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.


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.


Ever see the backside of Mount Ka'ala?


Mau'umae Ridge - August 20, 2008

My hike plan was to do the Bowman Trail on Sunday, but no one had the courage to blast a 12-mile trail with me. Sunday passed with no hiking, and Wednesday came along with nothing to do in the morning before work, so I decided to do Mau'umae Ridge with Chase, Shanoah, and Lauren.

Mau'umae Ridge is a tough ridge hike at the top of Maunalani Heights. The trail starts off with a gradual descent down a rocky, unshaded ridgeline that has to be climbed on the way back. With our 8:30am start the open ridge was cool and manageable; the hike back was a different story. This onset of the unshaded ridge is probably what makes Mau'umae one of the most hellish trails on the island; the trek back on the unshaded section of the ridge was a scorcher, and it was so bad that I almost fainted.

The middle section of the hike is pretty overgrown and is need of some trail maintenance; our legs were getting thrashed by uluhe ferns and other pokey plants, but despite all of this the trail served up an endless amount greenery and lushness.

After three-and-a-half miles of hiking we passed finally reached the peak of Kainawa'aunui (elev. 2,520 ft.). From the lookout we had a mean view of Mount Olomana dead ahead, and a wide panorama of the windward side. The lookout was cool and windy and was a perfect place to sit and eat our lunch. It took us two hours and fifteen minutes to get to the summit, and it took us 2 hours to get back down. Usually with hikes like this the descent time is faster, but Mau'umae Ridge is a brutal rollercoaster trail that gives you the same workout going up and down the summit.

Chase taking a look at Ka'au Crater.

Last push to the summit.

The view, with Mount Olomana straight ahead. I intended to get a panorama shot, but I forgot. Next time.


Wa'ahila Ridge - August 13, 2008

The Wa'ahila Ridge trail is a three mile hike to Pu'u Awaawaloa. Awaawaloa is also known as Mount Olympus. Kulani, Kia'i, Chase, and I got to a 7:30am start at the trailhead at the top of Saint Louis Heights Drive. The weather was sunny with a light breeze, and the summit was clear of clouds. You couldn't ask for a more perfect day to trek to the Ko'olau Summit.

The Wa'ahila Ridge trail is wide, well trodden, and easy to follow. There are a few steep descents in the beginning that have to be climbed on the way back, and there is also some rock climbing involved, but nothing too major. We worked up a hell of a sweat, but the sweat was worth it once we reached the summit.

At the top of the summit there are views of Waimanalo and a hidden, extinct volcano named Ka'au Crater. There is also a great view of the highest peak in the Ko'olau Range: Konahuanui. The hike to Konahuanui can be reached by turning left near the suumit of Mount Olympus. The ridge walk to Konahuanui's twin summits looks pretty darn narrow. If I didn't have to work this day, we would've trekked it to Konahuanui, but that hike will have to wait.

After cooling off and having a quick lunch at the top, we headed back down the ridge. The hike took us about four hours to complete; I thought it would've took longer, but we made good time for me to get to work.

Looking back at Wa'ahila Ridge with Manoa Valley to the right and Kulani en route to the peak of Awaawaloa.

Kia'i and Chase pushing up the last big hill to the summit.

Here's Chase on the narrow summit ridge with Pu'u Awaawaloa behind him. You can also see triple-peaked Olomana in the background.

Looking back on the summit ridge, and Kulani trekking. Behind Kulani in the top right corner of the picture is where the summit ridge narrows and climbs up to Konahuanui.

There's Konahuanui, the highest peak in the Ko'olau Range at an elevation of 3,150 feet, taken just below the summit of Awaawaloa.

And here's Konahuanui again, this time from Pu'u Awaawaloa.

*If all things go as planned, I'll be hiking the 12-mile Bowman Trail to 2,740 foot Pu'u Kahuauli with Shanoah this Sunday. It's considered to be one of the toughest trails on the island, so keep checking back for an update.