Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kaupo Cliffs Trail-- Waimanalo, Hawaii



I did this hike back on Election Day in 2002 with Jay Feldman and Scott Villiger. Here is the write-up.

On the day that Hawaii will vote in its first wahine governor, Jay Feldman, Scott Villiger, and I elect to go hiking in the Waimanalo end of the Ko'olaus. We meet at 9:30 at the HTMC clubhouse in 'Nalo, then hash around some options for our outing, the top two being a circumnavigation of Koko Crater--my first choice--or a Kaupo Cliffs/TomTom combo, which Jay prefers. I actually like the Kaupo option but do not like the potential hassle we sometimes have from the guy who lives in the last house on the left on the street we use to access the trail. However, after some wrangling about transportation logistics and an assist from Man Friday, who says he'll help with the pre-hike drop-off, I relent and say okay to a Kaupo ascent, much to the delight of Jay, whose car we use to ferry us to our starting point on Manawaiola Street.

Thanks to MF's help, Jay, Scott, and I are dropped off at the end of the street and into the bushes of the vacant lot we go with no hassles from the guy in the last house on the left. In a minute, Scott and I are in a forest of koa haole, with Jay trailing behind us. Right off, we hit a snag when Scott and I veer left in the brush and Jay veers right to begin heading up the TomTom trail, thinking that is the plan. Meanwhile, Scott and I, not knowing where Jay has headed off to, wait in the forest for him. Fortunately, Jay and Scott have walkie-talkies, so we are able to summon Jay back to our position. After a couple minutes and a couple of whoops to home in on our locations in the thick forest, we all are back together again on our way to Kaupo Cliffs.

The "trail" over to the start of the climb up Kaupo isn't much of a trail. Instead, it's often just a meander thru a forest of knee-high grass, koa haole, some splotches of hau, and plenty of old rock terraces and walls. Remembering past hikes, I know that a key landmark is a fence line of old barbed wire that runs from mauka to makai, so that is the target. Once we hit the fence line, we turn mauka and began climbing, reaching, in a couple of minutes, an open area with a view back toward the ocean.

I start snapping some pics at this point with yet another disposable camera, and by hike's end I have shot the whole roll, 27 pics in all.

From the fence line ridge, we contour around the back of a steep ravine on a shelf that looks pretty gnarly from a distance but is quite safe when hiked upon. A very thin rope is available for grabbing if needed for a semi-exposed section, but in reality if a slip occurs, the rope isn't going to prevent the Big Spill.

After the contour, no spills having occurred, we begin climbing again, having switched over to a spur ridge more makai of the fence line ridge we have begun on. This climb is quite spectacular, most of it being on an open ridge with steep drops on both sides. At a couple points, the climbs are up and over some bouldery, exposed segments but the foot- and handholds are ample and generally stable. I take a bunch of pics along the way.

One of the more exciting sections of the climb involves a left-side contour to skirt around a vertical outcrop on the ridge. A long section of fixed rope, pitons, and cables is available to help prevent a Big Spill into a steep ravine.

Making use of the climbing aids, we execute the contour without a problem and then once on the ridgeline again, we climb a couple minutes more to an ironwood grove where we sit down to rest and talk story. During this respite, Jay shares some candy and almonds with us while we hunker down.

After the 15-minute break, we rise again to continue the ascent to the summit. We make our way thru the upper end of the ironwood grove, which Jay notes is a perfect place to string up a hammock and read a book, and then continue up a steep but broad slope with fairly decent footing. After climbing this way for ten minutes, the straight-up climbing becomes impossibly steep. At this point, we slab to the right, following a long fixed rope, which delivers us to an adjacent spur ridge. At that point, Scott spots a bunch of goats scrambling in the trees on the farside of a ravine to our right. At many points during our climb, we have seen evidence of the goat's presence via their black, pellety scat, so the sighting isn't a surprise.
Having executed the rope-assisted rightward slab, the major exposure sections are behind us and from then on we climb in relative safety thru another ironwood grove then up the final section of the ridgeline past or over a couple of rock outcrops. We acquire the summit very near the ironwood grove where we traditionally lunch during the Makapu'u-TomTom hike. A good climb completed safely.

From there, we hike along the summit, heading for the top of the TomTom trail. En route, we pause briefly at the Kamiloiki Ridge trail terminus in a shady grove of ironwoods and continuing on we pass the head of Kamilonui Valley. Beyond that, at the higher of two pu'us with powerline poles atop them, we reach the apex of the TomTom trail. A huge metal powerline pole with the word "FAT" spray-painted on it, marks the summit now. I take a pic of Jay and Scott next to the pole.

After resting and enjoying the wonderfully clear views atop the TomTom summit for a few minutes, we descend back to Waimanalo. While exiting in the grassy lot on Manawaiola, we see the man in the last house on the left. He is in his yard, cell phone in hand, with an angry look on his face. Is he calling the cops? We do not wait to find out and continue by somberly without pause.

Nothing comes of this but on the walk back to the clubhouse, Jay, Scott and I talk about how favorable it will be to talk story and make peace with this man, who may have some false impressions of us hikers. In fact, we may have false impressions of him. We agree that Mabel, with her grandmotherly looks and disarming ways, is an appropriate candidate to approach this man. We shall see.

When we reach Kalanianaole, we stop to buy lettuce from some nice folks at a roadside stand. An elderly tutu wahine at the stand, while eyeing us suspiciously, asks what we have been doing. When we say "hiking," her eyes soften and she smiles, replying, "Ahh, good exercise."
We smile in agreement, and each of us with a bag of fresh lettuce in hand, we tromp off back to the clubhouse for some cold drinks and snacks.

A good hike on a good day with good friends. I hope to have some pics up in a day or two.
With a new wahine governor to lead Hawaii for the coming four years, it's back to the grindstone tomorrow.

I hope you all are having a nice Election Day.