Ascent of Kawaikini on 2013-01-06

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Duane Gilliland
Adam Helman -- Trip Report or GPS Track
PJ Klein
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, January 6, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
    Elevation:5243 ft / 1598 m

Ascent Trip Report

Overall impression: since the installation of the fence in 2011 this is just a fairly straightforward, very boggy hike, with a potentially tricky river crossing: Scotland or Norway with jungle: a poor man's Rwenzori circuit.
General approach: As a backpack this should take 2 or 3 days but it's worth planning for an extra day or two in case the river at Koiae is uncrossable.
Much the easiest alternative for the faster hiker would in my view be to day hike the peak, aiming to be at the end of the maintained trail N22.11432 W159.58413, 1223m by first light and back there by dark. With the fence to follow from Sincock's bog and no bush whacking this seems doable for a reasonably fast hiker with a light pack. Bob Burd did the peak in 17 hours round trip from the trailhead, even before the fence was extended back to Sincock's Bog. The equivalent post-fence time would be perhaps 14 hours or less.
Accommodation/transport: we took a 6-person cabin at Kokee Lodge N22.13012 W159.65794 and hiked the 6-mile dirt road to the Mohihi trailhead N22.11876 W159.60395 1119m. In both directions we hitched a ride part way.
Camping locations: The camping choices seem to be Koiae (several nice flat areas amongst the trees) or Sincock's Bog (the tiny clearing we used N22.08494 W159.54131 near the trail end, or a flat dry area on the Bog itself, more exposed to wind)
River crossing: the stream at Koaie can be a significant obstacle except in dry weather. We took a full length rope and each took a carabiner and tape sling (or sit harness) to clip to the rope once secured. This was more or less essential on the way out, less so on the way back. We crossed at the point where the trail reaches the west bank (N22.11270 W159.56204) - where a line of boulders provides some security. We left a rope hanging from the belay tree (west bank, a few metres upstream from the trail, in the shade so it shouldn't degrade) - hopefully it will prove useful. In settled conditions the crossing's just a walk, e.g. immediately upstream of the "weir".
Water: I found just one litre per day was adequate, given the cool damp conditions; others used more. Sources are stream after trailhead N22.11692 W159.60127, Koiae river N22.11270 W159.56204, stream beyond Sincock's Bog N22.07877 W159.53145, stream on summit ridge N22.06703 W159.49924.
Footwear: I wore trail shoes which is my normal "summer" mountain-going choice. If just doing this peak I'd choose a more aggressive sole pattern for the mud, but they worked well enough. Whatever you wear, your feet will be soaked (except if like Laura you wear rubber boots, but these rubbed).
Clothing: needs to keep you warm when wet. Wool is recommended. My Buffalo Teclite shirt worked well, with trackster leggings. Plus a full set of dry clothing for overnight. I just put the wet stuff back on in the morning. Light Gortex waterproof jacket; rain pants also advisable in case the summit is wet and windy (likely!)
Navigation: we principally used a GPS track based on a map provided by Bob Burd xxxx plus some (fairly approximate) waypoints. My GPS was generally operating to 15ft or better so the above waypoints and posted track should be adequate.

3 Jan
Our team assembles in Lihue on Kaua'i. I've arrived a few days early to summit Haleakala, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa then meet Adam and Laura in Honolulu who have made a very wet ascent of Ka'ala the Oahu island highpoint during the day. We meet Art Janssen and John Klein at our hotel in Lihue late evening.

4 Jan
Duane arrives early morning having collected a rented 6-seater car from the airport. We shop for food and other items then drive to Kokee Lodge, stopping off at several lookouts en route including the highly impressive Waimea Canyon N22.07175 W159.66241. We have a light meal in the Lodge restaurant (it doesn't open evenings), check out tomorrow's approach road (too rough and muddy to drive far, as expected) then check into our 6-bed cabin and get organised for tomorrow's departure. The forecast is wetter than we would like - the last two days have each produced 3 inches of rain at the Wai'ale'ale rain gauge - but there is no better weather window in the offing so we'll go anyway.

