Monday, May 17, 2010

Konahuanui via Lulumahu -- 9/16/2000

This hike was done back in 2000, specifically 9/16/2000. It involves an ascent to the highest peak in the Koolau Range via a route not recently attempted by anyone we could discern.  Later, the HTMC used this route for a club hike.  After that, I am not sure if anyone else has been up to Konahuanui this way.  The photo at left is taken from the traditional route to Konahuanui.  The ridge in mid-photo is the ridge we climbed.  Anyway, here is the write-up.

Yesterday, five of us set out to try the ridge on the north side of Lulumahu Valley in upper Nuuanu. We knew the ridge extended up to Konahuanui 1 (elev. 3,150 ft) but my thought was that we wouldn't make a try for it yesterday, mostly because the ridge was an unknown commodity; thus it might have thick vegetation and difficult-to-surmount obstacles, etc. In fact, the original plan for the day was to hike on the other side of the valley up the waterfall route of Mo'ole Stream. Hearing a suggestion from Rich (Jacobson) to try Lulumahu Ridge and seeing what a gung-ho crew had assembled (Henry Davis, Wing Ng, and Steve Poor were also on hand), I figured, why not give it a shot. 

The start point was along Pali Highway by the hunters' check-in where Nuuanu Pali Drive rejoins the highway. I pulled up at a few minutes past eight and the other four, plus Tom Yoza, were waiting (Tom was headed to the Maunawili Demo Trail to do maintenance work and had stopped by to find out what we were going to do). After readying ourselves, our group of five headed into the woods via a trail on the makai side of an old road and gate that led into the former watershed of the Board of Water Supply.
The old road narrowed to a trail eventually. And that trail led to Lulumahu Stream and a trail that leads into Lulumahu Valley up to Lulumahu Falls. The ridge we climbed is on the left side of the valley. We found no discernible human-created trail up the ridge and initially just worked our way up through a forest of non-native vegetation (ink berry?) on pig trails or via the line of least resistance. Steve manned the ramrod and would occasionally yell out, "Perfect!" when he found an open area, a good pig trail, or just a good line to follow. The going in these early stages was muddy but not overly steep.
After maybe 30 minutes up the ridge, we climbed above treeline. Well below us to the left, we could see people fishing along the shore of the Nuuanu Reservoir. Steve continued to be the lead hiker, a fact I mention because when blazing a new ridge, the person in front plays a big role in establishing a swath and taking the brunt of the assault from the vegetation. Rich, at one point, asked if we'd be able to look down to our right to see Lulumahu Falls. "Maybe," I told him (we never did see the falls). 

After climbing steeply through uluhe, we reached a section of the ridge that leveled off and narrowed considerably. It was at this point that Steve yielded the front position and Henry took the lead. We carefully negotiated the narrow section and then were confronted with a steep, near vertical spot. We discussed whether a rope was needed there but found that we could climb it with the assist of some feebly-rooted small trees and then a solidly-anchored ohia. Henry, Rich, and I made it up the near-vertical spot; meanwhile, Steve decided he wanted to go no further and Wing was lower down the ridge and also would go no further than this spot. 

So this meant that it would be just three pressing on to find out what was ahead. After the steep section we'd just completed, the ridge was quite nice. The vegetation stayed relatively low and there were good views of upper Nuuanu to our left and upper Lulumahu and the Konahuanui trail ridge to our right. Turning to look makai, we had a nice sweep of Honolulu proper. 

Around 11:30, with some big pu'us to climb looming ahead, we sat down to eat lunch and think about what we'd do. Our original plan was to hike upridge and, at a point where the ridge dropped to a significant saddle, cross upper Lulumahu to the Konahuanui Trail, which we'd use as a return route. At the point we sat down to eat and rest, we'd already passed the saddle in our ridge (there is a large, lone ironwood on the descent of the saddle). From our lunch spot, we could see that the descent into Lulumahu would be daunting (steep with thick vegetation) and the climb up to the Konahuanui trail appeared just as daunting, even worse. What's more, right around that same time, the summit ridge had cleared itself of clouds and we could see that the top was makeable from where we had lunch. Reckoning that the crossover to the Konahuanui ridge trail via upper Lulumahu would kick our tails, we figured why not try for the summit and have our tails kicked in attempting that instead?
So the crossover via upper Lulumahu was scratched and a summit attempt it would be. Feeling more energetic after lunch, Rich, Henry, and I began the ascent for what we hoped would take us to the summit of Konahuanui. Henry continued as lead man and did a nice job finding the best line up the mountain. The ridge remained generally open and the vegetation low, a fact likely attributed to the wind that constantly flows down the mountainside from the top. At one point, we looked down on the Pali Lookout, a circumstance Rich found remarkable. 

All three of us were wearing altimeter watches and we did regular checks to determine how much more vertical gain remained to hit the target elevation of 3,150 feet. At about the 2700-2800 foot level, we arrived at a place I named Slip and Swear Hill. The reference stems from the form our actions took as we climbed: plenty of slipping & sliding on loosely compacted slopes and lots of cursing as we struggled to keep from losing vertical ground we expended much energy to gain. 

At one point, we were confronted with a near vertical section that we got around with a left to right contour. After the contour, more climbing, sliding and cursing finally brought us to the crest of Slip and Swear Hill, where we plopped down for a much needed break. I put ribbons on a lapalapa tree to mark the spot. 

From that vantage point, we could see the main summit ridge about 100 meters due east. Clouds had inundated the crest and our position by then. Thought disappointed about the lack of a view, we were happy that the toughest climb was behind us. All that remained was a fairly level 10-15 minute jaunt to the clearing that marks the summit of Konahuanui 1. With no views to enjoy and having rested just a few minutes prior, we did not stop at the clearing but instead began the southbound crossover to Konahuanui 2. 

We needed about half an hour for the muddy, slippery crossover. During those 30 minutes, we had a view of the windward side for maybe three when there was a break in the clouds. We took another break at the K2 clearing, and I drank the last of my water. I calculated that about two more hours of hiking remained to get back to my car, and that estimate turned out to be fairly accurate. Figuring that I could survive a couple hours of mostly downhill hiking without H20, I set off down the Konahuanui trail ahead of my two hiking partners, who I wouldn't see for the rest of the afternoon. 

The Konahuanui trail was minimally muddy but generally okay and I made it down to the Nuuanu Lookout without incident. At the lookout, I looked for signs of a trail that would take me down into the forest by the Nuuanu Reservoir. Seeing no clear signs, I decided to head down the Pauoa Flats Trail and then make the right turn on the Nuuanu Trail which would take me down to Nuuanu Pali Drive and my car. 

I saw no one on Pauoa Flats but did meet six hikers on the Nuuanu Trail (three were ascending and three descending). My descent of the Nuuanu Trail went well, and I took a couple minutes to wash the mud from my shoes, gaiters, and legs in Nuuanu Stream. 

The walk up to Pali Highway via Nuuanu Pali Drive took around ten minutes, and once back at my vehicle I jumped in and headed for home, glad for the good workout and the good results of the hike.