The Pali Notches trail is located at the Pali Lookout in Nu'uanu Valley. It is located in the same area of the Pali Puka trail. From the parking lot, walk towards the lookout. Just before reaching the lookout, there are a few obvious trails on the right that lead upslope into the forest. Follow any one of these trails. Bear left towards the edge of the ridge and follow the steep trail upward.
After a good amount of sweating, you'll reach the first notch. Descending can be a bit tricky, but it is definitely doable. Directly across is the second notch. Climb up to the second notch following the trail relative to the right side. The trail becomes exceedingly narrow atop the notch. Reach a point where the second notch drops vertically. This is where we turned around.
Descending the second notch is a mind-fuck. Without ropes, it would take a lot of guts and mental will to proceed further without making a single error. One wrong move and the Pali Notches trail could be your last. However, it is doable. Upon our inspection and failed attempt, the right side of the second notch would be the best option for trekking beyond. Although steep, there are foot and hand holds, but not much. Placement of your hands and feet are critical. While attempting the drop, my hands and feet were inches away from slipping, with my body contorted at maximum flexibility to reach my limbs to another foot or hand hold. Words cannot express how crucial your mental state must be along this section. You have to see it to believe it. Twenty minutes of trying, and we turned around.
Three people before our attempt succeeded in descending the second notch without any ropes. Check out Martyna and Allegra's Hiking Blog. Two fearless women. With that said, it is definitely possible, but the confidence and security of an anchored rope will prove the difference between life and death. And for now, I choose life. We'll be back with ropes next time.
Here's Kevin climbing back up the 1st notch.