5 Jan
We hike from our cabin at about 7:30 a.m. It starts dry but soon starts to drizzle: Washington rain, Scotch mist... We hike a short way along the paved road, past Kokee Lodge then at N22.12907 W159.65689 turn R (S) on a potholed dirt road, keeping left at N22.12575 W159.65129. In a short while we pass a downed tree which has felled an electricity supply cable - wild weather last night apparently! After a mile or two we are caught up by a pair of 4x4 pickups who give us a lift to the Mohihi trailhead - bonus! It's not an easy drive with the vehicle skidding a few times on steep slippery sections but the driver is up to the task. The 4x4 aficionados among us reckon we could have got a rented 4x4 along this road, but we had been concerned about the possibility of deteriorating weather preventing the return drive afterwards.

There are a few turns along the road (straight over at N22.13015 W159.62761); also a significant stream to ford at N22.13132 W159.62234 which the drivers take in their stride; we are at the trailhead just before 9 a.m. and start hiking soon after. There is a shelter here and a trail sign N22.11876 W159.60395; our route heads SE, representing a R turn from our direction of arrival by road.

The trail is initially vehicle width although steep and muddy. We soon reach a T junction. The foot trail goes straight across, passing close to a shelter N22.11727 W159.60174, descending to cross a small stream N22.11692 W159.60127. This is a boulder hop: the boulders are partially underwater but not slippery and it is quite easy.

Beyond the stream is a R turn (arrow, N22.11704 W159.60115). The undulating trail is quite nicely maintained, with grass cut short. It passes though nice forest with fine views enhanced by a bright rainbow as the drizzly showery rain continues. We pass an overlook with a bench N22.10973 W159.59350; the maintained trail ends in a small clearing where two vertical poles mark the location of a former weather station.

An unmaintained trail continues from a R turn N22.11432 W159.58413 a few metres before the trail end. This trail is pretty obvious, with occasional marker tape. It follows a well defined ridge, winding around a few small cliffs, before descending steeply at N22.11376 W159.56324 (1242m) to the main stream crossing N22.11270 W159.56204 (1181m). The descent is said to be doable in the dark but isn't easy even in daylight. The rain has become quite heavy and the crossing has become a concern.

On arrival, the stream is fast flowing and pretty challenging but not that deep. At the exact point where the trail crosses N22.11270 W159.56204 is a line of boulders below a kind of natural weir. We decided to bring a full length rope for this eventuality, and it is now unpacked. I secure it to a tree on the near bank, put a climbing sling round my waist with a carabiner which I clip into a figure eight knot tied into the free end of the rope. Duane then belays me from the bank and I head across, using the boulders as handholds. in the first five metres the water is briefly waist deep but after that it's pretty easy. I'm soon across, secure the rope to a tree on the far bank then clip back on and recross to collect my backpack which I take across. Each time I use the boulders as handholds although the others when they cross all prefer to use the rope as a handline. Soon enough we are all across and sheltering in the filthy shack at Koaie camp on the east bank. It is midday.

From the camp the trail exits R (red tape which is the preferred colour from here onwards). It's a bit obscure as it dives through deep ferns then climbs steeply up onto another ridge (short tricky rope ladder at N22.11115 W159.56113), but is then generally well defined, with a few possible forks but enough red tape to make the route unambiguous.

We gradually approach the GPS waypoint representing the celebrated Arrow but the closest we get is 150 ft before realizing we have swung R (west) and reached a small stream and therefore passed the Arrow. We backtrack and quickly find a fork, L when heading outwards from the trailhead. I notice an arrow carved into a low branch; Art shifts some small logs and reveals what appears to be the original nearly carved larger arrow low down. The location to 15 ft accuracy is N22.09143 W159.55116.

Evidently the arrow gets alternately covered, presumably by the Park service, then uncovered by the occasional hiking party. Art adds some pink marker tape, which I imagine may get removed, although the trail is fairly obvious for 30 yards on a bearing from Sincock's Bog then the tape marking resumes, mostly red/orange/pink but there are some stretches of blue where the route presumably coincides with bird recording transects, and so care is needed. Occasionally, pink tape leads to a dead end while the main route continues on blue, but apart from the odd minor backtrack we have no problems.

