TOTAL TIME: 5 hrs
DIFFICULTY: Hard - Mental
PARTICIPANTS: “Reef Shoes” Jason, “The Optimist” Jeremy, Me
REHIKE VALUE: 6
HTMC vet Wing Ng put up a list on the internet called “Very Difficult Trails on Oahu” which catalogs a group of hikes rarely found in published circles, in ascending order of difficulty. You can read up on it here on http://www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/hikes/vd.htm
Bear Claw Ridge, also known as Pu’u O Kona Windward, ranks number two; one above Piliwale Ridge, and just one below the elusive True Manamana. It actually consists of three ridges rising up from Waimanolo and meeting at around 1900 ft elevation, creating an image of a “claw.” I’m not sure if it looked like a bear’s claw. We agreed it was more like a T-rex’s. Whatever. I didn’t name it.
|Left to right: Jason, Me, Jeremy. Bear Claw in the background|
|Bear or T-rex?|
Usually, ridge hikes on Oahu present a standard progression of events, as if by the numbers. First is a steep, exhausting climb to gain some ridge. Second is a choice of one or more of these options: good views, narrow ridges, or steep rock climbs. Third is overgrowth (pick your plant, but it’s usually those damn ulehe fern). Fourth is a great view from the summit, or a bunch of rain clouds. After all that, everything culminates in an anticlimactic descent wherever you decide to go. Pau.
|On a rock overlooking Waimanolo|
|Ladybug keeping us company|
Where I turned around during my scouting mission (about 1300 ft) was about where serious climbing began. It wasn’t anything I haven’t done before, so I assumed that a steep climb through overgrowth was as bad as it got. WRONG! Granted, there was no trail, and I knew that brush breaking was a must. There was no fern, which I found interesting. Instead, there were plenty of little trees. Lots of little trees. A LOT of little trees with very, very strong branches. None of them would give way, making this portion (1300 – 1800 ft) a slow, methodical climb, weaving over and under tree limbs while swatting away the buzzing bees around my head. I knew that bees have collective intelligence, so when one knows where you are, THEY ALL KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. Needless to say, I had to move quickly to make it hard for them to pinpoint my location.
|Jason, through the trees|
|Trees changed colors, but there are still so many of them!|
|Navigating tree infested rock dikes|
|Narrow to the extreme|
NOTE: There is NO trail beyond the power lines (500 ft elevation). Stay true to the ridge, keep your center of gravity low, and test each step before taking them. The plants on the 50 ft final push WILL NOT HOLD. Inch your way up slowly and keep a cool head.
|Satelite image of the ridges that make up Bear Claw Ridge|
|Hanging on to fight the vertigo|
|This is the EASY part|
|Final push to the summit of O Kona|
|Reflecting on a new lease on life|