Since I am playing connect the dots with the Ko'olau crest, I've managed to add yet another segment to my slowly but surely goal of completing the entire Ko'olaus from Pupukea to Makapu'u. We hiked up Waimano Ridge, made the cross over along the crest to the terminus of Aiea Ridge and descended that ridge back to the Aiea Loop Trail. Sounds easy right? What I didn't realize was the amount of time that would be required for my snail hiking pace. Also my hiking shoes were so damaged beyond recognition that I wondered if they would last this brutal 17 mile hike. The very first hike ever with these shoes was the Awa`awapuhi Trail in Kaua`i, back in 2009.
After staging cars on both ends, Steve, whom I met for the first time from Leslie Merrell's "O`ahu Hikers & Adventurers", we started our long 7 mile walk on Waimano Ridge Trail at little past 6am. Since this is a graded trail, it is a gradual ascent to the Ko'olau crest. The funny thing was that a week ago from this day, I took Mabel and Francis up Waimano Ridge Trail and we missed the continuing contour trail from the Boy Scouts picnic shelter. There is a trail that continues directly mauka beyond the table and it is very easy to mistake this as the contour trail. The result was us plowing through head high uluhe up and down rollercoasting hills. Since it was nearly 3 years since I've last done Waimano Trail, I thought maybe aliens have rearranged the landscape. =) This trail ends at a metal stake with "R-1" enscribed on it. The trail dead ends here. FYI for future hikers on the Waimano Ridge Trail, if you decide to take a break at the picnic table, make sure to backtrack about 10 or 20ft and you will easily spot the contour trail. Do not proceed beyond the table as this gains the crest of the ridge. Waimano Trail is a graded trail all the way to the summit.
Steve was not liking the weather as we were continually pelted by fast moving rain showers. The rain squalls came one after the other, as if a never ending train. I scanned far ahead, looking for a summit ridge but heavy dark clouds obscured it. I told Steve that Hawaii weather can change in a heart beat. "If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes."
The weather really didn't change in 5 minutes but as we got closer to the summit, the clouds began to rise and break up. Soon the sun poured it's light through the broken clouds. Five minutes before reaching the summit, blue skies took over and the views were grand to leeward.
We reached the summit at around 10am and took in the windward expanse. Directly below us was Waihe'e Valley. I've hiked through this valley to visit a couple of waterfalls last year. Farther out was the Kaneohe sand bar and He`eia. Knowing we had a long journey ahead of us on the summit ridge, we didn't spend much time and off we went, going up and down like crazy on a never ending parade of pu'u. The overgrowth was bad at times, but manageable.
I was attempting to look for the topping out point of Waiau Ridge but saw no signs of any ribbons or a distinct summit. We looked far ahead and noticed a gigantic grassy hill. I've read on several write ups that this grassy pu'u is the terminal point of Waimalu Middle Ridge. The climb up it was surreal. I've just never seen such a huge grassy meadow on the top of the Ko'olaus, or any mountain peak here on O`ahu. We probably reached the top of this hill at around 12:30pm and paused to take in the majestic views. The grassy plateau is so huge that it's probably the best summit camp out spot on the entire Ko'olaus. Far out, Ohulehule stood tall and proud and could see the ridges of the Kualoa Ranch in it's entirely. We barely made out True Manamana and Manana Ridge. Looking to the west was the Wai`anae Range and flat topped Mt. Ka`ala. Give me a lunch wagon, and a tent, and I could live up here forever.
I looked at the time and was beginning to worry whether if we were going to make it down Aiea Ridge before nightfall. Reluctant to leave, we departed the grassy hill and continued on what could of been 8 pu'u before topping out at Aiea Ridge. I looked far ahead along the summit spine and grew even more worried with the time. After pu'u #6, we reached the Aiea "saddle" powerline tower. By this time, the sun was slipping below the horizon and the night time clouds were beginning to return to the summit ridge. Time was running out fast. By the time we finally reached the Aiea Ridge summit, now completely socked in, sunlight was just about completely gone and out came our headlamps. I proceeded to have my MRE for dinner. We were beginning to get fatigued and we still had the 6 mile jaunt on the Aiea Ridge and Loop Trail.
Hiking down was very tricky to say the least. This would be my first time to hike on an ungraded Ko'olau ridge in it's entirely with nothing but a headlamp. When we got to Pu'u Kawipo`o, the helipad, the city lights came into view and it was beautiful. My shoes finally had enough, the soles of my left shoe peeled back like the cover of a sardine can and I was virtually hiking half shoe, half barefoot. We reached the junction with the Aiea Loop Trail by 11pm and we were back at the car at little past midnight to complete an 18 hour hike, the longest I've personally done. I took off my shoes at the trailhead and tossed them in the first trash can I saw and walked to the car barefoot.
I proceeded to fetch my car at the Waimano Trail at 12:30am and didn't get home til 1am. I finally fell asleep at 2am with a wake up time of 7am to head to work on a 10am flight to Tokyo, Narita, Japan, another 8 hour flight. I've never slept so hard on a layover before.... about 14 hours.