January 11, 2011: Ko'olau Summit Ridge Trail from Wiliwilinui Ridge to Kuliouou Ridge
Last week's climb of Konahuanui's twin summits left me itching for more summit trail so when I was planning our next hike I had the KSRT on my mind. I figured we'd be able to most of our time edging along the spine of the Ko'olaus instead of climbing up a ridge to them.
Our day began at 6:15am at the parking lot of the Hawaii Kai Costco. We then dropped a car off at the Kuliouou Trail head and headed to Waialae Iki and checked in at the guard house for our pass for the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail. The great thing about this trail is you're leaving your car in a gated community with designated parking. How nice is that? We set off up the road to the water tank just before 7:00 am and asphalt gave way to dirt and gravel as we began the ascent up the ridge via the road which dates back to WWII. Back then Wiliwilinui was home to 8" naval guns and SCR-296A radar in an emplacement known as Battery Wilridge.
As we climbed the road we spotted the impact site of the plane crash just over a year ago and Nicholas Palumbo and his son Tim were killed enroute from Lanai back to Honolulu in some bad weather. The vegetation was already covering up much of the scar making me spend a little time thinking about how soon we're all forgotten as the traces of our lives are covered up in an ever changing world. Finally the road gave way to trail as we started up the steps that marked the real start of Wiliwilinui Trail.
Wiliwilinui - Hawaii Loa
The second leg of our journey began as the sun rose above Mokapu'u and Hawaii Kai. The summit trail was in good condition and despite the heavy rains the winter and in the days preceding our hike the mud wasn't too bad. Like most of the KST, we hiked along the edge of the cliffs following the ridge line with a steep drop off towards Waimanalo below. There were a few gentle climbs and descents initially as we wove our way through the vegetation.
|This segment required sure footing.|
|The Ko'olau Summit|
|I love the Ko'olau Summit!|
|II on a narrow ridge|
By the time we topped Pu'u O Kona my hiking partner was starting to get a little worn out. We took a break and I suggested he grab something to eat to refuel for the remaining leg to Kuliouou. Atop Pu'u O Kona towards the leeward side of the island there was a fantastic Kanawao, a endemic plant related to the Hydrangea, in the process of blooming. While my partner enjoyed the view I snapped pictures of the emerging blooms and the spectacular views.
The clear skies turned voggy and the sun began to beat down on as as we made our way across the summit towards Kuliouou. The trail's condition improved as I suspect this section receives a little more traffic. About midway there was a long double rope section but the condition of the rope and the steel anchor made for an easy and relatively worry free descent. After that valley we proceeded up towards the edge of the Kuliouou Forest Reserve.
By the time the hike was over we had been treated to some of the most spectacular and amazing views O'ahu has to offer. I could have knocked this trail out in 6 or 8 hours but this was my hiking partners 7th hike in his entire life. When it gets steep or there's any kind of drop off he is slow and careful because he just doesn't have the experience yet. Perfect for me because I can take all the pictures I want and do some exploring. He deserves a ton of credit for his can-do attitude and his determination!
I would NOT recommend this trail to anyone who's unfamiliar with the ridges along the route and doesn't have some fairly advanced hiking experience. There is a whole lot of potential for some really bad things to happen and getting stuck on any section of this trail at night would be extremely dangerous. More pictures of this trail and others I've done are can be viewed Flickr. Aloha and thanks for reading.