Friday, December 31, 2010

Stairway to Heaven to The Moanalua Valley Middle Ridge

Into the clouds

Date - June 20th, 2010
Length -  6 Miles One Way
Time - 6 Hours and 30 Minutes
Short&Sweet - The Ultimate Stairmaster

    The Haiku Stairs, more commonly known as The Stairway to Heaven, is a stairwell that climbs to the summit of Pu'u Keahi a Kahoe via a steep side ridge on the Windward side of Oahu. The destination of this popular hike is an Omega Navigation System Station that sits on the summit of the mountain. If you are looking for more of an adventure, you can continue along the KST (Koolau Summit Trail) to other destinations.We chose to go down the Moanalua Valley Middle Ridge which is just a short distance from the summit of Keahi a Kahoe.

Under the H-3
     My only experience with the stairway is what I've seen going down the H-3. The perpective from the highway makes it look much worse than it is in person. Fun Fact! You must start early, before 6AM, to beat the guard that will deny you access to the stairs. So after hiking yesterday on top of working until midnight, I got to do this on 2 hours of sleep. Lucky me...
    Andrew, Mike, Other Mike, Jason, Gio, Jen, and I arrived in Haiku Village sometime after 5AM. As if it were straight out of a spy movie, we had to enter a drainage canal then go through a bambo forest to reach the base of the stairs. It didn't take me long to realize I friggin hate climbing stairs. At about 4000 steps, I had a lot left to climb too. We reached the first platform just in time to see the sunrise over Kaneohe and Kailua, and we weren't alone either. I was pretty surprised by the traffic this hike recieves. Kudos to all these people for willing themselves out of bed this early.

     As we continued up, we reached the second platform, and the summit soon followed. Unfortuanately, the clouds obscured any views we were hoping to have. I had two choices at the summit as I waited for the others to catch up. I could A) wait outside and freeze in the ridiculously strong wind or B) wait in the warm cozy Omega Station. The catch with number 2 was the dozen or so kids in there getting high. Maybe that crap got me high too, could be why I enjoyed this so much. Being the nice guy that I am, I even took a group picture for them so they will always be able to remember their pot party on top of the mountain.

     Andrew decided to go ahead to make sure the was rope on the ridge for the people that needed it. The rest of the group followed about ten minutes later. The wind was so powerful here that it almost lifted me up as it got under my camelbak. No time was wasted in tighteng that shit until it cut off my circulation. I decided  to catch up to Andrew as the pace was a tad bit to slow for me. This crossover was an experience like no other. Again maybe the weed, but what a thrill!

Moah Stairs!
Summit happiness

Apparently she doesn't live here anymore
      The descent down the Middle Ridge wasn't as steep as I expected, but the mud made things...interesting. I would stick one foot out in front of me, while I sat on the other, to slide down the muddy sections that were difficult to walk down. Andrew was waiting farther down sucking on a cigarette. Surprise surprise. We decided to wait here for the others to catch up before we descended anymore. It was during this time that I discovered something that would be a bain of my fellow hikes for maybe quests to come. My cell phone camera's shutter sound can be changed to a duck quack. It was loud. It wa obnoxious. It was awesome!

Crossing over to the Middle Ridge

Catching up

Almost there
    My camera discovery couldn't have come at a better time as the clouds began to part, and greet us with views of Honolulu in the distance. After the group reunited, we continued our descent. It didn't take long for us to start spreading out again. Some in the group were intmidated by the drops, and I don't blame them.  I was freaked out on Olomana so I can understand the feeling of being confronted with drops for the first time. The trail ended at a dried up streambed and a dirt road that would lead us out of the valley. As much as I would like to say this was the end of an awesome wasn't. The dirt road is one long trek back to civilization. Even with the long walk out, this hike was an experience like no other. If I could recommend only one thing to do in Hawaii, it would be this.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Manamana Trail

Kahana Valley
Date - June 19th, 2010
Length - 4 Mile Loop
Time - 4 Hours and 30 Minutes
Short&Sweet - One third awesome, two thirds fail.

