Saturday, August 13, 2011

KSRT- Konahuanui to Awa'awaloa (Olympus)

After Tuesday's small outings to the Pali Notches and Ka'iwa Ridge I was left unsatisfied and I guess a little bit moody because Wednesday my wife kicked me out of the house ordering me to go find a trail.  I'd already slept through the Halawa to Hidden Stairway hike and I didn't really have much of a plan when I got into the Jeep and headed into town.  The Ko'olaus were mostly cloud free with a high overcast layer so it was a great day to do something a little longer than a normal ridge trail so I figured it was time to knock out the final segment of the KSRT I've been meaning to do for months now, the Ko'olau summit from Konahuanui to Awa'awaloa also known as Mt. Olympus.

Driving through the light but amazingly irritating traffic on the Pali I ran though some of the options of which trails to use to get to Konahuanui and down Olympus and back to my car but finally decided to take the Kalawahine Trail to Pauoa Flats up to Konahuanui and just follow the Waahila Ridge Trail down from Awa'awaloa.   That meant I'd need a ride from Waahile State Recration Area back to Tantulus Drive at the end of the day.

I arrived at the trail head of the Kalawahine at exactly 0907 and headed onto the trail.  I've been on this Na Ala Hele trail several times before doing Konahuanui, connecting to the Manoa Cliffs Trail, and a few other short outings.  There's a native snail habitat, at least according to a sign, along the way although I've never stopped to look for any.  Being a weekday, there was nobody else on the trail until I ran across two guys and their hunting dogs just before the Aihualama Trail Junction.  I stopped to talk story for a few minutes and pet a few of the dogs before continuing on.  I arrived to an overcast view from Pauoa Flats of Nu'uanu Valley at 0951 according to the time stamps on these shots.
Pauoa Flats
Nu'uanu Valley from Pauoa Flat
Käwa'u flower
Symetrical ohia
naupaka kuahiwi
Ohia ha
 I couldn't help but take a few minutes to enjoy the view of the valley below and of my second favorite peak Lanihuli.  After a few minutes it was time to move on.  Contouring along the ridge I stopped myself from spending too much time looking at all the plant life around me but couldn't resist taking the time to examine and snap few pictures of the mountain naupaka, naupaka kuahiwi, with it's half purple flowers, this really neat symmetrical  ohia, these budding and blooming ohia ha flowers, or the flowers of the Hawaiian holly, Käwa'u. 

About midway up the ridge

The KSRT Junction
Continuing up the ridge, I heard voices near the first rope section.  As I topped it I saw two younger looking guys about 100 yards ahead of me on the trail.  I followed in their wake as we made the steep ascent up Konahuanui as the clouds began to roll in.  It seems every time I approach the Ko'olau summit they do this!  We arrived at the summit of K2 with just the occasional glimpse down into Maunawili and chatted about our plans  while I ate my first meal of the day, a chocolate oat bar.  After a while I decided it was time to get moving so I gathered up my stuff and headed to the junction a few yards back with the KSRT and into the unknown.
Misty Beginning
I was a little disappointed to see that I'd be in an out of the clouds for a while as I started down the ridge but a few minutes down the trail the clouds vanished and the entire Ko'olau summit was laid out before me.  The visibility was so good I could see Molokai, Lanai, and even west Maui beyond which is pretty unusual.  There was still a high overcast layer but that just meant I wouldn't get as hot.  I couldn't believe my luck. 
Continuing down the trail I marveled at the views of the windward side and all the amazing plant life.  For the most part the trail all the way to Manoa Middle Ridge was clear and pretty easy.  There are a few spots where you're literally walking on the endge of a 1000 foot plus cliff but overall it's a very tame section of the KSRT.  Some of the highlights along the way included a lobelia (singularis?) and a nice pinkish Lehua Papa flower.

Further down the trail, I spotted the first Metrosideros macropus I've ever seen actually growing on the summit of the Ko'olaus.  It was even on the windward side of the trail right along the edge of the pali!   I've always seen them on the leeward side at lower elevations.  I didn't realize they'd tolerate the harsher conditions of the summit but this one seemed very healthy and happy.

As I got closer to Manoa Middle Ridge, I ran across a really nice large Ohe mauka, tetraplasandra oahuensis.  This endemic relative to ivy is still fairly common on O'ahu.  Nearby a Kanawao was also in bloom.

