To OHE this past April, Stuart Ball posted a tribute to the late Chuck
Godek. In his write-up, Stuart mentioned a "hair-raising loop" using the
left (north) ridge of Moanalua Valley. The loop was pioneered by Godek
and his hiking contemporary Erwin "Ski Poles" Jaskulski. Intrigued about
the route, I made a mental note to give it a go at some point. Today, a
handful of us--after a bunch of sweating, scrambling, clawing, slipping,
and swearing-- completed the challenging circuit.
My companions today, for better or worse, were Dusty Klein, Jay
Feldman, Ed Gilman, Jim Wilburn, and Jason Sunada. Four of the five who'd
join me showed up at Moanalua Valley Park at 8 a.m. for HTMC trail
maintenance of the Moanalua Valley Trail and had no idea what the day
really had in store for them. The day before, Jason and I had talked
about the possibility of trying the loop. After checking out the route on
a topo map, I was encouraged that it was makeable in a reasonable amount
of time and suffering. So when I showed up at the park this a.m., I told
Jason of my plan. He was in. Dusty, Jay, Ed, and young Jim also
expressed interest, so our small hui was set.
The six of us pushed ahead of the main pack of a couple dozen HTM trail
clearers during the 45-minute walk up the valley dirt road. After a short
regrouping at the junction where the valley trail begins, our sixsome set
off for the unknown. Just past the gaging station, we crossed the stream
and almost immediately veered left through a small hau tangle to climb up
the start of a little spur ridge.
We followed old ribbons that led us into a ravine between two significant
spurs. We knew we'd eventually have to climb one of the two spurs, but
which one? Continuing up the ravine, we found that the ribbons petered
out. Based on what I remembered from the topo map, I suggested we try to
gain the crest of the spur on the right. And we were able to do that
after some steep climbing, scrambling, and pushing and clawing through
Once atop the spur, we saw signs, mostly old cuts of branches, that this
was the correct route to the top. Mabel, Ralph, Deetsie, and John had
explored this ridge back in April and they'd done a bit of the clearing
work we saw today. Today, Mabel, Deetsie, Charlotte (and
others?) followed us up the spur to do more clearing work to help keep the
Nearby pig rootings and a metal pipe in the ground at a forested clearing
atop the ridge marked the topping out point of the spur. After an hour of
climbing, we had acquired the crest of the north ridge of Moanalua Valley
aka Red Hill ridge. We took a few minutes to rest there and
then commenced pushing our way up the ridge toward the summit.
Earlier, I'd suggested that the best way to proceed when bashing up a
trail-less ridge was to have each of us rotate systematically into the
lead position since the first man had to expend the most energy, bear
the brunt of the assault from the ferns and assorted vegetation, and, if
unrelieved, collapse from exhaustion. I estimated that five to ten
minutes at the front would suffice and then the leader would stop to let
the others pass, with hiker 2 assuming the lead position, akin to what
bicycle racers do in the Tour de France when drafting. The process would
repeat itself every five to ten minutes.
Well, the "system" didn't work out exactly the way I suggested, but five
of our group of six did man the front slot at various points. Being tired
and abused by flora (among other things) sometimes brings out the asshole
in me, and there were times today, especially when I took
long pulls at the front, when I became snippy and a basically a
dictatorial ass, resorting to sarcasm, taunts, and bad jokes to persuade
some of my colleagues to shoulder more of the burden. Sorry, guys, for
not being diplomatic.
The climb to the summit was a typical Koolau-type rollercoaster. A
few times we saw pig damage and followed rough pig trails, but most of
the time the ridge was trackless. The worst sections were ones with
overhead uluhe, not many but enough to make me cranky. We never had to
climb super steep slopes but one of the steeper ones had an old rope (left
by Chuck or Ski Poles?) that surprised us since we saw no other signs (old
ribbons, trash, or cut branches) that anyone has hiked this ridge in
I believed we could summit by 12:00, but at 11:45, with a mid-sized
and a large puu ahead of us to scale, it became clear a noon kaukau
session overlooking Haiku Valley wasn't on our dance card. So we stopped
at a shady place on the ridge to eat lunch. The thinking was the
rest and refueling would give us the energy we'd need to push through to
the top. Jason and I debated how long we'd need to summit from our lunch
spot. I said 30 minutes while Jason said an hour. The 30 vs 60 estimate
became a running joke/taunt between us during and after lunch.
It turns out we needed more than 30 minutes to negotiate the mid-sized and
then the large puu. But our work was far from done. We then had to veer
off to the right to descend into a significant saddle (never a happy
time when making for a summit) and then endure a final uluhe-bashing climb
to gain the summit ridge and our long-awaited view of Haiku Valley
(another metal pipe marks the summit junction with the ridge we
climbed). Time needed from lunchspot: 75 minutes. Total
time needed to reach the summit metal pipe from the downridge metal pipe
clearing: 2.5 hours. 2.5 pipe to pipe.
I should mention that it was a great day for hanging out at the beach
(sunny with very few clouds) but not the best for hiking in the mountains
I prefer high overcast). It became especially warm in the late morning
and early afternoon. And warm means sweating, general discomfort, and a
need for greater water consumption.
There was some discussion about hiking north along the summit crest to
exit via the Halawa trail. But we decided to proceed southbound to hike
out the Moanalua trail (which the crew had cleared today) to complete the
Godek/Jaskulski loop. Actually, the decision for the latter was agreed
upon mostly because it would take less time and energy (in theory).
From the metal pipe at the summit, we followed the ridgeline south,
passing three (or two?) badly eroded leeward sections where Henry Davis
had left ropes. The drops to windward were extremely precipitous. After
the narrow, level eroded section, we then had to down-climb steeply, and
butt-sliding became a popular ridge-descending technique. This steep
section wasn't as bad as I anticipated but care had to be taken to
avoid falls to windward or leeward.
Enroute, we made radio contact with Tom Yoza, who was clearing along the
ridge from the Moanalua saddle lunchspot northward over toward where we
were. I, for one, was glad for Tom's work, which made the going easier
for us after a long, tough day.
Much thanks go to other folks on the TM outing who left water and a can
of Dr Pepper for us. The extra fluids were helpful since most of us had
run low or bottomed out our supplies (I began the day with four liters and
finished all but half a liter before I reached the saddle lunchspot).
From the saddle, we hiked the well-cleared valley trail to the dirt
road (great work in the hau sections) and were back at the park in about
two hours. We were glad participants in the posthike/clearing gathering at
the neighborhood park. Parched and tired, I must have downed a half dozen
We also heard from Pat Rorie via walkie-talkie that he and Roger Breton
were coming down from the summit saddle to the park after crossing
along the summit from points north. Pat and/or his buddy
Kapa Reero will hopefully post something about that undertaking.
Hope everyone had a pleasant weekend, hiking or otherwise.