Usually I have to drive a decent amount of mileage to get to a certain trailhead; the Kalena trail was just a ten minute drive from where I live. The trailhead is located just before the guard shack at Kolekole Pass. There's a dirt parking lot that many people park at to visit a rock that, according to Hawaiian legend, was used for decapitation. That hike is short. For the more adventurous the Kanehoa-Hapapa hike starts on the south side, and the Kalena hike starts on the north side. Baron and I opted for Kalena.
The trail starts off on a short dirt road. At the road's end we reached a long, steep, and rocky eroded section. It was here that we knew the seriousness of the climbs. The mountain looked unclimbable, but we pushed on, huffing and puffing, and this was only the first thirty minutes.
The views are unreal from the start. The leeward side comes into view almost immediately, and the Wahiawa plain spreads out to the east. After the first steep section we finally gained the ridgeline. From here we could see the serious danger the trail had in store. The drops on the east side of the narrow ridge were massive. One slipped would definitely prove fatal. There was one section that was less that two feet wide with death drops on both sides. I'm not one to be scared of heights, but this hike gave me vertigo.
Once we passed the narrow dike sections we could see the remaining length of trail we had to trek to Kalena's apex. The trail descended to a first saddle, climbed to a big hill, descended to a low, second saddle, climbed another big hill, and desceded to another saddle just before the last big climb to the summit. There weren't any visible narrow sections ahead, but we could see that the last push to the peak was extremely steep and heavily vegetated. Baron and I took a breather at the last saddle and began our trek upward.
The Kalena trail is different from other hikes. Almost always there will be cables or ropes to aid you in steep sections; however, Kalena, with its ridiculous climbs, didn't have any. I counted two sections with ropes, and that was it.
The last climb along the ridge trail narrows significantly. There were major death drops on the west side of the ridge, and falling in these areas would definitely hinder a rescue operation because the vegetation is heavy, and the spots you fall in are tight pockets within the mountain.
After three-and-half-hours of hiking we finally reached the top of Kalena around 1:00pm. We had been drafting two other hikers along the route and sat down with them for lunch. The top of Kalena's vegetation blocks the view a little, but its flat, grassy area is perfect for a long rest after the grueling trek. Advancing toward Mount Ka'ala is possible from the top of Kalena, but that trail looks extremely overgrown and steep. After lunch, a cigar, and a pinch of Cope, Baron and I headed back down the mountain with the other two hikers leading.
The hike back was difficult and slow. The steepness and absence of rope had us grabbing every branch or root we could find. We finally reached our car at 4:30pm, reeking of sweat and aching in our legs and feet. If you've done Olomana, think of that hike times twenty. Olomana's first peak is higher than the second and third peaks; the Kalena trail is reversed, and on a grander scale. You climb three peaks, with the first being the smallest, the second being slightly higher, and the third (Pu'u Kalena) being the biggest. I'm so happy to have finished this hike, though. I had waited so long to do it, and I finally get to cross it off of my hike checklist.
Baron, giving you an idea of how narrow the trail was. So narrow that he's straddling the ridge. Notice the 1,000 foot drop on the right side.
Controlled military fire looming in the distance. Baron, making sure he's watching the trail and not the view.