Monday, May 26, 2014

1-25-2014: Waiʻanae Summit Trail - Kaua to Kolekole Pass (Hapapa)

CAUTION: The Waiʻanae Mountain Range is located on properties owned by the U.S. government, the U.S. military of all branches, the state of Hawaiʻi via departments, and private owners. The mountain ridges and valleys are also home to a delicate and vast array of native plants, animals, and insects. Please take care not to disturb them or their native habitats and always seek permission to access these lands. Always do your research prior to setting out. And finally, once you are out there, always minimize your impact to the environment and of course, be safe.

This is it, the last leg of the journey.  I didn't think I would get to this point so quickly.  But I still needed to complete this segment and anything that goes wrong on this hike could deny me the finish line.  Zack was the guy to accompany me.  As with all his hikes, he opted to hike in "slippahs", something I seriously recommend not doing unless you know absolutely what you are doing.

We pushed off on the same spot where we took to gain the WST a week ago when we headed to Makakilo.  This time around, we were to head in the opposite direction towards Kolekole Pass.  We hiked in the blackness of night, right before dawn to avoid attracting attention to ourselves on the way up.  About halfway up, we caught the sunrise over the Koʻolaus.  We were on top of Puʻu Kaua by 8:45am.  Unlike last week, we had a commanding view all the way around.  The view from here is by far my favorite on the entire Waiʻanae Range.  The winds today were howling, but not as tradewinds.  They were howling from the southwest!  A strong Kona wind pattern was with us on this day, making for a unique summit experience.

After enjoying the views for around 10 minutes, we headed north on the summit trail.  The trail was relatively overgrown but a steel fence greets you  upon leaving the summit of Kaua.  The summit ridge began a steep descent towards a pair of crumbly pinnacles known as the Gorilla Heads or Kriangles.  Almost immediately, one can get a view of the ridge line downward and the aforementioned pinnacles.  But before getting to the actual Gorilla Heads, we had to climb down a couple of rock faces.  One of the rock faces was a little tricky.  It required us to either go on the leeward or windward side to drop down and contour.  People have done the windward side but we opted for the lee side.  At the base of the rock face, on the contour is a tiny portion of fence line that somehow was placed on this area.

Once past the rock faces, it was the Gorilla Heads themselves.  Getting up to the top of the first pinnacle involved scrambling up loose rock, but it wasn't anything like the "Knucklehead Wall" on the Pohakea Pass.  The only tricky part was a large boulder just before the apex, which involved bear hugging it and heaving yourself up.  Going down on the other side of the first pinnacle was more crumbly than the other side.  But with careful okole scooting, it didn't give us that much trouble.  While heading down, we spotted a black goat just on the other side of the second pinnacle.  Going over the second pinnacle proved easier as it was smaller than the first and we made it through the Gorilla Heads rather quickly.  I looked at the remainder of the summit ridge to Kolekole Pass.  Doesn't look bad at all.  I would later regret saying that.

Past the Gorilla Heads, we hiked our way on a gentle roller coasting ridge.  The fence was not present during this stretch.  While I could say the ridge itself was gentle, the foliage growing on it was a complete different story.  I've heard the section between Kaua and Kanehoa was completely overgrown.  I was expecting to bushwhack through brushes, something that was pretty routine on the kinds of hikes I do.  Nope, not this one.  As I quote Ahnate, it was straight up "BS" for the next few hours.  Instead of brushes and uluhe, we had to contort our bodies around thickets of tree branches that seem to poke you from every direction possible.  The winds did not help one bit.  The winds blew dust in our faces, making visual difficult.  About halfway to Puʻu Kanehoa, we spotted what appeared to be a contour trail on the leeward side.  Perhaps this was a trail that bypassed a large chunk of the woody thicket.  Turns out it was a goat trail as the trail got extremely narrow with a massive drop to leeward.  The trail eventually terminated and we noticed how far below the summit crest we were.  I didn't like what I saw and turned around back to the junction.  From there I simply blasted my way through the thick low lying trees to rendezvous with Zack, who climbed directly up from the goat trail to the summit crest.  After passing a few small puʻu, we came across a larger puʻu.  We don't recall spotting any trail tape to mark this spot but we assumed we were on Kanehoa, as I could see the remainder of the summit ridge to Puʻu Hapapa.

Past Kanehoa, trail conditions improved drastically.  Gone were the thickets of tree branches and came the views.  From Kanehoa to Hapapa, this was an enjoyable segment.  We could easily make out the North Shore with Pūpūkea and the HECO wind farm.  To the leeward was vast Lualualei Valley and the towering radio towers.  Wheeler Airfield and Schofield was clearly visible.  Directly ahead of us in the distance loomed Kaʻala, completely clear of clouds.

At some point about halfway between Kanehoa and Hapapa, the fence returned and it was smooth sailing from there.  Before we knew it, we were standing on a dirt area held together by black plastic barriers.  I couldn't help but busting out my iPhone and jamming it out to Europe's "Final Countdown".  The journey was over, but we still had to get off the mountain.

Heading down the Hapapa Trail, we could easily make out the Kolekole Pass and the Kalena Trail on the other side.  We opted not to go down the traditional trail and instead went down the notches that I referred to as the "Death Ridge" back in 2009.  After descending from the notches via a ridge filled with roots, we rejoined the Hapapa Trail just prior to the large grassy meadow that shows a nice view of the notch ridge line heading up to Hapapa.  The grass here was very thick and long.  In 2009, this meadow was well manicured but since the closure of the Kolekole Pass to the public, this trail does not see much people at all.  After passing the "sacrificial boulder", we made it back to Kolekole Road at around 3pm.  The Waiʻanaes was finished at last and it was a victory walk down Kolekole Rd. to meet up with Carl who would shuttle us back to our starting point to retrieve our car.

Unfortunately, about a quarter mile out from our meeting location, we've encountered an MP and were detained.  Our information was taken and were questioned why and how we got to Kolekole Pass.  At first they were in a defensive posture but eventually warmed up to us.  They were stoked after learning where we came from and talked stories as they escorted us out via the MP patrol car and dropped us off at the gate where we proceeded to wait for Carl to come get us.  Mahalo nui, Carl and your friend for giving us a ride back to our car!

The journey is pau.


Video coming soon!

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