Last January, Michelle and I decided to catch a sunrise together. This came after she revealed to me that she has never watched the sun rise before. This needed to be corrected, and quickly. So I suggested a sunrise hike to the Koolau Summit. We woke up at 4am in the morning, drove east toward Hawaii Kai and then proceeded to hike up to the Koolau’s. Doesn’t sound very safe, huh? The hike up is actually very safe and takes roughly thirty minutes. Just remember to bring headlamps or flashlights. Once you do get to the top, you are rewarded with stunning views overlooking Waimanalo. I’m pretty sure that she had a good time.
All posts tagged KST
One of the interesting findings along the spine of the Ko’olaus is the grassy plateaus that are often completely windswept and accompanied by incredible views of Windward Oahu. More common in Central Oahu, these meadows are spread out along the Ko’olau Summit Trail (KST, or KSRT [Ko’olau Summit Ridge Trail] when discussing the sections East of Kipapa) and take some effort to reach. Possibly the most prized of these meadows would be the one in Waimalu.
The Waimalu meadow is the largest of the meadows and is considered a ‘mythical’ spot by ‘hikers’. This meadow is also known as ‘land of the lost’ as it looks completely different from anything else you may have seen in all of Hawaii, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
On this day, I would join Troy, Thessa, Andrew, and Jose on a day long trek from Waimalu to Waimano. Instead of simply going up and down the Waimalu Middle ridge to visit the meadows, we decided to make it a crossover hike where we would come down the Waimano trail in Pearl City. This would make the day less boring and also allow us to enjoy the views for a longer period of time as we would traverse the KSRT for a bit over an hour if the weather cooperated (Spoiler alert! – It would phenomenally).
The day started with all of us meeting at McDonald’s, the home of the Big Mac and all your other favorite burgers, at the bottom of Waimano Home Rd. We would then all drive to the end of said road to stage 2 cars then continue on to Onikiniki Pl. to reach the start of the Waimalu Ditch trail. As usual for staging cars, remember to leave a change of clothes and refreshments in the cars you would reach at the end of the hike (very easy to forget) and take care when parking in neighborhoods (never block driveways or mailboxes). Both parking locations seemed safe, although none of the cars were mine so it didn’t matter to me how safe these locations were.
From Onikiniki Pl., head towards the security check-in and to your left you will see the beginning of the ditch trail. Begin the trail and soon you will reach a junction, go left and you will begin to lose elevation as you head West but soon the trail will turn North towards the summit. The trail was fairly obvious when we went, and you will spend about 2 hours doing the traditional ditch trail before you reach the Waimalu Middle ridge that will finally take you to the meadows. On the ditch trail, you’ll cross 8 streams before reaching the 3 ribbon HTMC rest stop with a large pool (although HTMC went further in their last outing on this trail).
From this rest spot, continue the trail by crossing the stream and you will encounter another stream crossing with a not so obvious rope that directs you up the next section. From here, navigate to the ridge that is just a bit to the right of the stream bed. There are ribbons leading to it, but this area was terribly overgrown and finding the base was not easy. Once on the ridge though, the trail is fairly wide open for a non-state trail that isn’t that popular. There is only one route so don’t worry about getting lost here even if socked in.
At the base of the ridge, you’ll be at about 600ft elevation and will need to gain about 2000ft before reaching the summit. There are a few steep sections and a couple narrow spots as well which must be carefully navigated if windy. The first half is nothing exciting; it’ll be a relentless climb up for the most part. On the upper sections, you’ll get clear views of the surrounding ridges, including Waiau on the left and Halawa and Aiea on the right. You may even see an upside-down waterfall on the side of Waiau if it has been raining recently.
Expect the ridge to take between 2 and 4hrs. We would reach the Waimalu summit in about 5.5 hours total starting from the parking lot that included plenty of breaks. With his extra lanky and extra white legs, Andrew set a nice, brisk pace during the final stretch of the ridge which is most demanding as it has you climb many mossy sections that quickly suck the energy out of you.
Looking for the fastest route to eastern portion of the Koolau Summit Trail? This is it. I’d have to say that the hike up Kamehame Ridge via the private access road is even easier than the hikes up to Diamond Head and the Makapuu Lighthouse. Kamehame Ridge will get you to the KST even faster than Mariner’s Ridge. If you choose to do this hike then don’t blink, you might miss half of it. For a more epic experience, choose to take this route instead.