    The Manamana Trail is a popular hike on Oahu, and it has been dubbed by some as "the most dangerous published hike on the island". It's often incorrectly labeled Pu'u Manamana for the peak that gives its name to the entire ridgeline. The trail doesn't actually reach the peak which, at the time, was thought to be unconquered.
The trees begin to fade
    I was really stoked for the so called most dangerous hike, and was even having delusions of death defying climbs into the clouds. Annnnnd back to reality. Either my tolerance for drop offs had increased or this ridge was seriously overrated. My guess would be a combination of the two. Either the first third or last third will be awesome depending on which way you make the loop. Myself, Andrew, Jason, Lynnale, Mike, and Rambo took the obscure trail off of Kamehameha Highway.

Up, up, up

    The hike started its upward assault straight from the get go, and not ten minutes in granted us incredible views of Kahana Bay. As the trees fell by the wayside to rocks and dirt, we reached a trail junction. The choice was to either continue heading up the ridge or take a detour to the famed Crouching Lion rock formation. I didn't really see a lion but whatever. All debating aside, we continued going up the ridge. The higher we got the cooler it became. Soon we were granted views of Swanzy Beach a thousand feet below us. I even saw some birds perched right below our break spot. I tried to feed them a rice crispy treat, but they disapproved. Bastards...  
                                                                                   Lion? ----->

Ungrateful birds
    The ridge continued rising, but now it was at a more gradual pace. The ridge was probably about 3 feet wide. Not much different than Olomana, but it felt so much better with the picturesque views in all directions. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and end they did.

Steep drops

    The farther/higher we got, the more the vegetation encroached on the trail. It eventually became a muddy slog through the ferns. I swear this seemed to drag on forever,  Mud ferns mud ferns. If you can make it past this then you will reach the grassy overlook called Turnover, the highest point on the Manamana Ridgeline. According to Stuart Ball's Hiking bible, you are supposed to backtrack from Turnover to a previous junction that not one of us saw. Not only do we all have poor eye sight, but horrible reading comprehension too! We kept reading through the route description, eventually deciding on a trail that branched off Turnover into Ka'a'awa Valley. Said trail lead us to a divergence of paths, all of which lead to no where. This is just a hunch, but I would be willing to bet that we are not the only people incapable of following directions. 

Lush forests
     Andrew ended up finding the junction. He swore he saw it before, I call bs on that. Our newfound path descended rather quickly, but with a lot of mud and no views. The ridge narrowed significantly here. The drops were gradual and overgrown, hardly worthy of the hype they recieve. Andrew and Rambo tried to keep things fresh with small talk, but I don't think anything could drown out the boredom induced by this portion of the loop. About the only noteworthy, and slightly ironic, thing left was the trail ending in a graveyard of all places. Haha, so funny...but not really. Next time, I will definitely not be doing the full loop. I suggest doing the awesome beginning and ending it there.     


Friday, December 24, 2010

3 Peaks of Olomana

The three peaks
Olomana, Paku'i, and Ahiki
Date - June 13th, 2010
Length - 6 Miles Round Trip
Time - 4 Hours and 30 Minutes
Short&Sweet - An exhilarating climb to three craggy peaks.

    Hike number 2! The three peaks: Olomana, Paku'i, and Ahiki is an isolated mountain range in the mddle of Kailua believed to be a remnant of an ancient caldera on Oahu. It is known collectively as Three Peaks or Olomana. Today, our group consisting of Andrew, moi, Mike, other Mike, Lynnale, Morgan, and Jason set out to conquer these imposing peaks. I had no idea what to expect today, and I must say my tolerance for steep drop offs was definitely tested.

Climbing to the first peak
    As we arrived at the Luana Hills Country Club (trailhead), I learned just how popular this hike was on the island. We ended up heading up, har har har, with another big group of hikers from some meetup website or something. Don't look at me... We set out for the first and highest peak, Olomana, and boy was that fun. The first peak basically consists of an exhausting uphill push to the summit with a few roped rock faces near the top. I reached the first summit with some girl from the other group first. As I died trying to catch my breath, she seemed unphased from the climb as she yammered on about pancakes and cream cheese. Then it hit me, this summit was exposed with near vertical drops on all sides. I wouldn't say I'm afraid of heights, but I sure as hell am afraid of falling. As we waited here, the rest of both groups made their way to the summit, and I just could not will myself to stand up here. Of course, I was in good company as Jason and his vertigo refused to stand also. If you can get over the fear the first summit offers an icredible 360 degree panorama of the Windward Side of Oahu. The third peak, Ahiki, also looks unclimbable from the vantage point. At least I thought it did. Soon people from both groups began to make their way to the second peak, and, not wanting to miss out on the carnage, I followed a few minutes later.

