eventually entered a forest and veered right off the crest to make our way towards the valley road.  Once at the road, we headed makai towards Makaha Towers, passing by a heiau and then veering off the road to a stream crossing to bypass a residential area.  We soon picked up another road that makes a beeline directly towards the towers, passing a water tank along the way.  Looking back towards Kamaile'unu Ridge, a rainbow was casted over the ridge by the setting sun.  Upon reaching Makaha Towers, it was another half mile walk to reach Makaha Resort and my car.

What started out as questionable weather turned out to be a perfect day to hike the ridges separating Makaha and Wai`anae Valleys!



  1. This is really amazing! i hope to make this happen for myself one day. Thanks for sharing!!