Ascent of Kaala on 2013-01-12

Climber: Rob Woodall

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, January 12, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Elevation:4040 ft / 1231 m

Ascent Trip Report

This is the last peak of a three week trip to Guatemala and Hawaii. It happens to complete the set of five Hawaii county high points although this is incidental and probably the only US state I'll ever complete. The climb is the day after Puu Alii the Kalawao CoHP and two days after our Kamakou ascent.

Our Hawaii group has now separated with our shared goals complete, and I fly home this evening. Early morning I fly from Molokai to Honolulu, take a day's car rental and drive west and NW along the coast as far as Waianae, turning R (NE) at N21.44271 W158.18711 onto Waianae Valley Rd then L at N21.46458 W158.15985 (bus turning circle), driving a single track road to a locked gate at N21.47532 W158.15233, 181m where several vehicles are parked.

As I'm getting organised, a pickup parks next to me and the driver starts talking to me in pidgin. The only words I understand are pit bull and wuff wuff! Apparently they thought I was someone else, but shortly afterwards another pickup arrives carrying assorted humans and muzzled dogs! Interesting place, I think, and quickly finish my preparations and start hiking, at 9.30 am.

The hike climbs a concrete road, passing more dog owners, a water supply then another facility, then turning to dirt. I'm hiking in sunshine; a few dragonflies cruise around; a striking orange butterfly poses briefly on a grass stem; some boisterous birds perch on a wire.

At N21.47532 W158.15233 484m, the road ends at a shelter and a foot trail continues. A muscular looking dog trots over; we take no notice of each other and the owner retrieves him and apologizes. Definitely a place for a certain type of dog owner, but everyone seems friendly enough.

The trail follows a narrow wooded ridge for a short way then at N21.49486 W158.15712 forks L, descends a little to cross a dry creek then curves back R around a shoulder and climbs steeply through woodland: I'm glad of the shade. This ascent is known for its wide variety of protection and the first rope is encountered at N21.50157 W158.15647, in association with an electrical cable complete with plug! The terrain is pretty easy, with tree roots providing a footing.

At N21.50246 W158.15626 I arrive at the fence (presumably for pig exclusion) which runs up the ridge. This is an important landmark for a crucial left turn on the descent: don't follow the fence/ridge down! There are also three tall electricity poles. At this point I pass a group of three young US mainlanders who are resting, enjoying the view.

A narrowish soil ridge continues upwards, levels off, descends slightly, heading directly for a steep, seemingly unclimbable face. However this is where the route goes, with plenty of assorted protective ropes, cables etc. I note two "boulder problems" on the way up although only one on the way down: the lower one must be trivial in descent: the upper one is solid YDS 3 with steps cut into the rock and a knotted cable. I generally avoid using the protection, as the rock is mostly dry and there are holds most of the way up. However, for one steep holdless muddy section near the top, common sense prevails and I use the rope.

The upper part of the route is in cloud and as I enter the Kaala Reserve (signboards, brush for removing soil prior to entry) it's drizzling. The board walk commences at N21.50310 W158.14804, 1192m and passes through nice low forest with the usual tree ferns. At N21.50790 W158.14354 I reach the paved road leading to the air traffic control (FAA) facility. The paved road is closed to the public, even to foot traffic. A sign describes an elaborate system for controlling upward and downward vehicular traffic.

I turn R a few metres to the FAA gate then an informal trail climbs L up a grass bank, following the outside of the fence, through a gate and soon arriving at a triangulation station plaque N21.50808 W158.14294 1230m in a concrete block just outside the FAA fence. I'm here at 11.50, in 2hrs 20 mins. I have plenty of time and am in a scrupulous mood so follow the fence around to the south eastern end of the compound. The concrete footing of the fence is presumably level: if so, the low grassy knoll at N21.50706 W158.14153 may be the highest point. It seems that both should be visited. The GPS reads 1230m at both locations.

I head down, meeting the four youngsters on board walk. On the steep section the rope is used a few times although I enjoy the "boulder problem" wireless ropeless, still nice and dry. Back on the easy ridge I stop for a break, taking in the views of densely forested rugged narrow ridges, the likes of which we got to know very well on the Kamakou ascent reminiscent also of Taiwan and Japan. This may be my last ever view from the mountains of Hawaii: it's a very long way from my UK home and I've got all I came for, although as ever, barely scratching the surface. There's a fair bit of bird activity: further down I watch a small colourful fork tailed warbler, yellow red and grey. I carry on down, finishing in 4.5 hours round trip, a lovely way to round off a memorable trip.

Birding note
Of my Hawaii hikes, I found Kaala on Oahu and Kamakou on Molokai to be best. On Kawaikini I guess the weather was too rough and they had their heads down.

The only species I can identify (in retrospect:, no binoculars or book) are:
Zebra dove
Pacific golden plover
Sky lark
Gray francolin
Common myna
Bulbul sp
House sparrow

A very attractive colourful small bird, fork tailed, yellow red and grey, seen on the forested slopes of Kaala, which I can't identify. I would call it a warbler except there don't seem to be any listed.

A quite striking largeish plainish blue bird seen briefly in one of the forests.

Trip flight count Adam Helman asked me how many flights I took during the three week trip. As he surmised, a personal record, but very much unlooked for.

Dec 22 London - Houston - Guatemala City
Jan 1 Guatemala City - Houston - Los Angeles - Kahului
Jan 2 Kahului - Kona
Jan 3 Kona - Honululu - Lihue
Jan 9 Lihue - Honululu - Molokai
Jan 12 Molokai - Honolulu
Jan 12 Honolulu - Washington - London

So 7 journeys but 13 flights.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3478 ft / 1059 m
    Extra Gain:16 ft / 4 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7.2 mi / 11.6 km
    Route:West ridge
    Trailhead:Waiamae Valley Road  594 ft / 181 m
    Grade/Class:Yds 3
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Drizzle, Pleasant, Calm, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 20 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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