 Enjoying the amazing views and the cool windy conditions of the summit, I continued my advance towards Awa'awaloa.  I really couldn't believe how lucky I was to be enjoying such great visibility considering the terrible luck I'd been having with the weather over the last few weeks.
Maunawili Valley and the spine of the Ko'olaus
More ridge
Loulu Palms

About midway to Manoa Middle Ridge, I passed through an area with a small patch of Loulu palms.  These endemic fan palms were once common all over the island prior to the arrival of humans and the pest that they brought with them, the polynesian rat.  This was the first time I'd actually seen the evidence of the rats eating the loulu seeds.

My favorite shot of Maunawili Valley
Continuing across the spine of the Ko'olaus, I arrived at the junction of Manoa Middle Ridge.  A few weeks prior a group had been through the area so it was mostly clear and it even appeared to have new ropes.

Departing Manoa Middle ridge I was now approaching the two obstacles  I'd been concerned about- Ironwood Ridge and Sedan Rock.  I hike a lot by myself (not really smart) so I try and really be cautious.  What I'd read had made me a bit leery about trying this crossing by myself.  I'd also seen the video what appears to be a narrow ridge in that same area.  When I saw the unmistakable needles of an ironwood tree ahead, I mentally tensed and prepared myself for the worst.  Would I wuss out and have to turn around and head back down Manoa Middle Ridge with my tail between my legs?  Here's the dreaded section....
Sedan Rock
Ironwood Ridge

This is the much hyped section. 
Cautiously I examined the narrow ridge and exposed dyke looking for signs of danger.  I had to be missing something because it looked pretty darn safe to me.  The eroding dyke was actually encased in one of the hardest of the hardwood trees in Hawaii.  What was the trick here?  I moved onto the ridge looking for surprise and found none.  You just can't believe everything you read on the internet...  Breezing past the vaunted Ironwood Ridge, I was now on the lookout for the dreaded Sedan Rock.  It too turned out to be a nonevent with a rope and a strap to assist with passage.  All that was left now was a narrow dyke that formed the ridge across a small saddle.  It wasn't really that narrow and there's a bypass running right next to it if you don't feel like balancing your way across the saddle.  I did a little of both the ridge walk and the bypass.
Looking back to Konahuanui
With the only two things I'd be concerned about behind me, I was rewarded with a great view back along the path I'd taking from Konahuanui.  The weather was still fantastic.  As if that wasn't enough for my trouble, there was a Lehua Papa, metrosideros rugosa, putting on an awesome display of flowers.  This is probably my favorite form of ohia.

Decisions, decisions...
It wasn't long before I reached Awa'awaloa where I'd be leaving the summit and taking the Waahila Ridge Trail back to urban O'ahu.  This junction appeared in the trail and I could see where it contoured over to the ridge trail.  That would save me a small but steep climb to the summit of Awa'awaloa.  Considering one of my goals is to eventually do the entire spine of the Ko'olaus, it would irritate me to no end to take this small shortcut.  I clawed my way up through the mud to the summit of Mt. Olympus.

Awa'awaloa / Mt. Olympus
I was actually pretty tired by the time I'd topped Awa'awaloa.  I could have laid down and taken a nap right then and there.  Two oat bars since waking up meant I was running a little low on fuel.   Instead, I started down the Waahile Ridge Trail.  I'm really nut much of a fan of this trail but it does afford some nice views of Manoa Valley and Ka'au Crater on the top third of the trail.  Descending down I stopped to take in a couple of great views and enjoy some of the large ohia trees this ridge hosts.

A few pictures of the trip down... 

I rolled into the parking lot of Waahila State Recreation Area a little before 5pm.  I'd called Mrs. XJ hoping to time it perfectly with me walking out of the pine trees and her pulling into the parking lot.  No suck luck!  She ended up on Round Top Drive, near where my car was parked.  Eventually we got it straightened out.  After all, she could have just left me there...

The completion of this segment means I've only got Pali Notches to Konahuanui left to complete the Eastern Ko'olaus.  I guess I should throw Piliwale in there from good measure too.  I was so lucky to do this section on such a great day!

More pictures from this trail and others I've done can be seen on Flickr.  Aloha and mahalo for reading!


  1. Amazing pics as usual! We'd love your review of the trail along with your photos here: