Note: The Diamond Head ridge trail route described here is not a sanctioned hike. It is illegal to hike this trail and to do so would be cause for citation or arrest. There is also a risk of falling boulders and landslides. As such, all accounts here are fictional. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Adobe Photoshop is a wonderful piece of software that allows one to superimpose another into a photo making it seem as if they were somewhere when in fact they were not. Got it?
Some hikes, you just shouldn’t do. Climbing Diamond Head via a non-traditional route is one of them. It’s not because the trail is particularly hard, or dangerous, or excessively long like some of the hikes we’ve posted here, but rather because this hike is not lawfully kosher. That said, this non-traditional Diamond Head route is extremely fun, sometimes dangerous, and indeed offers stellar views of Honolulu and Waikiki. Like the Sacred Falls post, this post is pure fiction. We had fun with photoshop, all the while imagining what it would be like to climb Diamond Head Crater at night and then traverse her entire rim.
First, let’s discuss getting there. Climbing Diamond Head via the traditional route is no secret and thousands of tourists and locals visit the maintained trail on a daily basis. However, skipping this maintained route and climbing one of the many side ridges offers alternative means to the summit of Diamond Head. These routes are indeed secret. Or semi-secret. It’s more like people “in the know,” know of the different routes up, but don’t really like to share how to gain access to these routes. The truly sad thing is that the routes were passed down to them from another person that was willing to share the information. It’s kind of like when you’re in Kindergarten, and you have that one kid who has that big box of Crayola Crayons with 120 different crayons inside, and he doesn’t want to share. Yeah, ridge hiking Diamond Head is kind of like that. The few “in the know” keep it to themselves and don’t like to share how to get up. It’s bullshit, really, but I’ll comply. I wont describe the route explicitly here, but know that the Internet is a marvelous thing.
Shortly after jumping a fence on the makai end of the Diamond Head, we passed a memorial for George Campbell Munro, an ornithologist who was born in New Zealand and immigrated to Hawaii in 1890. This section of Diamond Head is interesting and looks as if it used to be open to the public. The ground has unique tiles and offers a low scenic view of Waikiki looking makai. The memorial plaque, unfortunately, is covered in graffiti. It reads:
In Honor of George Campbell Munro. Pioneer in Hawaiian botany and ornithology. Whose vision and initiative led to the establishment of Na Laau Hawaii Arboretum -1962
Here’s an article on Munro that was published in the Honolulu Advertiser in 1997. I’d never previously heard of the Na Laau Hawaii Arboretum, however, from information found online it seems to be located located in the hills above Kaluahole Beach and Makalei Park, and within the perimeter of Diamond Head State Monument. This actually sounds like where the memorial for Munro is located. If it is, then no one has been looking after the arboretum because it is in disarray.
Observant hikers (and tourists) that do the traditional route up Diamond Head and then reach the summit, is likely to notice what looks like an old and emptied swimming pool covered in colorful graffiti. I’ve always wondered what this was and finally had a chance to see it up close. The pool-like structure has been adopted by taggers and graffiti artists to become a makeshift practice wall of sorts for the art of graffiti. This particular area was actually really cool and would probably make for a compelling photo shoot location. I actually tried to research what this structure used to be. Some said it was an abandoned basin, while other suggested it was remnants of an old lighthouse. I’ll have to dig a little deeper to find out.
The trek up the side ridge leading to the summit of Diamond Head was 90% easy and 10% hard. That 10% consisted of the last segment of the climb up, which at times, felt as if we were climbing a vertical wall. It did not help that the non-existant trail consisted of loose rock, which made things a bit slippery. And don’t think that you can rely on shrubbery to grab on to, most of the plants up there are quite dry and therefore prone to snapping off very easily. By the time that we had to deal with the difficult, near-vertical sections, the sun had already gone down. We traversed this challenging section of Diamond Head in pure darkness. Let me tell you, there were a few WTF moments.
Once you reach the top, you end up at a bunker that is adjacent to the summit bunker that marks the end of the traditional maintained Diamond Head route. I seriously sighed a breath of relief once stepping on to that bunker. Thank fucking God, I thought to myself. And I don’t believe in God.
Once at the top, we soaked in the views from atop the bunker for a few minutes before continuing our walk along the Diamond Head ridge. We decided to tackle the ridge in a clockwise fashion. This allowed us to deal with the most treacherous sections of the ridge first. The descent from the first bunker, at times, was very steep, with huge drops on both sides. There were a few sections along the ridge that narrowed significantly. And we tackled all of this in pure darkness, with only the help of the full moon. We had headlamps, but decided to use them sparingly as to not attract any attention. The darkness added to the excitement and let me tell you, it was exciting.
A quarter of the way pass the first bunker, you’ll have completed the most dangerous section of the ridge. The rest of the ridge trail is fairly easy from that point on. We spent some time playing around with long exposure on our cameras before continuing on the ridge. Ahante was thirsty enough to tear open a can of the finest beer available at a 7-11 near you, Natty Daddy. Think of Natty Daddy as being the bitch step-sister of Natural Light. It’s the beer that no one cares about, but actually finds its away around town because it’s so cheap. Both Natty Daddy and Natural light is brewed by Anheuser-Busch, go figure.
The Diamond Head ridge was actually quite interesting to explore. There are tons of different structures and even tunnels throughout the ridge. As we crossed the tunnel below that drivers use to enter Diamond Head, we noticed a slight opening in the ground. A heavy piece of metal was covering what seemed to be a room of sorts. We peeked into the crack and noticed that it was a bit odd. There were some weird wooden contraptions. Flags hanging. Photos of individuals. And writing on the walls. Was this a sealed memorial of sorts? It seemed like a set taken straight from the movie SAW.
Around the time we were poking around and peeking into the, ahem, torture chamber, we noticed a bunch of people walking our way. We couldn’t make out faces, and I automatically assumed that they were security. It wasn’t security, instead, it was another group of friendly hikers. They bypassed nearly half of the rim by initially climbing up closer to the drive-thru tunnel. We exchanged greetings and then showed them the aforementioned torture chamber. They were intrigued and poked around for a bit. Before leaving, I learned that a few of them had actually visited Exploration: Hawaii before and were fans of us on Facebook. That was awesome!
The final portion of the ridge hike involved climbing up to the summit of Diamond Head, ending at the last bunker (the bunker that marks the terminus of the maintained trail). You’ll notice that this portion is heavily littered with barbed wire, so watch your step. Once we reached the top bunker we hung out for quite some time. I set up my tripod and proceeded to snap away. Looking down on Waikiki was never so refreshing.
All told, we spent 6 hours on this trail. We started at around 6:00pm and ended after midnight. Descending the ridge seemed like a nightmare at the time, considering we would be doing so in pure darkness. However, in retrospect, it was…. ah, who am I kidding, still a nightmare. It’s a good thing that we had Zippy’s afterwards to soothe both our wounds and hunger pains. Who would have thought that a hike up Diamond Head could be so exciting? When coupled with a bright moon, amazing friends, and a slight buzz, it is most definitely much more than simply exciting.