Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Piliwale Ridge --9/16/2000 --Jason Sunada

The following post was written by Jason Sunada on Thurs, 21 Sep 2000. The photo at left is the worst section of Piliwale Ridge.Here is Jason's post:

Last Friday afternoon (9/15/00) was so nice that I started thinking I should hike somewhere on Saturday before the HTM Clubhouse Appreciation Night pizza dinner. Briefly considered beating Dayle and Co. (didn't know he had e-mailed his intentions that afternoon) to Lulumahu Ridge and its K1 summit (the taller of the Konahuanui twin peaks and formerly known as K2). He had mentioned exploring this ridge after his upper Nuuanu to Pali Lookout bushwhack the previous week. But that would likely be too long and rugged. And the parking's not too safe. Then mulled over various stream/waterfall hikes. However, with my birthday approaching (it came and went) I wanted to try something more. Piliwale Ridge came to mind. I did it twice before in the mid to late 80's and in the early 90's (should have kept a hike log). A few years ago I joined Stuart Ball to check out this ridge to the old HTM Club lunch spot (the grassy shelf). The trail above the Maunawili Contour was very overgrown and scratchy. When we topped out on the grassy shelf I was feeling uneasy with the big drop offs and no plants nearby for security. Across the dip in the ridge (which I considered the most dangerous part) the rock looked more eroded [due to (recent?) use]. It "didn't look too good" but the cable was still there (seen the second but not the first time).

Saturday morning was too cloudy deep in the valley for a stream hike so I settled on Piliwale Ridge -- if not to complete it, at least to check it out. Nothing was prepped the night before so I lost time getting ready, debating whether to bring the Camelbak. On the drive over the sky transitioned from sunny in town to very cloudy on the windward side causing some concern. Noticed Tom Yoza's yellow Scout parked at the hairpin turn and wondered what he was up to: mountain biking, more trailclearing, searching for missing hikers again? Because of high potential for break-ins why would he want to park there?

Parked on Lopaka Way in a beautiful Maunawili neighborhood and started up the water tank road at 9:05 am. The trail above the water tank was clear and appeared well used. Reached the junction with the Maunawili Contour in less than 20 minutes. Checked that no one was around then continued up the ridge. Within seconds noticed sunglasses (dark blue frame) laying on the trail. Further ahead the trail was very clear with nothing scratchy and also appeared well used. The sun shined more often so I sometimes waited for clouds to cover it before breaking out in the open. Looked down at the hairpin turn for Tom's vehicle but couldn't see it. Either trees blocked it or he had finished his bike ride already and left. I later learned they (his bike gang?) rendezvoused there then drove near the middle part of the Maunawili Contour to clear the trail.

Got to the grassy shelf before the dip feeling fine. Wondered what lunatic would leap across to the rock below. Noticed the cable across the dip. The ridge looked "not too bad." Dropped down on the left to the dip then climbed up with the cable nearby in case I slipped. For some reason (no recent erosion, more grass/greenery?) I didn't realize this was the most dangerous part and continued on. While on a narrow area I noticed my left trailshoe laces undone. Dohhh. Made a mental note to double check laces before dicey spots. Saw another cable (part of two cables in series). Contoured left around it then got back on the ridgeline above it. Saturday night I mentioned two areas with cables (three cables total). Now I'm not sure. May have been three areas (four cables total). Definitely remember seeing a black one (first cable by dip?) and a gray one.

Anyway, above the cables I reached a wider rocky face where I couldn't go straight up. At first glance the right side looked too sheer so I spent 15 minutes contouring a couple steps left then trying unsuccessfully to step and grab my way up, pondering between attempts. Gave up, backtracked to the ridgeline and sat down, relieved but disappointed to be turning back. Ate three pretzels and some li hing guava, enjoyed the great view and wondered if I could come down safely (safety was on my mind throughout this hike). While taking my partially frozen iced tea from my bag something fell out. Looked down and saw my umbrella, fortunately just a few feet below on the ridgeline. Figured I'd pick it up on the way down after checking the other side of the rocky face. Found a path so I retrieved my umbrella then continued up. All along I kept wondering why the trail seemed so much harder than the time I previously checked it out with Stuart. Maybe I had already passed the bad spots. Topped out at the next point (or the following one) and could see I was home free. "Safer," wider ridge with plenty of plants to grab. Think was around 11:30 am. Still looked like a long way to go with the summit clouded in. The trail had been nice and dry but above about 2600 ft the ground became moister with some stepping and sliding. It again appeared well used with some significant clearings (Pat and Laredo's top down exploration?) making the going easier than previous times.

