Pauao Ridge - October 18, 2008

Pauao Ridge is one hell of hike. Finding the trail was a hell of a task as well. In fact, Kulani and I got lost within the first half-hour. We ended up taking a sheltered trail that led to Kahana Valley's Nakoa Trail. After retracing our steps we finally found a faint trail leading up the side of Pauao Ridge.

From the beginning we were waist high in vegetation, most of the vegetation being uluhe ferns. The trail to gain the ridge was super steep, and its overgrown nature did not help at all. After a little over half an hour of climbing we finally reached the ridgeline. We rested at an open, empty spot with remnants of an old tarp that was probably used for camping. After a handful of beef jerky and trail mix, we headed onward.

I had thought that once we reached the top of Pauao Ridge the trail would be more defined. I was wrong. It was obvious that Pauao Ridge is rarely ever hiked. The trail was ridiculously overgrown, and I don't even know why we went as far as we did. The Ko'olau Summit didn't look far at all, but at the rate we were going there was no way we would have made it out before dark. At a certain point in the trail we just turned around. The trail seemed to disappear all together at our turnaround point, and further advancement seemed impossible.

Although we didn't make the full trip to the summit, we still had great views of Kahana Valley and Punalu'u Valley. I may do this trail again, only if I have a large crew armed with machetes. Pauao Ridge is in dire need of clearing.

Head high in vegetation, and this was just the beginning of the hike.

Finally at the top of the ridgeline. This bare spot was used as a camp ground by other past hikers.

Virtually no trail to follow.

And this is where we decided to turn around. Beyond this point the trail just disappeared.

The pointed peak (Pu'u Pauao, elevation: ~2,800 feet) in the distance was our destination, but the trail was extremely overgrown.

Heading back.

Down the steep, overgrown hill.

Ferns galore.

Thru the uluhe meadow.


Kahana Valley.

Deep view into Kahana Valley, with the pointed peak of Pu'u Ohulehule looming in the distance.

Punalu'u Valley.


Pu'u Hapapa - October 10, 2008

Yesterday was my 25th birthday, and the hike Baron, Neal, Chase, and I did made it a birthday I will never forget. We headed to Schofield Barracks to climb to the 2,883 foot peak of Pu'u Hapapa, a hiking trail that is rarely used and unmaintained.

The morning started off gray and rainy, and it didn't seem like a good idea to do a ridge hike in the clouds, but we headed to Kolekole Pass anyway. While driving we could see that the whole mountain was covered in clouds. We parked, got our bags ready, and headed uphill. Miraculously, the clouds immediately began to thin, the mountain became visible, and blue skies began to show.

The first part of the trail contours right in front of the mountain on what is called the Honouliuli Contour Trail, and there are many ridges that can be climbed to gain the ridgeline. We headed up an extremely steep slope that had us huffing and puffing for a good ten minutes. From here the ridge route became obvious, and steep climbing resumed.

The first part of the ridge has little shade, and the second half is heavily vegetated. As the top neared we were greeted by a fence that the Nature Conservancy built to protect native animals and plants. The fence totally downgraded the hiking experience, and it also prevented us from advancing to Pu'u Kanehoa in the distance. If the fence was not there, the ridgeline past Pu'u Hapapa looked to be one of the nicest ridge walks I have ever seen; the whole mountain range could probably be hiked all the way to Pu'u Kaua and even to Makakilo, but that damn fence was built right on the narrow trail, making it dangerous to attempt. We sat at a flat clearing, ate our lunch, and headed back down.

I noticed a side ridge jutting out on the right on the way up, so we all decided to make that our return route. Little did we know that this return route was an extremely dangerous descent. The ridge became narrow at times, but the narrowness was the least of our worries. The ridge had two massive drops that we had to descend with no ropes, and it became obvious that this ridge trail was rarely used. The first drop was a hair-raiser, and foot placement on the near vertical rock face was doubly important. One slip would be fatal. The second drop was even bigger, but it didn't seem as dangerous as the first one. Fellow hikers actually watched us in anticipation of us falling. They snapped photos and were watching in horror and awe as we descended the second drop without any ropes. When we made it to the bottom of the second drop, we looked back, and it was only then that we saw the seriousness of the drop. We had not noticed that below the section we were descending there was a vertical drop 1,000 feet or so to the bottom of Lualualei Valley. Out of all the dangerous hikes I've done, this ridge was the most extreme. There are probably many crazy ridges somewhere else on the island, but the ridge route we chose is by far the most dangerous ridge on the island, in my opinion.

We exchanged high fives when we reached our car, happy be alive. Just outside Schofield was the local watering hole where we chatted about our brush with death over some beers, shots, and pupus. Buzzed and satisfied we headed back home. What a birthday.

If you look closely, you can see Baron climbing on the ridge.

What a view. This is a shot looking toward Pu'u Kalena and Mount Ka'ala, with Waianae on the left and the North Shore on the right.

Damn fence.

The view looking to the northwest atop Pu'u Hapapa.

The view looking southwest. If you look closely, you can see the fence on the ridge. The Nature Conservancy means well, but they seriously ruined a great hike to Pu'u Kanehoa and Pu'u Kaua.

