Mount Olomana Part 1: The First Go Around to Ahiki

Update (April, 2018): This trail has a deadly record. As per this Hawaii News Now article:

“In 2015, a Florida visitor died after falling 200 feet while hiking between the first and second peaks. Honolulu firefighter Mitch Kai died in 2014 after tumbling 50 feet between the second and third peaks. And in 2011, Ryan Suenaga lost his life after a 150-foot fall between the second and third peaks.”

Know your limits before you choose to do this hike.

One of the hikes that is considered to be the most treacherous on Oahu is Mount Olomana. This mountain, comprised of three peaks, is located near Kailua and Waimanalo on the Windward side of Oahu. Although the entire mountain is often called Olomana, in truth, that is just the name of the first peak. The second peak is known as Paku’i and the third is Ahiki. On this day, the core Exploration: Hawaii crew showed up to hike, along with one very special guest – Gentaro Shishimi. Gentaro, a native of Japan, is a psychology graduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. This was also Gentaro’s first big hike (his previous hiking roster included just Diamond Head and Manoa Falls).

Olomana Trailhead Sign. Remember, no orgies allowed!

Marvin putting on his microspikes.

Olomana is definitely a challenging hike. From the start, it’s an uphill climb. Once you’re out of the valley, you immediately get gorgeous views of the Windward side. The views of Kailua are stunning.

Once you leave the valley you get an excellent view of Peak 1, Olomana.

Marvin poses with the signature Marvin look.

You should always be aware of your surroundings and realize that the ridge section between the rockface and Peak 1 narrows considerably. Within about 1 hour and 30 minutes, you should reach Peak 1, Olomana. Peak 1 is the highest point on the mountain, with an elevation of 1643 feet. From this 360 degree vantage point, you get the best views that the trail has to offer. On one side is the beautiful Windward Coast, while on the other side is the prominent Koolau Mountain Range. Try your best to make out the different summits along the Koolau Summit Trail.

Since this was the day after Thanksgiving, Ahnate decided to enjoy his packed lunch – an entire Thanksgiving extravaganza including but not limited to turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. I would say that we spent a good 30-45 minutes hanging out atop Peak 1.

Here’s a rare Japanese OWLing formation.

The crew working their way up.

Some initial steep climbs as you work your way up to Peak 1.

A steep obstacle. Be careful as you work your way up this steep rock face.

Coming down the rock face in the above photo on the return leg.

Most people tend to stop at Peak 1. Stopping at peak 1, Olomana, is great. You are awarded with excellent views after a tiring climb up. With that said, if you do plan to continue on this trail, please keep in mind the numerous deaths that have occurred beyond Peak 1.

“In 2015, a Florida visitor died after falling 200 feet while hiking between the first and second peaks. Honolulu firefighter Mitch Kai died in 2014 after tumbling 50 feet between the second and third peaks. And in 2011, Ryan Suenaga lost his life after a 150-foot fall between the second and third peaks.”

Again, know your limits.

Nearing Peak 1.

A makeshift memorial for Brandon Yabes, a 22-year-old that died after jumping from the Nuuanu Reservoir Tower.

Joel looks on from Peak 1.

Ahnate dines on Thanksgiving leftovers.

After having completed what many people consider to be one of the most dangerous hikes in Hawaii. These are some of the words my friends shared about his experience going from Peak 2 to Peak 3:

“One step on the wrong or friable rock or one failure to get the thin rope would have resulted in death on the trail to the third peak of Mt. Olomana. Now I faced the most dangerous moment. Because the rope was much beyond my reach, all I could do there and then was to cling to the vertical rocky cliff, which I think was as if a child held on to the mother tightly.

No one can beat Mother Nature. I was strongly clinging to the Mother Nature. Even if you are a millionaire, a president or a beggar, all must be equal in that situation. All you can do is to hold on to the cliff not to fall off and die.

I felt so helpless. Waiting for two people (a man and a woman) to climb down, I had been worrying about my feet and my unstable position as well as hoping for their safe descent. My feet were shaking not only because of fear but because of muscle fatigue. One of my legs was actually about to get cramp. I managed to slightly change my position on the tiny, unsecured spot, just hoping that this would prevent the cramp. A cool breeze touched my cheeks.

To tell the truth, this was one of the few crises in which I felt I would die in this challenge to the third peak. Even if I forget the others, however, I cannot forget this because this was a real threat and gave me a strong fear of death for a longer time. I tried not to think about it as much as possible because I guessed it might actually affect both my mind and body in some way. Curious to say, the more I felt the fear, the more strongly I clasped the rocks.