Not too many people know of Kamehame Ridge trail. It’s sort of a little secret with locals and those that live within this posh community. To access the trail, you simply drive to the end of Kamehame Drive. At the very end of the public road, you will see a brown metal gate, and a sign indicating “Private Property.” On the day that I visited, it just so happened that the community security guard, yes, this non-gated community has its very own security personnel, pulled up to the end of the road just as I had parked my car. I thought to myself, “oh great, there goes my hike.” I debated as to whether I should call it a day and drive back home, or, just try cross the metal gate and see if the security would try to stop me. I gave it a shot.
The Kamiloiki Ridge Trail is a fine hike that will get you to the Koolau Summit in a relatively short amount of time. It’s also an unsanctioned and non-state trail, so if you do decide to do this one, it will be at your own risk. In many way’s, Kamiloiki is a mirror image to Mariner’s Ridge, Kuliouou Ridge, and Wiliwilinui Ridge, without the minor nuances of each. For instance, it won’t be as busy as Mariner’s Ridge, which sees very heavy traffic because of its popularity. You won’t have to deal with the constant switchbacks that pervade the Kuliouou Trail. Finally, you get to bypass the long dirt road at the start of Wiliwilunui. With that said, Kamiloiki Ridge might be my favorite eastern route up to the Koolaus.
On April 1, Georgia born Chase Norton completed an amazing feat of fortitude, strength, and bravery. Norton became the first person to hike the entire length of the Koolau Mountain Range on a single try. His journey began on March 25 as he embarked from Pupukea and ended on, of most days, April 1 when he descended the Makapuu end of the Koolau mountains. It often takes people months, years, or even decades to complete what Norton did. Impressively, he was able to do it in seven days with minimal gear.
The announcement of Norton’s accomplishment was first announced by Nate Yuen on the popular Facebook group, Oahu Weekend Hikers. Immediately, the Hawaii hiking community cheered on Norton’s efforts. Jay Feldman, president of the Hawaii Trail & Mountain Club, exclaimed “Congratulations!! That’s an amazing and intrepid feat.” Jeremy Kreis, someone who has also completed the KST (in segments), was simply amazed by how lightly Norton packed for his 8 day trip, “Wow, you packed light.”
In 1979, Hawaii hiking pioneer Silver Piliwale attempted the same trail. The then 78 year old Piliwale stopped short of completing the entire KST when he exited Moanalua Valley on the 5th day of his trek. Thirty-three years later, Norton was able to complete what the agile Piliwale could not. Norton was nice enough to allow me to share his experience in his own words.
Below is Part 1 (Chapters 1-3) of Chase Norton’s personal report posted with his permission.
Chapter 1: The Motivation
It all began in 2009 while in a pub with a discussion I was having with a good friend and hiking buddy, Chappy. I wanted to do more backpacking around Oahu, both for the experience and to make use of all the new gear I had recently purchased from REI. After a couple of beers the talked turned to an argument about hiking the entire Koolau summit in a single trip. I was ignorant, reckless and far too confident in my hiking abilities but was adamant it could be done. Of course, this was before I had ever hiked on Oahu. He rightfully laughed at my desires and let me know that even in sections it could not be completed let alone in a full backpacking trip.
This was the time the seed was planted especially for the section hiking of the Koolau summit. As I was doing some of those northern portions or the saddles the motivation transitioned from proving a friend wrong to my own desire to find and push my limits. From that day forward both consciously and unconsciously I began making the necessary changes in myself to prepare and execute a thru hike of the Koolau summit. I hiked more and started to learn and understand the mountains on Oahu. Through these hikes I would meet other hikers who seemed to share the same opinions as Chappy, which simply furthered my desire to take on the impossible. We all want to make our mark in this world.
From that initial argument, I started with the southern portions from Makapuu to Konahuanui. Actually, it took over a year to hike those sections. Some sections I would repeat until I knew them very well. Still, I am not sure why it took so long and now that I’ve done it all in one day, it is even more comical. Regardless, it took me a year to section hike it.
After the southern portion, I turned my focus to the saddles. These were the sections most people argued were undoable. For a long time I was working on the Pali Notches but continually failed in my attempts. I went up many times, perhaps six or seven attempts, but always got stuck at the nub and/or chimney. Then I got distracted by the Piliwale ridge and making route on that ridge. Honestly, after some time I had begun to just let the whole dream go. I guess this is where the drive to prove a friend wrong started to diminish and I started to consider the entire section hike undoable. It wasn’t until I was camping at a bluegrass festival in the Botanical Gardens in Kaneohe that I started to look at the saddles in profile and the gears started turning in my head.
