This is Part 4 of Chase Norton’s Koolau Summit 8 Day Thru Hike Personal Recap, posted with his permission. Please be sure to read the warning at the bottom of this post before attempting such a hike. This 8 day journey is the result of years of preparation. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 can be found here.
Day 6 (03/30/12)
N. Haiku-Wilson Tunnel Building
Total Pack Weight: 24.6125 lb.
This begins the saddles. There were a couple of eroded sections in the beginning. Three I think. Then the eroded dike. The ridge isn’t too narrow here but you always slip at the second section. Take your time and tie off if needed. Reach the eroded dike(contour leeward) Gain ridge and reach trail junction. Descend 30 minutes to collect water. Refill all containers. Regain trail and immediately it turns back to serious mode. Three problems face you. Remember contour left when you don’t think to and contour right to use the root to climb. Remember to not go too far right and never to climb without veg unless on root. Use two ropes (1 in each hand) to get past the third problem. Soon you will see the pre-Stairs stairs. Climb up to the radar structure. Time depending, go inside for a snack and short break. You have about 1 1/2 hr along the summit ridge until the camp spot. Continue along the summit towards bowman. Reach Bowman terminus and snack. You will not have many more chances until the power lines. Reach eroded dike and drop leeward to contour. Reach 2nd Triangle and descend using rope slightly leeward. Similar with the next triangle. Lower yourself past the witch’s hat and then windward contour when needed. Reach power lines. Descend power line trail to camp spot at power line pole.
- S. Haiku-Halawa 45min
- Halawa-Godek 30min
- Godek – 1st Saddle 15min
- 1st Saddle – Southern Haiku stair terminus 3hr 30-4hr
- S.Haiku – Bowman Terminus 2hr-2hr 30min
- Bowman Terminus – Power Line trail 2hr 30 min
Camp near pole
Bail Halawa, Godek, State trail, Haiku Stairs, Tripler, Middle, Bowman… tempting?;-)
On this day last attempt I had fallen off the saddle and cracked my head causing an abrupt end to my plans. This was in my head all day and hard to shake.
Is it morning yet!!?!? After the worst night of sleep on this trip, at the first sign of dawn I jumped out of my cocoon and checked to make sure everything was still in good enough condition before packing it all up. This was the first morning I’ve woken in socked in conditions and slight rain so I was a little happy with myself being in the shack. I decided to wait and see if the clouds would clear so pulled out my cooking system and made some hot coffee and toasted my flatten bagel with Nutella.
After about 45 minutes the clouds lifted and the saddle began to show itself in full profile. Taking this as a sign, I grabbed my belongings and began walking along the extremely rusty stairs. Every time I am here I cannot get over the obvious impact exposure to the elements has on metal. If the stairs have a bush blocking it, then they have an almost brand new look but a few inches past the bush the metal resembles a creepy rusty dagger ready to impale you.
Passed Halawa and Red hill fairly quickly and was moving with the same sort of speed that had carried me through the previous days. There looks to be good camping at Halawa right before the summit for one small shelter setup. Might consider that if ever near this section and don’t want to sleep in the shack nor descend the saddle.
Began the descent down to the state trail at the middle of the saddle around 9:15 am. Personally, I enjoy this descent compared to other saddle descents. There are two or three eroded areas but the words of my mother the night before to “take it slow and I would get through it safely” rang through my head often during the following days. It is only at one section where I have to lower myself down an eroded spot and a tree is there for hand holds but no matter what I do I always end up having to let go of the tree and fall a foot or so which causes me to slide down the crap rock and catch myself in the vegetation. Always. Every trip. I considered using my guy line cord to lower myself but knew I would need it for other parts on the Kalihi saddle. So sliding I went and everything went smoothly. Reached the eroded dike and dropped down then contour leeward to get past it. After the dike it is basically smooth sailing to the flat area that marks the trail terminus. Reached it at 10 am and dropped my gear and put my front pack around my waist to descend down to the stream to collect water. Man, going from summit conditions to state trail is a little overwhelming at first and I proceeded to run down the trail. Reached the stream within 10 minutes and smacked my forehead as I saw all the beautiful camping spots that lay around the stream. Next time, next time! I was tempted to take a quick bath but just threw some water on my face, filled up all my water containers and proceeded to run back up the trail ready to get past the obstacle that put me out last trip.
I reached the trail terminus at 10:30 am and got ready to tackle the three challenges of the Moanalua saddle to Haiku. Weather was perfect for this attempt and just told myself take it slow and I knew how to do this. First challenge is just rock climbing with a windward contour and was handled with ease. The second challenge, my previous downfall, is to leeward contour but only slightly. Too far and one will begin to ascend with very little vegetation and will likely slip at some point. With this in mind I slight contoured and began to climb the obvious vegetation. This area really could do with a rope if people are actually doing this section as often as seems to be indicated. Had to climb using trees and vegetation until the root needed to gain the ridge appeared and then shifted right until I could reach it. No problems this time and was sitting upon the ridge with smiles on my face.
Honestly, throughout this entire trip, that was the most fear I will encounter because of the mental block caused by my old mistake. There is a little voice inside my head that knows when something does not feel right and in November I ignored that voice with the thought that “If I can just reach that spot right ther…..e”. This trip I strongly feel was successful because probably 6-7 times that voice began yelling at me and this time I listened, stopped and reattempted the problem from a different angle. It sounds like common sense but sometimes when all you need to do is get to a spot 2 feet away, it can be easy to quiet that voice and think it is just 2 feet away!!! One of many hard lessons I’ve had to come to learn on the trail.