Friday, May 14, 2010

Silver Piliwale's 2nd trans-Koolau trek

This is the transcript of an article titled "Hiking the Koolau Summit" by Harry Whitten from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 08/27/79.

Silver Piliwale (pictured at left, photo courtesy of Nathan Yuen) has done it again.

And this time he was 78 years old.

Six years ago he celebrated his 72nd birthday anniversary by hiking alone, from Pupukea, along the summit of the Koolau Mountain Range, and down into Moanalua Valley. The trip took five days.

This month, this time with a companion, Jo Anne Browne, he tried to repeat the feat.

But he and Jo Anne were slowed by rough going and late afternoon fogs, took a day longer than they had planned, and left the summit at the Aiea Ridge Trail instead of going on to where they could descend into Moanalua Valley.

This could hardly be cutting the hike short, but continuing on to Moanalua would have added another day to the trip. As it was, some of their relatives and friends who knew about the hike started to worry and began a search.

A helicopter flew over the mountains for a while looking for them and was seen by them, but the helicopter crewman did not see them. So they came out under their own power, which they planned to do anyway.

Another reason for coming out of the mountains at Aiea was that they were getting mighty thirsty. They had hoped to replenish their water supply by catching rain, but rains, which ordinarily bless the Koolau summit, failed this time.

They were without water their last day. The previous evening they had eaten dehydrated gravy to slake some of their thirst. Except for steak the first night, they subsisted on dehydrated food, plus some berries.

The adventure began when Silver began talking about his hike of six years ago and said he'd like to do it again. Jo Anne listened to him and said, "Okay, lets do it."

She had been hiking for 10 years and two years ago was on a trip to Brazil with members of her family. They hired an Indian guide for a trip into the Amazon jungle.

But she says now she didn't know what she was getting into when she agreed to accompany Silver along the Koolau summit.

Hiking the Summit Trail, 20 miles from the beginning at Pupukea to the junction with the Kipapa Trail, wasn't too bad. It was very muddy, but some hikers ahead of them had done some trail clearing.

The pair stayed the first night at the Kahuku shelter, the second night at the Poamoho shelter, and replenished their water supply at both places.

But the route is rough and dangerous after the Kipapa junction; there is no trail. There are knife-edged ridges. In heavy wind, its necessary to balance oneself against it.

There are ins and outs, as well as continual ups and downs which add considerably to the mileage that might be shown on a map.

"But mileage is not the factor; terrain is," says Lorin Gill, a veteran hiker who in years past has also traversed the length of the Koolau Range.

From the Kipapa to Aiea junctions, its necessary at times to hang out over the pali edge. Wind and rain add to the hazards.

Towards evening fog often rolls in. On their trip Silver and Jo Anne on occasion stopped their day's hike early because the fog made further advance uncertain.

They picked grassy spots, found occasionally on the route, to camp. One night feathers got lose from Silver's ancient sleeping bag and were blown into their morning cups of tea.

Jo Anne carried a nose flute which she played after the evening meal. She liked its haunting sound, she said, although Silver indicated he wasn't enthusiastic about it.

They saw a few wild pigs.

Jo Anne was pleased to report she knew enough about plants to choose the right ones for handholds. Nor did she suffer any blisters from the Japanese tabi reef slippers she wore.

Piliwale and Browne were both exhausted when they descended the Aiea Ridge Trail to the Keaiwa Heiau State Park, where they met some Hawaiian women.

The women asked where they had come from and were much amused when told the pair had hiked from Pupukea.

But if you ask Piliwale if he'd be willing to hike the Koolau summit again, he'd say yes.

Both Silver and Jo Anne, however, say the hike should not be taken by anyone who is not in strong condition and experienced in the hazards of Hawaii's mountains.

Gill points out that the worst mistake some hikers, usually brash but inexperienced, have made is to try a descent to the Windward Side.

Some have had to be rescued by firemen with the helicopter; some have never been found.

Piliwale sometimes goes over to the Big Island or Maui to walk great distances on roads or highways. One of his daughters, Varoa Tiki, the entertainer, now lives at Honokahua, West Maui. When Silver goes to see her, he walks to her place from the airport.

Piliwale is also a good man with a machete. This summer he has put in a week's volunteer work on the Nahuina and Moleka trials, Tantalus, which the Sierra Club's Hawaii Chapter is building.

Last summer he put in many days of work on the 'Aihualama trail the club built.

The rugged mountain man, "100 percent Hawaiian", has in his life been a musician, seaman and heavy crane operator, among other jobs.