One fateful day, I called up a good friend, Matthew, to see if he would join me up Lanihuli and descend down the Kalihi saddle. If that didn’t look good then we could descend down to the Pali. I don’t think he knew what he was getting himself into, but he agreed. The following Sunday we headed up and after some time scouting we agreed to attempt bottom up approach from the Pali as soon as we could get the time.
The following weekend Matt and I decided to first attempt the Notches on Saturday. After all those months of failure, we were able to complete and get past all the obstacles I had previously failed to conquer. Having someone else there to discuss a problem with, share in the fear and the reward, can sometimes change what might seem impossible. The next day Matt had contacted a friend, Duc, and his hiking friends Rasta and Laredo…people who I have now come to both call friends and highly respect. We asked them to join us for a Pali to Lanihuli attempt. Long story short, we made it up and I got to see what hiking with a solid team was really like much different than most of my solo missions.
With the Pali saddle completed in one weekend, the passion of a full section hike was reignited, but now had become a personal obsession void of any outside influences. I still did not know what the northern sections were like or the two other saddles, but soon I would find out.
Piliwale is a steep windward ridge that takes you to the highest point on the Ko’olaus, Konahuanui, after having you navigate through many scrambles and a few rock walls. The trail starts out as a steep ridge trail, introduces a few vertical sections with ropes provided, and then ends with a slippery narrow section before you reach the eastern Ko’olau summit ridge trail. The trail is known for overnight stays and minor injuries, although the difficulty has been greatly reduced in recent times with the addition of many ropes and sections being cleared of overgrowth. However, it is still an advanced trail with little room for error.
Christian Young picked me up in the early morning and we then met Troy Solano near Safeway at Manoa Market. While the Ko’olaus were socked in and this could make Piliwale more difficult, we decided to go for it as we assumed it would be less cloudy and wet on the Windward side of the island. We first went to the end of Manoa road near the entrance of Manoa Falls to park Troy’s car as we intended to finish our hike by coming down to Manoa Falls. We then all headed to the Pali Lookout in Christian’s car.
From the Pali Lookout, we went right onto the paved road descending into the valley. We followed the same path used to reach Likelike falls, although instead of making a left to go under the highway, we continued straight onto the Maunawili Demonstration Trail (MDT). We soon went down some steps and found an intersection, with the left path leading to the highway. Going right, we continued for about 40 minutes until we found the entrance of Piliwale on our right.
The first part of Piliwale is steep, but there is no danger. After some time, you will reach an opening that provided one of best views of the windward side we saw that day. After taking a fairly long break here, we continued ahead and were introduced to our first rope sections. While Piliwale ridge looks very intimidating from the rest spot, you will be climbing the ridge on the inner side, and won’t be on the edge for most of it.
The ropes we encountered were in good condition, but always check the condition of the ropes before relying heavily on them. There are some loose rocks on the trail, be aware of that as well and do not rush on the riskier sections.
I met Troy and Nate when I first did Laie a few months ago as they were on their way to Malaekahana. I would find Troy again on Facebook to discuss future hikes and we landed on a Ko’olau crossover. We decided to do Aiea to Red Hill. As I had previously done Red Hill using the Godek Trail, and Nate had done all of Aiea before, this seemed like a perfect crossover for us. This hike would take us to the Aiea summit, the hidden stairs, Halawa summit, Red Hill summit and down into Moanalua Valley using the Godek-Jaskulski trail.
We first all met at Moanalua Park, where we left Nate’s truck, and then we all went to Aiea in Troy’s car.
Directions for Aiea:
At Punchbowl St. get on Lunalilo Fwy (H-1) heading ‘ewa (west). Near Middle St. keep left on Rte 78 west (exit 19B, Moanalua Rd.) to ‘Aiea. While descending Red Hill, take the exit marked Hālawa-Stadium. At the end of the long off-ramp continue straight on Ulunē St. At the road end turn right on ‘Aiea Heights Dr. Pass ‘Aiea High School on the left. Climb gradually through ‘Aiea Heights subdivision. Reach the entrance to Keaīwa Heiau State Recreation Area. Drive past the heiau and the camping area to the upper lot and park there (elevation 1,080 feet). At the trailhead are rest rooms and drinking water.
Bus: Route 11 to ‘Aiea Heights Dr. and Ka‘amilo St. Walk 2.0 miles along ‘Aiea Heights Dr. and through the recreation area to the trailhead. Route 74 goes farther up ‘Aiea Heights Dr., but it only runs on weekday mornings and afternoons.
Ball, Stuart M., Jr. (2000-09-01). The Hikers Guide to the O’ahu, Rev. Ed. (Kindle Locations 1768-1779). Latitude 20. Kindle Edition.