Peak 2 and 3 from 1

Peak 2
The saddle connecting the first and second peak is more or less a gingerly walk across a wide ridgeline. I didn't find it to be as unnerving as the first peak. The real fun begins when you reach the backside of the second peak and the low lying saddle that connects it to the third peak. From the second peak, the ridgeline drops steeply before gradually ascending to the summit of the third and final peak. There are a lot of fixed rope to aid in the initial descent, but it did little to appease my fear. Beyond that it was really just about being cautious of the crumbly dirt and rocks that littered the trail as it continued to descend.

To Ahiki!
    As the trail began to reverse its downward descent, we reach the "keyhole". Here the hikers began bottlenecking as they made their way around its steep left side with the aid of a rope. The keyhole is a large rock column smack dab in the middle of the ridgeling complete with hole in center. If you don't trust the rope or don't want to skirt  the side of cliff to get around it, you can always go through the keyhole. Seeing as though I was too scared to stand on the first peak, passing through the keyhole wasn't really an option. From here the only real aobstacle that remained was the crumbly ascent that followed. Only about half of my group made it to the summit of the third peak (Andrew, Lynnale, Mike, and me). The views weren't as good as the first peak, but they were a welcome reward for conquering Hawaii's "Matterhorn". The only thing left was the meticulous return trip back to the cars. My impatience for return trips kicked in as I passed everyone else on the way back to the counrty club. All in all, I would say Olomana is one of the must do hikes on Oahu even if you only go to the first peak like most. If you are brave enough, you can even try to descend Ahiki's steep backside.   

Saturday, December 18, 2010

La'ie Summit Trail

View from the summit.
Date - June 5th, 2010
Length - 12 Miles Round Trip
Time - 5 Hours
Short&Sweet - Long, boring, hot, and long.

    Woo, my first hike! I decided to join a newly formed hiking group to do something new in my freetime. Today, said group decided on La'ie, a name that has come to represent all that is not good to me. The La'ie Trail starts in La'ie of all places. I'm as shocked as you.

 Welcome to La'ie!

 I hitched a ride with Andrew (the hike coordinator), and met up with fellow hikers Mike, Samantha, and Kelly in La'ie. Upon our arrival, I found out you actually need permission to hike here, but apparently no one ever bothers to obtain it. You will know you are at the trailhead by the private driveway on your right that has about ten threatening signs to dissuade trespassers. The trail starts on a long hot dry road which pretty much sums up this whole hike in my opinion.

Everyone looks so happy!
    Soon after we began gaining elevation, we started running into group after group of disgruntled hikers. All of them had ventured out to do a side trail that leads to La'ie Falls, complete with swimming hole. Unfortunately for them, the falls were dried up. Suckers. Then again we weren't much better off. Leaving the La'ie Falls junction behind, we started the very very very very long push to the summit. I swear to god this trail has more ups and downs that a freaking squiggly line. Oh look the summit! Ha, just kidding. That's just false summit number 234. Everyone eventually decided to stop for a break/heart to heart where Samantha and Kelly decided they were turning back. The rest of us decided to continue to endure this crap. We finally reached the summit which was about as climactic as watching paint dry. The great thing about this hike is that it left me with low expectations for other hikes which made them so much better. Andrew said we could follow the KST (Koolau Summit Trail) to other places, but all I saw was an endless sea of ferns. Plus KST meant absolutely nothing to me then. Alas, it was time to head home.

Aka ---> this way to ferns.
    Fun time! Mike realizes he has Samantha's keys when we depart the summit. So he takes off running back in hopes of saving the girls before they bake in the sun. I started running soon after because I get so impatient on return trips. Andrew, on the other hand, decides to take his dear sweet time due to a busted up knee, courtsey of falling off a cliff in a previous escapade. A little more than an hour later, and I'M FREE!!! Next stop, Kahuku Shrimp stands and rock jumping.

A tree