8/30/08

Pu'u Kalena - August 29, 2008

The pointed peak of Kalena has always intrigued me. According to Hawaiian legend the peak of Kalena is the nipple of a woman giving birth to the ocean, her pregnant stomach being that of Mount Ka'ala. To me it was just another hike I wanted to conquer, and after doing some research about the trail to Kalena's top I found out that the two-and-a-half miles up would be a hell of a task, and no permission was needed. Kalena is the 2nd highest mountain on Oahu, erecting 3,504 feet from the massive Waianae Range. Access to the trail is on Schofield Barracks, so I was lucky enough to have my friend Baron -- a federal firefighter -- gather up the will power to tackle with me what some people regard as one of the most dangerous hikes on the island.

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.



Eroded section. Shortly after this the climb steepened.




Yeah, steep.




On our way to the first peak.




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.





Big drops on both sides just past peak one.




On the way to peak two.




The Waianae Coast to the left.




Steep climb to the second peak.




Looking toward the last steep push to the summit.




I found an endangered Hawaiian tree snail cruising on my backpack




At the top of Pu'u Kalena, talking story with the two hikers that were in front of us.




Baron, standing on a narrow dike section on the way back.




Balance.




Feet shot. Yes, you walk on this. Falling off either side means instant death.




Checking out a massive drop on the east side of the ridge.




Controlled military fire looming in the distance. Baron, making sure he's watching the trail and not the view.




What a surreal hiking experience. Check out this view!




Baron, edging his way past the narrow dike.











Views:

Ever see the backside of Mount Ka'ala?




5 comments:

darron said...

Awesome pictures!!

I have wanted to do this hike and crouching lion too, but haven't had the chance yet.

The picture looking down at your feet gave me goose bumps. Scary stuff.

Can't wait to do this hike.

Darron

Quan said...

We plan to hike Kalena, but my friedns forgot to bring the car insurance,so we can't enter the trail. Then we go to manamana, turn left and go down by Kahekili.

Anonymous said...

We have tried four times. Yesterday we arrived at the gate, but hapapa trail is closed because of shooting. We didn't find the Kalena's trailhead, if it is near the gate? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

We did this hike the past weekend. However, we didn't stop at Pu'u Kalena - we continued the trek thinking we could get to Mt. Ka'ala and walk down the northside to Waialua. Past Kalena, the trail gets extremely steep, even more narrow, and overgrown with thorns and brush. There are at least two additonal places where a rope is tied and needed to traverse the trail. The trail is so overgrown it is very hard to follow and we spent basically the final 3 hours bearcrawling on the trail.

We started our hike at 8:00 am, and at 3:30 am we hit the end of the trail - that is we could not get to Mt. Ka'ala without advanced climbing tools.

The views were spectacular and the hike was amazing - until Pu'u Kalena. My advice is turn around there and take Ka'ala from the northside.

kaleo said...

mean! i've been to the top of kalena 3 times, and i've always wanted to hike the connector in between kalena and ka'ala. i'm always on time constraint though. it's rare for me to do a full day hike. i really want to try it one day. i think it's possible to hike to ka'ala without advanced climbing gear. i read that fred dodge of the htmc and a few of his friends completed it. but i haven't seen what you seen, so i wouldn't know. if you ever are thinking about doing it some other time, i'm down. let me know, and i'll see if i can take the day off to tackle that connector...