Heading back.

Neal and Chase edging around a rock face.

Hi Baron.

The junction of our return route. From this vantage point the ridge does not look dangerous at all; it just looks steep.

But the trail IS dangerous. Here's Baron negotiating his way down the first drop, with Neal watching from the other side. Notice the giant drop on both sides.

And here's the 2nd drop. You can't see it, and neither did we, but right below on the left is a vertical drop to the bottom of Lualualei Valley.

The yellow indicates the relatively safe route Baron took to negotiate the 2nd drop; the red indicates the route Neal, Chase, and I took. To the right is the vertical drop. As you can see, half way down the red route would be fatal if we slipped.

Here's our return route looking from the bottom. When we started the hike and looked up at this we thought it was impossible to hike on that ridge. Ironically, the ridge we chose to come back on was the one we joked about. The red indicates our route. I still can't believe we did it.


Kaipapa'u Gulch - October 5th, 2008

My plans to hike always change, and this past weekend was no exception. Although I scouted Manana Ridge last weekend in hopes of doing it this past weekend, the weather did not cooperate, and I was forced to do something other than a summit hike. I even had second thoughts about doing Manana earlier in the week. My friend Kelven was on his way to Hawaii from California, and he had his sights set for climbing the highest mountain in the Ko'olau Mountain Range: Konahuanui. Climbing Konahuanui from Mount Olympus sounded great, but a brutal metal concert the night before our Sunday hike left Kelven with a fat right foot and unable to tackle the steep hills that Konahuanui has in store. So much for that idea; plus, it was raining anyway.

The abundance of rain set my attention on Kaipapa'u Gulch. This particular gulch has a waterfall that only flows after a nice downpour. I woke up at 6am on Sunday morning and did a quick internet search about the length of the hike and where the trailhead was located. The Hawaiian Trail Mountain Club claims the hike to be a total of eight miles. We set out to find if this was true using Chase's new digital mile counter.

Kevlen, Chase, and I made it to the trailhead at the end of Kawaipuna Street in Hau'ula around 9:30am and started up the paved private road around 9:45am. The trail initially passes a large water tank that is sprayed with graffiti. Soon after the trail gradually climbs and then gradually descends into Kaipapa'u Gulch. The trail is said to be closed, but it was well marked and easy to follow. It didn't take us long to reach the dry, boulder-laden stream bed. The trail weaves in and out of the stream many times with large, open areas suitable for camping in between. Again, the trail was well marked with numbers conveniently written on the ribbons indicating the number of times we crossed the stream.

At around the 20th stream crossing and two miles in we finally saw signs of the stream flowing. As we headed deeper in the gulch the mountain walls on both sides began to come closer together, and the stream was fuller and more audible in the distance. From here the trail was very faint in some parts, and getting our feet wet while crossing the knee deep stream was inevitable.

The gulch walls were vertical at times, and at one point along the hike we got a major scare that had us thinking about turning around. As we hugged the trail on the right side we heard some rustling high above us to the left side of the stream. The sound began to get louder and we thought it was animal running toward us. Instead, a huge boulder careened off the vertical mountain face into the stream below. The boulder made a huge splash, and our hearts were pounding. If we had been on the left side of the stream, that boulder drop would have proved fatal for one, if not all, of us. With the tragic memory of the Sacred Falls of 1999 in mind, we thought about turning around. The eeriness of the trail was getting to us, and the thought of "we shouldn't be here" rang in our ears. However, we somehow gathered the courage to continue our trek upstream.

Kaipapa'u Gulch reminded me of the Koloa Gulch hike I did two months ago; some sections seemed almost identical. However, Kaipapa'u Gulch reigns as having the most mosquitoes I have ever encountered on a hike, and large ones at that. The abundance of mosquitoes is probably due to the stagnant water pools during periods of low rainfall. In any case, if you decide to do this hike, cover up, and bring mosquito repellent.

After the 30th stream crossing and over four miles in, it became evident that the trail was well over the eight mile HTMC count. The trail was so long that we thought we might not make it back before sunset, but after about the 40th crossing we could finally hear the heavy splash of water around a right corner.

There stood Kaipapa'u Falls in all its glory: 90 feet high, a deep swimming pool at the the waterfall's base, and ironically, no mosquitoes. As for the length: Chase clocked the trail from our cars to the waterfall at 4.9 miles; a ten mile waterfall hike. The length, the mosquito bites, and the fallen boulder were all forgotten as we sat down and photographed the waterfall. We took a dip into the cool swimming pool. We dried off, ate our lunch, and took even more photographs. Had i known this hike was a total of ten miles I probably wouldn't have done it. Ten miles to see a waterfall that might not be flowing? Uh-uh. No way. But the stars aligned pretty well for us on this one, and it's one hike that I'll probably never do again. We rested for a good hour and headed back at 2pm; we reached our cars at 4pm. I never imagined doing a six hour, ten mile waterfall hike, but it was all worth it.

Our lunch spot.

The useful self-timer photo feature. Left to right: Kelven, Chase, and me.

Super nice waterfall. (photo: C. Maglangit)