Waialeale & Kawaikini
I wanted to let you know about my recent Wai'ale'ale Summit trip, and share my pics:
Having lived on the island for about 7yrs, and reaching the grand old age of 45, I had looked up at Wai'ale'ale many times, and always told myself I would go up there one day,
well that day came in the last week of July 2010.
I decided to do the hike on my own for a number of reasons, but mainly because I did not have anyone that I felt was strong enough to keep up with me, and I didn’t want to be pushing or pulling someone against their will to move faster etc.
The previous weekend I had done the small hike to Koaie Camp (stream crossing) just to stretch my legs, as I had never hiked that route before. The day had been glorious and so I was very excited about the upcoming summit attempt. My family and I camped at the Sugi Grove campsite on the following Friday night, and I set off from the trailhead at approx 6.30am Saturday morning. The weather started fine but quickly became overcast with a bit of drizzle.
I should add at this point that I had a small day pack, 6 Cliff Bars, 4 liters of water, a poncho, a space blanket, a flashlight, and my iPhone! Yes I did say iPhone as I intended to attempt to utilize this as my only navigation instrument. Ok! It may seem crazy, I did have a backup compass which I never used, and only planned on using it for emergencies. I had downloaded a topo map app onto the iPhone, and using Bob Burd’s excellent map I had placed approximate waypoints which I hoped to hit on the journey.
The hike to Koaie Camp (stream crossing) was uneventful if a little wet ( lol ), It took me 1.5hrs which was right on schedule for my overall plan, after that the climb out of the valley and the trip to the lost arrow seemed to pass very quickly, my navigation went smoothly with no issues, and I arrived at Sincocks Bog at approx 10.30am, and was delighted to see the orange cone and to be out of the trees for a bit, and though the sky was still very overcast the rain had stopped for a bit.
I passed through Sincocks Bog which was a beautiful place, so different from the forests I had encountered so far and made my way to Bogette it was here that while looking for the pink flags that should guide me forward I decided to ignore the so far perfect record of my iPhone, I reached the fence at the far end of Bogette and found what I thought to be the pink flags mentioned at the start of Purgatory Gap, my iPhone said that in fact they were further North, my eyes won over my mind and I ignored my iPhone.
45mins later I was clearly on the wrong path and when I did consult my iPhone I calculated I was 0.5 of a mile from where my waypoints were. I decided to follow my phone and cut a path directly through the forest towards where I thought I should be, it added another hour of hideous trail breaking (true purgatory) but exactly where my iPhone said I should be I found a different pink flag and was back on track. I slogged on until I reached Kapoki Crater and followed the rim route suggested by Bob rather than enter the crater.
After navigating around the crater I exited the forest and found myself at the end of the new fence that is being erected along the district boundary, I new that this would eventually lead to the Blue Hole and so followed it. The thought that this makes a lovely trail should be thrown out immediately, the rain and pig on both side of this incomplete fence added to the topography of the ground it covers means that both sides are an awful quagmire with some areas sucking you in up to your knees, whilst in others you are climbing 15-20ft straight up or down (sometime on the fence itself, which can act as a ladder).
Approx ½ mile from the end you pass the workers camp for the fence, there was no one there due to the appalling conditions, the weather had gotten progressively worse and at this point I clipped by pack to the fence, took my camera and a bottle of water and made my slow way to the end.
I arrived at the Blue hole at approx 2.30pm an 8hr speed hike including the incident that took me off course (I have now learnt that my iPhone is very accurate) the weather was terrible and then for about 3mins the wind died down the rain lessened, and I was able to place a call to family to let them know I had made it. It was also at this point that a small window opened giving me a small glimpse of the rivers below before it closed in again, and I managed only one pic before the phone had to go away.
I turned right and fought my way to the summit at Kawakini, but the wind was getting very bad and posing for pics was out of the question (curse those people with their sunny ascents, lol) and quickly made my way back and then over to find the rain gage. I was able to tie the camera down and finally got a pic of me on the summit.
The weather now turned for the worse even more, I made my way back to the fence line at headed back to retrieve my pack, and then continued to retrace my route following both my own memory and the iPhone waypoints I had entered, going back was much quicker and before I knew it I was at Koaie Camp, I decided to bed down for the night as the light was going fast and no one was expecting me until tomorrow anyway.
The lack of water on the trip made my legs cramp a bit during the night, but next morning I felt fine and hiked the last four miles to the trailhead and then another two to Sugi Grove Campsite. The hike was over and the experience was unbelievable, and the fact that the summit weather was a total nightmare only seemed to add to the experience.
I am now planning my next trip to the top, a couple of nights this time as my son (9yrs old) will be with me.
What I’ve learnt from this trip and the experience of doing the route is that;
If I had started when Bob did at about 4.15am I could have done it in one day (but that is for the next trip)
Trust the iPhone and its navigation ( I know it sounded crazy to people to use it, but it was invaluable)
The weather will do what it wants, put up with it and keep walking
Its either in you to do it or its not