What would you think or how would you feel in this situation? It is often said that when they feel a fear of death, their family or people who you like come to their mind. For me, however, they did not come to my mind in this situation. Instead, as I felt the fear, I strongly clang to the cliff in front of me in my mind as well as on my hands. My mind and body were totally occupied by the cliff. My memories were overshadowed by the cold and heartless cliff. The cliff had such dominant presence that it was everything for me at that time. I was incredibly concentrating on the rocks I was facing. The cliff stole my heart.

Waiting and clinging to the cliff may have been only a few minutes, but I felt it’s very long and as if it were permanent. When they passed me and climbed down, I said to myself. Now it’s my turn. I started climbing up again. However, being able to start climbing did not mean relief or safety. It just meant the game was started again.

Lifting one leg after the other brought me pain. Hearing my heavy breathing, my eyes, hands and feet were all searching for the next possible spot to reach. I was an emotional robot totally occupied by desire to survive the situation and reach the top of the attractive mountain. Only the instinct to survive and the fear of death controlled me.

Surprised by the processing capacity of computers as I am in everyday life, I realized that human cognitive abilities were not so bad, actually amazing in this situation. My brain instantly and parallelly processed visual and tactile information and feedback of the pain, calculating the distance between me and the next possible spot. When my brain judged that it looked secure and reachable, my brain signaled my arms and legs to reach the spot. When it did not, the brain started over the calculation and searched for other possible spot again.

At last, the amazing human cognitive functions enabled me to clear the most fearful cliff. You can understand that all climbers use these functions. I felt better to see I didn’t lose my hope. “How great we are!” I promised I’d be back.”

As you work your way up Olomana, take in the views but also be cognizant of the dangerous trail ahead of you. Death surrounds on you atop Olomana. The most recent death at Olomana was less than a year ago. That same day, another hiker from a separate crew also experienced a near death fall while attempting to recover a cell phone. In 2004, a woman fell 150 feet, but luckily survived. That same day someone else from her crew fell 125 feet near Peak 2. There’s a memorial at the top for a 22-year-old who accidentally died while leaping off of the Nuuanu Reservoir. Death surrounds you atop Olomana.

Enjoyed this post? Continue reading Mount Olomana Part 2: Unfinished Business.

The crew working their way down Peak 1.

Working his way down Peak 2 on his way to Peak 3.

On the top of Peak 2, with Peak 1 of Olomana in the background.

Coty at the top of Peak 2 with Peak 3, Ahiki, in the background.

Gentaro working his way toward the peak of Ahiki.

Ahnate cleans his toes en route to Ahiki.

Ahnate poses inside of the popular Keyhole structure while en route to Peak 3, Ahiki.

 

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.

5 comments

  1. Terrific write up, Coty. Great documentation of your friend’s thoughts on the backside of of the 2nd peak (Pakui). I would say a lot of us agree that downclimbing Pakui is the most dangerous part of Olomana three peaks, even more than climbing up/down Ahiki, which is more of a rock scramble. I do think that microspikes work well on that portion of Olomana. When we did it last year, we saw a girl frozen on Pakui for like five minutes. It’s no joke.

    • Hey, thanks Will! Yeah, it was a little crazy that Gentaro completed the third peak considering his hiking resume had only consisted of Diamond Head and Manoa Falls. He even admitted to being afraid of heights. Pretty nuts. He was terrified but he pulled through. He gets a bazillion brownie points from me. Ballsy.

  2. Hi again. So we made it and are planning the first two peaks tomorrow. However, It rained a lot, and are concerned about the mud on the trail. Is it still safe to go in you r opinion? We had time to go take advantage of manoa falls today, and found that the mud increased the slip factor quite a bit. I’m worried olomana might be unwise. What are your thoughts? Thanks!!!

    • Hey there am, it’s hard to say. The day that we hiked this the guard had told us that it had been raining that night and part of the morning. The initial valley section was somewhat muddy but not too bad. Manoa Falls can get really muddy. I’ve never seen Olomana as muddy as Manoa Falls before. Then again, it often rains on the windward side of the island where Olomana is. I’d say try it out and if you don’t think the condition are safe then turn around.

      Once you get on the ridge, though, it’s mainly rock. So mud really shouldn’t be an issue. What might become problamatic would be wet and slippery rock. If you’re doing only peaks 1 & 2 then I think you should be fine. It’s from peak 2 to 3 where things get very dangerous.

      If Olomana doesn’t look good then maybe look into doing the Makapuu Tom-Tom trail. It’s probably my favorite for views. Truly spectacular. http://www.explorationhawaii.com/2012/01/17/true-makapuu-to-tom-tom-from-sea-life-park-to-the-heart-of-waimanalo/

      Good luck and let me know how i goes tomorrow!

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