Friday, October 8, 2010

10-8-2010: Mt. Olympus to Konahuanui

Head north--- Thru hiking the Ko'olaus? ---Head south

Writing this blog nearly 7 years after this hike took place is a strange feeling to me.  On March 18, 2012, Leslie Charles Merrell passed away when he fell 150ft to his death while attempting "Bear Claw Ridge", a windward ridge that climbs up to a spot somewhere between the Kuli'ou'ou Ridge Trail terminus to the south and Pu'u O Kona to the north.  The Hawaiian Islands are notorious for loose mountains that can fall apart at any time, whether it be a massive tsunami generating landslide, or a climber grabbing hold of a boulder, only for it to rip right out like it was made out of paper.  Sadly, Leslie would lose his life on the latter.

If memory serves me right, this hike would be my very last one with Leslie.  And there is one photo of him against the backdrop of the Ko'olaus that always sticks out in my mind forever.

It was just Leslie and I for this hike, at least for the summit crest cross over, and our plan was to summit Pu'u Awa'awaloa, more commonly known as Mt. Olympus.  While there is nothing olympian about the hike itself, the views around it can be considered an epic back drop of an olympian battle.

One of our other friends joined us for the ascent up the Wa'ahila Ridge Trail, the Na Ala Hele state trail that gains the ridge line up about halfway towards Olympus.  The remaining half is a foot path that is very well used.  Once we got to the terminus atop the Ko'olau crest, the views were as always, amazing.  After rest for some time, our friend started back down and we followed, about halfway down the final ascent to Olympus.  There was an old junction that was once a graded trail that was known as the Castle-Olympus Trail (not to be confused with the Castle Trail in Punalu'u).  This graded trail at one time connected Olympus and Kōnāhuanui by way of a leeward graded trail.  On this day, this graded trail went maybe 20ft towards Kōnāhuanui before it was lost in a sea of Uluhe.  I would return to hike this area again on 9-1-2013 during a cross over from Olympus to Mānoa Middle Ridge to discover that they were in the middle of restoring the old Castle graded trail between Olympus and Kōnāhuanui.  It is now 2017 and whether or not that trail is still there, is unknown to me now.  I have not been up this area ever since 2013.

Not to go off on a tangant, Leslie and I hiked the crest of the Ko'olau summit ridge, making our way towards the big twin peaks of Kōnāhuanui 2 & 1, in that order.  They are the tallest peaks on the Ko'olau Mountain Range so our average grade elevation change through the roller coasting hills is more upward than anything.  Almost right away, there were a couple of obstacles to get through.  One part of the crest narrows considerably to some hefty drops to windward and a less minor drop to leeward.  Actually, this can be avoided completely by hugging the trail that contours around the narrow portion of the crest on it's leeward side.  It was around here where I snapped my favorite photo of Leslie with the mountains behind him.  Beyond that is a nice little scramble up what is called "Sedan Boulder".  I went up to affix rope for Leslie to use.  The next one was the "Ironwood Ridge", where one has to crawl through the somewhat thick Ironwood trees.

Beyond that, the trail is a roller coaster of ups and downs from one hill to the next.  We got to the terminus of Mānoa Middle Ridge, marked with three pink ribbons.  It was here that Leslie has enough and decided to go down said ridge.  There was still a lot of day light left and I decided to make a push for Kōnāhuanui.  After our split, my journey continued and the hike became a little more steeper.  But the vegetation became a lot more windswept.  The closer I got towards Kōnāhuanui, more grassy meadows were encountered.

It wasn't long before I was standing on the top of the Ko'olau Mountain Range at some 3,050 something feet.  Technically, this would be the 2nd tallest spot on the mountain range as K1 was taller by 50 or 100ft.  However, K2 had the better view all around while K1 had it's views blocked by a native mountain forest that runs rampant on the pu'u.

With the sun starting to dip towards the horizon, I made way down the Konahuanui Trail, saving K1 for another day.  I thought about that graded trail that was made by Mr. Castle (forget his first name).  He created that and the famous (or infamous) Castle Trail in Punalu'u.  I gazed over the south side of the Konahuanui Trail to see if there was any discernible graded trail but none was found.  I got down to the area where I recall a certain event that made everyone afraid and worried for me.  ;)  Past the junction to the "Riff Raff Hill", I made my way speedily down the contour trail towards Pauoa Flats and out the Kalawahine Trail where Leslie picked me up after he got down the Mānoa Middle Ridge before me.

This part breaks my heart because this point would mark our final time I would ever hike with my good old friend, Leslie.  It was Leslie's "Meetup" group, the "O'ahu Hikers & Adventurers" that I would ever hike a Hawaiian trail with a group of people back in 2009.  And it was Leslie himself that would instill the heart and my desire to get close and be one with nature.  And down the road, I would explore and adventure out there in the unknown, all the way up to this very day.  Unfortunately, the following couple of years we would hang out once in a while, but our schedules got too busy and we wouldn't see each other much.  I regret that we didn't hike more since this hike.  I hope you are reading this and smiling up there in paradise.  I'm sure you have clocked in many miles and time exploring the heavens up there.  Miss ya buddy!

In Loving Memory of Leslie Charles Merrell.  1/1/1964 - 3/18/2012