Saturday, December 10, 2011

12-2-2011: Bolohead Ridge

The surf season is in full swing, the days are shorter, the Christmas decorations are going up, and the temperatures are falling.  Tis the season.  With 2011 almost over, I wanted to finish this year off with a bang.  When Chenay brought up the idea of attempting Bolohead Ridge, I did not hesitate one bit to say yes.  Bolohead is the ridge that is adjacent to the east of the main Wai`anae Ka`ala Trail that is popular to gain the summit of Mt. Ka`ala, the roof of O`ahu, standing at 4,025ft.  I have acquired this summit numerous times over the years from the aforementioned trail, and from the Dupont Trail (now permanently closed).  I've noticed the ridge to the east of the W-K Trail but paid very little attention to it...  that is until Kaleo Lancaster and his crew pioneered the route.  They have described it as a goat trail, with no signs of humans ever setting foot on it.  "It shouldn't even be a route" was what was written on his write up.

The name "Bolohead" was coined by L Steve Rohrmayr to a particular section of the ridge line that features an ominous looking hump that looks like a face with no hair, hence the word "bolohead" meaning "bald head".  This hump could probably give Kalihi Saddle's "Witch's Hat" a run for her money.

On December 2, 2011, Jeremy, Francis, Chenay, and myself set off on what would be one of the toughest and most mental climbs I've personally done.  Also this was the debut of my GoPro Hero 2 camera.  I ended up selling my original one and got this one so what a test this would be for it!  We set off under a cool damp morning sun, making it ideal conditions, especially for that long walk up the paved road that heads up into the upper reaches of Wai`anae Valley.  At some point in the road, we veered off it into the forest.  Apparently there's a better way to reach this ridge but we beelined it regardless.  After dropping into a small ravine, we headed up steeply to gain the crest of Bolohead Ridge, but not before intersecting a well trodden trail that happened to be one of the popular hikes in Wai`anae Valley.  From here, the climb is steep through a forest.

Once the ridge opened up to reveal the expanse of Wai`anae Valley, we could see the upcoming obstacles to be traversed.  The first was an extremely narrow dike, followed by a 20ft rock face with a black strap attached.  Apparently the valley received some morning rain prior to us starting and the rocks were dangerously wet.  I was the last to make the climb and just prior to topping out, there's an odd looking smooth boulder with evidence of another boulder on top of it that was dislodged loose.  I felt my foot sliding downward on this slanted smooth boulder that terminates to a humongous drop off to my left.  I quickly dropped to a near prone position, my free hand grabbing hold to another boulder in front of me, stopping me from sliding the rest of the way down.  Whew....

First rock face completed.  On to the next, which was the Bolohead feature itself!

We followed an eye sore fence line to the base of the Bolohead feature.  Francis and I took a small break on a dirt mound while Jeremy and Chenay continued onward towards the climb.  As they headed upward, I snapped photos and took video when they appeared to get stuck about halfway up.  Things got worse when they haven't made any progress for about 5 minutes.  Chenay veered left of a giant boulder while Jeremy went to the right.  Eventually Jeremy found a way and was on his way to secure rope to help Chenay finish her climb.  Francis and I followed to the base and discovered it extremely difficult.  Just about the entire climb is on nothing but loose dirt and dry grass.  Beyond another black strap, fastened to a tree, a section between a rocky outcrop and this tree was the most difficult.  With none of us making any progress, I called out to Jeremy to bring the rope, followed by another rope, down to our location and after several tries, Francis made contact with the rope and was able to climb the remaining distance to the top.  I was up next and found it nearly impossible to climb so I ditched my pack, tied it to the end of the rope.  But with the double rope so springy, I could not trust neither of them so Francis put up a third rope and made it up to the top without incident.  All three ropes were reeled up, along with my pack.  This climb alone took all of us a very long time, about 2 hours!  It's that mental!

We were standing on the top of the Bolohead feature with a giant tree and it's low lying THICK branches covering the entire top, making for a painful forward progress.  In essence, we were "trapped".  Descending the makai or the mauka side is exceptionally dangerous, as we were about to find out upon reaching the notch on the mauka side.  The ridge line disappeared downward completely.  This looked worse than the other side!

After the rope was affixed, Jeremy went down first, followed by Chenay.  The cliff face is very vertical here and very narrow, with nothing but loose boulders....  ALL of them.  This cliff face alone is probably on par with the Kalihi Saddle "Triangle #2" cliff face!  Francis made it down safely and I was up next.  I took no chances and proceeded to climb down this thing with my bare feet as it proved useful on the "Chimney" on Pali Notches to K1!  After a lot of guidance from Francis where to place my feet as climbing down backwards is a must, I made it safely.  Another bullet, or should I say fall, dodged!

The climb up the other side of the notch is very steep, but not as dangerous as that last one, but the eroded dirt and dry grass remains plentiful.  At the top of this climb is a nice grassy lookout that allows a commanding view of the Wai`anae Valley and all of the dangerous features of Bolohead Ridge.  However, with time against us, we continued the steep but pleasant climb up a broad ridge with peculiar plants shaped like spiny balloons.  If anyone can tell me what these are, that would be awesome!  The clouds rolled in and blanketed us for much of the remainder of the climb.

Soon that pleasant climb turned into a a taxing and annoying climb through thick uluhe ferns and thorny black berry brushes that lasted nearly an eternity!  Ugh!  We eventually came across an overhanging gully with a stream flowing through it.  We could soon make out the flat plateau of the bog.  The next portion of the hike sucked.  It sucked really bad.  We hated it and I'll keep the description short on the blog.  It was muddy, confusing, green, thorny, thorny, and thorny.  Sounds about right?  I think so because we made not one but TWO complete circles in this mess!  Eventually we found the "boardwalk to heaven" and made it to the light, the light of the setting sun as we proceeded down the W-K Trail back to the valley floor and ultimately back to our cars just after nightfall.

What a rush!  Another hike added to my long list of "Never to do ever again" hikes.  I probably received more thorns on this hike alone than all my other hikes combined since the dawn of hiking!

What's the reward?  McDonald's in a place called human civilization!

I hate thorns...


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