Konahuanui - March 17, 2009

Hiking for nine hours takes a major toll on one's body, especially if the trail consists of climbs that burn calories like hell exists in every body part below your chest. That's exactly how Chase and I felt today. We hiked a trail that I aptly named "The Calorie Destroyer Trail." The trail's not really named that; the trail is really named Konahuanui: a climb to the two highest peaks in the Ko'olau Mountain Range. At a little over 3,000 feet, the two peaks (K1 and K2) require stiff climbs over the muddiest terrain I've ever experienced, which is probably why I was dying almost the whole way up. It was either that or the fact that I was totally unprepared for tackling a strenuous eight mile climb to the Ko'olau summit. Chase, on the other hand, said he felt like a champ the whole way. Bastard.

The weather forecast predicted rains in the afternoon. I thought of ascending Kaluanui Ridge (Mariners Ridge) and descending Kamiloiki Ridge, parking two cars at each trailhead before we started the hike, making the hike a loop. But as I was driving on Nimitz Highway, I could see that Konahuanui was free of clouds, with overcast skies, an event that rarely happens atop the giant Ko'olau peaks. I called Chase and asked him if he wanted to do it. We've been anticipating hiking Konahuanui for almost a year now, so of course he said yes.

There's three ways to climb to the two peaks of Konahuanui (well, the ones that I know of). We opted to start from the Judd Trail, connecting to the Nu'uanu Trail, and taking a left junction off of the Nu'uanu Trail that follows a ridge to the Nu'uanu overlook. We actually got lost by taking an obvious left junction that eventually led to nowhere. Fellow hikers that we had met from the mainland that we chatted with up the switchbacks decided to follow our lead. We felt really bad because we led them on a trail that eventually disappeared into extremely heavy brush. If you folks are reading this, we're truly sorry for your scraped legs and puncture wounds from the uluhe ferns. If you guys ever get to hike with us again, that will never happen. We promise.

We reached the scenic overlook around 11:30am. (Getting lost back tracked us about 45 minutes.) After a quick rest and some handshakes with our new hiking acquaintances, Chase and I headed to the obvious junction that led to Konahuanui. Chase set his Trail Guru iPhone application to track our progress to the peaks. (If you don't know what Trail Guru is, go to TrailGuru.com; it is an unbelievable application suited for the iPhone, and it is extremely useful for hiking.) The trail takes a graded route just below the ridge, contouring around about fifteen corners. (Yeah, we counted.) The contour trail is really narrow. The drops opposite of the ridge are pretty mental. There are lots of trees to hold onto for security, and the thick vegetation masks the true magnitude and risk of the pali. A fall along the contour trail could cause serious injury or even death. I'm pretty sure the ridge crest itself is doable if a right junction that I spotted in the beginning is taken, but don't take my word for it.

After contouring, the trail cuts into the ridge crest all the way to the Ko'olau summit. There are four steep climbs, and it will surely give you a workout you won't forget. Along the way, waterfalls trickled its way down the mountain. I'm pretty sure the waterfalls are part of Lulumahu Stream. Hiking to the Lulumahu Falls is possible, but it has to be done with an approved group that has a valid permit, such as the Hawaiian Mountain Trail Club because the trail lies in a restricted water shed and also passes King Kamehameha IV's former summer house. As we neared the top, we could see a large, dried out waterfall that must look unreal when it's flowing.

Our luck of a clear view at the summit was blocked by thick clouds devoid of rain. From K1, we turned left along the Ko'olau summit ridge and headed for K2. It was on the summit ridge that we encountered shin deep mud. I was so glad I wore pants on the hike; it was easy for me to push through. Chase, on the other hand, wore shorts; his legs were painted with mud. Hiking along the summit ridge to K2 was no easy task. It took us about 45 minutes to get K2, with more steep climbs along the way. The clouds tried to clear out, and when it did we could see how massive the drop to our right side was. There were a few sections that were deathly; one slip, and there was nothing to hold onto to slow your fall; just an exposed portion of the ridge with a massive vertical wall straight down to the Maunawili Demonstration Trail, 3,000 or so feet below us.

We finally reached K2 around 2:20pm. We ate musubi's, beef jerky, granola bars, trail mix, and saw a beastly looking horsefly land on my backpack. The whole time spent at K2 was in clouds. What a disappointment. We headed back down at around 3:00pm.

The descent was a lot faster than going up. We reached the contour section in a little under an hour-and-a-half. Instead of hiking the ridge that led to the lookout from the Nu’uanu Trail, we decided to take the Pauoa Flats Trail to the Nu'uanu Trail. Going down was so hard on our legs. Chase even saw a bunch of pigs cross the state trail as he descended the switchbacks. Once we reached the bottom, we dipped our feet in the cool Nu'uanu stream to get all the mud off our shoes. I used up all my water on the hike, and I highly recommend bringing more than I did: two liters or more should be sufficient. We got to my car at 6pm. We checked Chase's Trail Guru program, and it said we walked a little over four miles from the summit. And what a difficult four miles it was. But we can't complain: the weather cooperated well -- constant overcast skies, and no rain. Chase liked the hike so much he brought up the idea of doing the it again someday. Yeah, well, looks like he'll be doing it with someone else or by himself. It's going to take a lot of motivation for me to do Konahuanui again.

The long trek to K1, looking up from the Nu'uanu overlook. (photo: C. Maglangit)

The trailhead.


On the initial section of the ridge.

Looking back. That's a long way from our car.

Above the clouds on the summit ridge.

Narrow, with huge drops on the right side of the trail.

Resting atop K2 in the clouds.

Chase's pictures:

Lulumahu Stream waterfall #1.

Lulumahu Stream waterfall #2.

Chase's 200mm lens is awesome.


Frank Langit said...

awesome, this was on my list of trails to hike. I love the koolau mountains!

Quan said...

we went to this trail yesterday. we planed to hike Kalena, which was closed because of soldier shooting. It's 11 am when we arrived at judd trail. It rained in judd trail, and heavilier. When we arrived Nuuanu overlook, our clothes were wet. Going on, we arrived at K2 about 2:30 pm. There is mud about 3*1 meter which we couldn't pass. It will takes us 45 minutes to K1, but it rained heavly, so we turn back, arriving at our car at 5:20 pm. It's a hard trail, with clothes and bags wet.

MeoW said...

Discovered you can bypass the contour trail by taking the right fork heading up. The bypass trail is a leg burner though, relentless uphills, but you also bypass the contour which I hate hiking.