We hoped to find tent space near the arrow: there's a possibility at N22.08702 W159.54622 but we push on to Sincock's bog in hope of something better. Finally we find a small clearing N22.08494 W159.54131 on the trail about 50 yards short of the bog, on a bit of a slope but we manage to fit in two solo and two 2-man tents. We're soaked and a little cold and tired, and relieved to have shelter at last. I continue the short distance to the Bog, find the faded old trail-marker road cone and the new fence. The bog itself is windswept, wet and inhospitable: no place to camp, not today anyway.

It's about 5 pm when we stop, with just an hour of daylight in which to organise, get into dry clothing, and feed (cold food: our decision to not take stoves was clearly appropriate given the conditions). I keep my damp Buffalo Teclite shirt on inside the sleeping bag and it's soon dry. Ideal kit for wet hiking. Once out of the wind, it's quite warm: a 2-season sleeping bag is about right.

I doze awhile then write up my log as the intermittent but heavy rain continues. We are within 5 miles of the summit and well set up for our summit bid although getting here with full packs has been arduous due to the many obstacles which have to be gone under, over or round along the stretch beyond the Arrow. Hopefully the rain will ease tomorrow and we could be out that evening, otherwise it could be a 3+ day affair.

6 Jan
It has rained intermittently all night and the daytime is no different. Art hasn't slept and decides to go down without summitting; Laura decides to join him. A shame as both would seem well able to summit - they'll be back I hope.

Adam, John, Duane and I set off at 7:15 am by which time it's fully light. We follow the remaining few metres of trail through jungle to Sincock's bog, then turn R and simply keep the outer fence on our L. It twists and turns but stays close to our GPS track representing Bob Burd's route. Initially, for the extent of the bog, the bottom of the fence has been turned out horizontally to stop pigs getting underneath, so it's possible to walk on it for a slightly firmer footing. We pass two pig traps. A couple of streams are crossed (N22.07877 W159.53145, water source). The route is very boggy but quite easy walking: obviously far easier than pre-fence, as a swathe a metre or so wide has been cut through the jungle during fence construction.

We start to climb and the route becomes a fairly narrow ridge following the rim of Kapoki crater. At times we are aware of a sheer drop to one or both sides: at one point we are walking a cornice of vegetation beside the fence - it seems firm enough. There are several short upward rocky steps of a few metres each, where the fence is used for aid.

The scrubby vegetation becomes stunted then gives way to grass and other small plants: I'm pleased to recognise the insectivorous Sundew plants, looking much as they do in Scotland. As we approach the fence end at Blue Hole we are exposed to the full force of the wind: it's briefly difficult to walk or stand. The rain continues to alternate between light drizzle and heavy, at times stair-rodding down. Even so it's not particularly cold, despite what we feared before starting this morning. I am surprised to see such a good boot trail following the fence. Can there be so many people visiting the Blue Hole on foot? How many of them take the (less established) trail to Kawaikini?

At the fence end (stile, N22.06849 W159.49851) we turn R, with about 0.7 mi of boggy undulating ridge to negotiate and several scrubby hillocks to avoid. There's a trail in places, with the occasional red tape marker. At last we climb a short ridge, follow a short traverse path R then climb L to the summit N22.05865 W159.49735, 1608m, which is crowned with grass tussocks and low bushes.

There's supposedly a USGS benchmark a short way along the ridge but we're wet and cold and in no mood to search for it. We head back to Blue Hole. It's good to have the wind at our backs. However, Adam and John, both spectacle wearers, have difficulty seeing their way in the rain. Duane seems to manage fine - but then he is from WA and knows about hiking in rain!

John and I make the quarter-mile pilgrimage to the Waialeale rain gauge: we cross a stile at the fence end then continue north along the fence following a boggy path, with the sheer thousand-foot drop-off of the blue hole sadly screened by mist. After a few undulations we draw level with the gauge, cross the fence and walk about 50 yards to find it on its boggy hillock. There's a modern rain gauge (N22.07092 W159.49800, 1579m) wired up to a data transmitter, also two older disused gauges. There is no visible read-out: to find out just how wet our chosen window has been, we'll have to get down and check the USGS website (linked below). Nearby there's another piece of kit with two solar panels, purpose unknown; we wonder about the effectiveness of solar panels here! Short-cutting back to the fence we pass a rudimentary water flow gauge, presumably a means of measuring ground wetness in days gone by.