Recognized ohia, maile, i'e i'e, kahili ginger (!, many in bloom with yellow flowers), lapalapa, uli grass, other shorter/thinner blade grasses, uluhe, clidemia, another pest plant with prominently-veined leaves bigger and smoother than clidemia leaves. Also strawberry guava and fiddlewood on the lower ridge. Unfortunately, didn't spend any time looking off trail for lobelias, etc. (not that I would know). Reached the summit trail at 11:55 am (still clouded in). Plucked a little purple flower and stuck it in some moss at chest level to mark the junction and continued left trying not to step in the putrid, watery mud.

Summitted K1 at 12:05 pm at the grassy lunch spot of the June 25 trailclearing (I was in the group that didn't go down Manoa Middle). Recalled taking one hour from the grassy shelf the first time up and being real surprised because Ski Pole had said it takes 4 hours (maybe he was mistaken or setting ropes). Reset altimeter watch (was reading couple hundred feet low). Thought I heard faint voices so I walked toward the K2 side where the summit narrows again. Realized was the buzz of bees or something whizzing overhead from the windward side. On the way up I had been debating which way to go down (originally planned to be home by 2 pm). K2-Aihualama and get picked up at Paradise Park (2-1/2 hrs). K2-Nuuanu-Nuuanu Pali Drive-Pali Hwy-Pali Lookout-Old Pali-Road-Maunawili Contour-Lower Piliwale Ridge to water tank (5-1/2 to 6 hrs? Much less for Pat). Decided the same way down would be fastest. Also remembered previously having concerns returning the same way but being pleasantly surprised. Called home to leave a message that I got to the top and would return the same way but would need at least 2 hrs back to the car.

Started back at 12:10 pm. Reached the Piliwale junction in 5 minutes. Saw my feel good flower in the moss. Then realized any hiker would naturally continue down Piliwale Ridge because the trail to Pali Lookout was obscure. (I once mistakenly went part way down Piliwale Ridge in a whiteout when intending to check the ridge to the Lookout.) The clouds opened some and I could see buses and cars at the Lookout. Continued quickly down. Didn't tie ribbons coming up so I sometimes had to stop and search where I came up or just went down a different route (Pat and Laredo's?). Got tangled periodically in maile, i'e i'e runners, and a vine with large, light green leaves. Passed the various patches of Kahili Ginger where I stopped to take altimeter readings. They're growing between 300-500 feet below the summit of K1. Emptied my bladder (Camelbak, that is). Glad I brought it -- great on narrow ridges. With a slight left thigh muscle ache (due to dehydration?) and shoulder ache (slipped and held on) I stopped to drink, refill the Camelbak (only half-liter water and some iced tea left), and take two ibuprofen caplets. Also felt a little weak and ate half an energy bar, enjoying sweeping views with Olomana straight ahead. Continuing down, I saw an old, L-shaped backpack frame below the highest cable on the right. Thought of Greg Kingsley's famous orange backpack. Only the aluminum frame lay there. No pack, no straps, no waistbelt. Hadn't noticed it on the way up.

Continued down, unintentionally dislodging a couple rocks. Followed the ridgeline along the cable previously bypassed on the way up. Got down to the dip and back up to the grassy shelf. Relaxed and breathed a big sigh of relief! Continuing to the Maunawili Contour seemed to take a long time. The sunglasses were still there. Passed a jogger heading up the concrete water tank road. Didn't see him heading back down so I assumed he went up to the Maunawili Contour. Changed out of my dirty pants and gaiters and got back to my car at 2:10 pm (3 hrs up, 2 hrs down). A very satisfying day in the mountains.

[Note: Sorry for the poor trail details which I attribute to my impaired memory (just ain't there sometimes) and safety anxieties.]

[Warning Note: Mid-ridge is steep and dangerous with loose rocks and big drop offs. Do not rely on existing cables.