Monday, February 9, 2015

Nounou Mountain, Kauai, HI

Moon over early dawn Nounou Mountain
So, why am I writing about a 3.5 miles, 1,000' ascent run that under normal circumstances wouldn't be worth tying my shoelaces for? Because it's a real gem.
Sunrise over Kapa'a taken from summit

It's the kind of trail when I think it is better to ascend in the dark by torch, as I did this morning. This way the unfolding scenery is hidden from view until higher elevation is reached. This trail is all the better for concealing its charm until the end.
Spectacular summit dawn panorama at end of knife-edge ridge - a bit windy up there!!!

You might think that such a short trail would be a pushover, but this isn't. Ascending steep ground in the dark with so many rocky outcrops and tree roots is challenging enough. There are a couple of class 3 moves on rock steps to encounter, but nothing difficult, and other than this it is running the whole way. And it is pretty tiring. At an average altitude gain of 700' per mile, this isn't an easy run. But it is so much fun.

Early in the run the switchbacks enable rapid elevation gain and this is followed by some sweeping traverses where speed can be picked up. The dense undergrowth meant my torch needed to be illuminated longer than I expected, but this added to the atmosphere of the climb. Just after a mile and 800' of climbing there is a picnic area preceded by a lookout point across the bay to the east. A little further and a view of the summit is offered, in my case illuminated by moonlight. It really is a wonderful little climb.

Looking east through the summit cave
After the picnic area there is a short climb then the trail descends along a shoulder to the final summit ascent. There is a sign at this point saying "Trail closed", but being the law abiding citizen I am I breezed past this pretending that English was my second language and thinking "closed" really meant "close". The final climb is abrupt, steep and rocky and topped out at one end of a narrow rocky arete. With the real summit still a few hundred feet higher I jogged up through the emerging dawn in the teeth of a fierce gale and was met by a rock summit stone, but with limited views because of the surrounding vegetation. Clearly the rocky arete was the place to go so I descended quickly and galloped along the ridge. It was an exposed and precipitous place with sheer cliffs on 3 sides. At the end was a small rock platform and it was an airy place to stand in the wind as a sliver of rising sun split the clouds on the horizon to the east. It was a spectacular sight.

Looking southwest through the summit cave
As I turned to descend I spotted a trail traversing to the north across a steep cliffside. It seemed unusually well-trodden, so I had to take a look. What a good job I did. At the end of the short spur was a through-cave. The whole promontory above was suspended above this cleft - for how much longer? I crawled through the gap to see the last of the sunrise. No need for my torch for the descent as the light arrived so quickly. I retraced my steps and felt the 3.5 mile trip was good value. I'll take on a more significant challenge tomorrow!!

No comments:

Post a Comment