We return to the stile, turn R and retrace our outward route. We soon pass a pile of stones topped with a small standing stone N22.06942 W159.50028, presumably of ancient origin. In time we catch up Duane and Adam and continue down to camp. The short steep descents are treacherous; the ground seems noticeably wetter than this morning, with more standing water and more streams. We find the faded orange road cone (N22.08501 W159.54097) marking the end of the trail and are back at the tents at 2.15 pm: 3.5 hours up, 3.5 hours down including the rain gauge detour. This is quite slow compared with a Canadian post-fence report: 11 hours round trip from Koaie. It's harder getting up to Sincock with full packs, but it does make for a nice short summit day.

There's not really time to strike camp and get down to Koaie before nightfall and anyway the river seems likely uncrossable given the continuing rain. We wonder whether Art and Laura have been able to cross the river today. We fear they may be forced to camp again, on the uphill side of the river, unless there's been much less rain farther down.

We soon have our wet gear off and are drying and warming in the tents. Again I dry my Buffalo shirt inside the sleeping bag, then my microfleece. I spend a lazy afternoon feeding, and writing my log. Another long night in prospect. Hopefully the rain will relent and the river will let us back across tomorrow.

7 Jan
A much quieter night, with the heavy rain finishing before midnight. We de-camp and are away by 7.45 am. The trail down to the Arrow is even boggier after yesterday's rain. Beyond the arrow, the walk out is relatively rain-free and the jungle is beautiful in its way, with many shades of green and the sound of bird song. There are occasional vertical drop-offs with views across the canopy, although it's too misty for distant views.

The steep descent to the river crossing is slippery and requires considerable care. The river is making a lot of noise but is actually lower than when we crossed two days ago. We're down at Koiae camp at 10.15 am and after a rest we cross the river. I retrieve and coil the rope and as it's quite old, and heavy with water, we decide to donate it to the route. From the point where the trail descends to the west bank N22.11270 W159.56204, it's a few metres to the left, hanging from the obvious belay tree.

We make the steep 60m ascent to the ridge then follow the rather interesting trail following the often narrow crest, to the former weather station, whence after rest we walk the maintained trail back to the road end, arriving at 2 pm. After lunch (Adam produces a can of oysters!) we commence the road walk. It's quite an awkward slippery surface and with many ups and downs. We wade the river crossing, then John and I get ahead. At the top of a long uphill, we hear a vehicle coming. It stops, and we see Adam and Duane in the back. It's very nice to have a lift: we're soon back at our cabin.

We learn that Art and Laura got back OK last night; no route finding problems; the river crossing was a little more difficult than the previous day, but doable.

8 Jan
Several of us don't sleep so well, perhaps too used to sleeping in a wet sloping tent!? Art and John are out by 8 on a sight seeing agenda en route to Lihue. The remaining four of us make a more leisurely exit, drive into Lihue, find a Laundromat, lunch, Wailua Falls, Spouting Horn; mid pm we check back into our hotel.

The Wai'ale'ale rain gauge web page reports daily totals of 2.3, 3.3, 3.4 inches for the three days we were on the mountain - wetter than average, but only averagely wet - 6 or even 10 inch days are not uncommon. Interesting to note that yesterday recorded 3.4 inches at the gauge although our walk-out that day was almost dry and the river was lower than on day 1. The rainfall is clearly very variable spatially.

In contrast, the weather forecast for Molokai, venue for our next Ultra, Kamakou is sunshine - good news if it holds good for the summit, since it's a serious bush whack.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2537 ft / 774 m
    Elevation Loss:2586 ft / 788 m
    Distance:32.3 mi / 52 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 3
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country
    Gear Used:
Rope, Tent Camp
    Weather:Raining, Cold, Very Windy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:1979 ft / 604 m
    Extra Loss:394 ft / 120 m
    Distance:14.9 mi / 24 km
    Route:Mohihi trail, Sincock's bog
    Trailhead:Road from Kokee Lodge  3658 ft / 1114 m
    Time Up:1 Days 4 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:2192 ft / 668 m
    Extra Gain:558 ft / 170 m
    Distance:17.4 mi / 28 km
    Route:Mohihi trail, Sincock's bog
    Trailhead:Road from Kokee Lodge  3609 ft / 1100 m
    Time Down:1 Days 4 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.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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