One thing to note is that Aiea Park closes around 8 PM, maybe earlier. If you do plan on a long crossover, you may want to park further down the street unless you don’t mind leaving your car in the park overnight (which Troy would end up doing).
From the parking lot, the trail for both Aiea loop and Ridge starts left of the restrooms. The trail is wide open and easy to follow. The hike to the ridge is long and gradual and, while it is 6 miles long, is fairly easy. As you continue on the trail, you may find some ribbons on the left, this would be the start of the Kalauao trail. Further on, you will see some ribbons on the right side, this creates a loop back to the beginning by bisecting the whole Aiea Loop.
After about 1.5 miles of walking from the beginning, the trail will junction. If you continue right, you will continue the Aiea loop trail. Go left to continue the ridge hike. After making a left, you will be near the edge of the ridge. Turn left and you will see another junction shortly. Take a right here and continue all the way to the Aiea Ridge summit.
At the Aiea Ridge summit, find ribbons on the left side that will take you to the Ko’olau summit trail. Make a right here and you will be on your way to Red Hill. Shortly after you start the summit hike, you will find a fenced area. Stay on the left side of this area as going right will take you to the Leeward side and away from your destination. If you have clear weather, the crossover will be obvious. If you are socked in, however, the best way to stay on the trail would be to stay on the Windward side as much as possible. If you are on the Leeward side for too long, it may be time to backtrack and reassess.
It took us 3 hours to summit Aiea and just under 2.5 hours to get to the hidden stairs. The sections between these 2 areas have some overgrown areas and will slow down progress. Although there is nothing too difficult except for excessive mud. You will never be too close to the edge to worry about falling off. There will also be plenty of plants that you can use for support as you climb.
A diverse group of people summited Hawaii Loa on Martin Luther King Day, 2012. In the above picture, from left to right, you have the newest member of Hyde Manor (where Marvin, Andy and our cat, Killer, reside), Jackie, who was born in Germany. Next you have Andy, a typical, nothing special, white American. Then you have 2 very shady Filipinos, Coty and Joel, who would complete this trail for the 3rd time. Then there’s the Thai guy, Ahnate. And a possible recurring character in EH Tales©, Gentaro, from Japan. This picture was taken by an awesome Indian dude, Marvin. Hawaii would see a melting pot at one of its summits like never before.
The day started with a great surprise in front of Hyde Manor. Phil, Jackie’s boyfriend for 1 month, surprised us all by laying down a series of leis in front of our house before any of us woke up for their anniversary. All the leis were shaped into hearts with about 10 leis bundled together at the doorstep for a giant heart. Although this makes gifts from other guys less impressive, he dug himself into a hole as now he will need to continually 1-up himself for future milestones.
Directions and access information can be obtained in the original Hawaii Loa post. As we showed our IDs to the front gate security, we were told we could only drive up to the trail as were presumably too poor-looking to do anything else in this neighborhood.
Coty and Joel started the Ka’au Crater hike a few months ago but had to turn around after getting to the 3rd and final waterfall due to rain. I made my first visit to this crater the day after Christmas and was able to complete the loop with good weather on our side. This hike was set up in part by Quyen, and while the other members joining us were part of Oahu Hikers and Adventurers, this was not officially an OHA hike but rather a hike planned for just a small group.
The directions to the crater can be obtained from the original post. When parking, make sure to not park in the area designated for temple visitors. Also use the entrance by the warning sign as mentioned in the original post rather than going up the road on the right as there may be a dog on patrol without a leash.
As you go down the rabbit hole (initial wet boulder section), continue on the obvious trail while crossing at least one stream on your way to the first waterfall. You will soon find the waterfall to your right as the trail junctions. Go right towards the fall and return to the junction and then go left as you will now climb using a rope towards the 2nd waterfall. At the second waterfall, go right as there will be a trail leading you higher into the crater.
As you climb the 2nd waterfall, you will soon find yourself crossing a narrow path right above the 2nd waterfall. Take care as you walk across and you can increase safety by climbing above the boulder rather than contouring it. Soon, you will be in front of the 3rd waterfall and will be able to climb head on. You will be crossing the stream a few times and there will be ropes at certain points. After nearing the top of the falls, you will find a junction with a couple ribbons. Go right to summit. When in doubt, choose a path that will lead you up.
The initial climb out of the crater will be easy but will soon become steep at points and may be very windy as well. While it was dry when we went, the trail can become very muddy when it rains. Continue along the rim until you reach the summit and have a view of the windward side in front of you.