Hiking the Koolau Crest

compiled by Dayle Turner
Overview: For just about the whole way, the Koolau summit is hikeable from Pupukea to Makapuu. In fact, in 1973, the legendary Silver Piliwale hiked along the crest from Pupukea to Moanalua to celebrate his 72nd birthday. Twenty-five years later in May '98, Pat Rorie, Gene Robinson attempted to replicate Piliwale's feat.

What follows is a segment-by-segment rendering of the Koolaus with comments and links to some write-ups folks have done. Approximate hours needed to complete particular sections (if available) will be provided and does not include time needed to climb a ridge trail to the summit itself. Distances are approximate. The names of people listed are those known to this writer and are not all-inclusive nor meant to be.

Pupukea to Laie: Done by Pat Rorie and Dayle Turner on 8/3/97. Distance: 7.5 miles~. Time to complete: 7 hours. The Koolau Summit Trail (KST) [Gene Robinson dug up some interesting tidbits on it] starts in the hills above Pupukea, about an hour's walk on a jeep road from the Boy Scout Camp. In 1997, HTMC members Kris Corliss and Larry Oswald did some nice work on the first mile or so of the trail. Their effort was bolstered by the labors of the HTMC trail maintenance crew, so that at least half the distance between Pupukea and Laie is now very passable. However, much of the rest of the way to Laie remains overgrown, partly with uluhe but primarily with strawberry guava, making this segment the worst of the KST. Be prepared for a battering if you do this. Rorie and Wing Ng did Malaekahana to Laie on 9/21/97. Ng and Dayle Turner completed the same route in 1998 as did members of the HTMC maintenance crew in early '99. Rorie and Turner will lead an HTMC Super Hike up Malaekahana and down Laie in March '99.

Laie to Poamoho: Completed (Poamoho to Laie) by Pat Rorie, Pete Caldwell, Laredo Murray, and Dayle Turner on 5/26/97. Distance: 6.5 miles. Time to complete: 7 hours. Perhaps two-thirds of this leg is on the leeward-facing side of the KST, making for slow going. Read a writeup about the trek. Junctions with the Castle and Kawailoa Trails are passed enroute. Plenty of mud!!

Poamoho to Schofield: Completed by Wing Ng, Pat Rorie, and Dayle Turner on 7/26/97. Time to complete: 2.6 hours. Turner and Rorie also did this on 5/4/97 in 2.2 hours. Distance: 2 miles. This is one of the most beautiful sections of trail on Oahu and includes a long, wonderful stretch on the windward-facing side of the Koolau Summit Trail with awesome views into Kahana and Waikane Valleys. One can also descend to the windward side via the Waikane Trail which crests out about 15-20 minutes from the top of the Schofield Trail. For those who are interested, Stuart Ball, in his book *Backpackers Guide to Oahu* describes the KST from Laie to Schofield in excellent detail. Ball's book includes a picture of Carole K. Moon of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club making her way through one of the many mudpits along the route.

Schofield to Kipapa: Completed (Kipapa to Schofield) by Gene Robinson, Pete Caldwell, Pat Rorie, Don Fox, Laredo Murray, and Dayle Turner on 6/21/97. Time to complete section: 4.5 hours. Distance: 3 miles. The second worst section of the KST where the above group lost the trail on a handful of times. Most of the way is to leeward, where vegetation is heaviest. The ascent of Kipapa is long and demanding.

Kipapa to Manana: Completed by Gene Robinson, Pete Caldwell, Laredo Murray, Pat Rorie, and Dayle Turner on 10/25-26/97. Time to complete section: 8 hours. Distance: 4 miles. Almost certainly requires an overnight stay in the mountains to complete the crest section and come out to civilization. Write-ups about this trek were done by Caldwell, Turner, and Rorie.

Manana to Waimano: Probably the most highly-traveled section of the crest from Pupukea to Konahuanui. Done by Pat Rorie, Gaby Canalizo, Gene Robinson, and many others. Time to complete segment: 2 hours. Distance: 1.5 miles. Canalizo's account is particularly interesting because it includes pictures and because she and her companion spent an unintended night out on the crest. The HTMC conducted its first-ever "Super Hike" on this route in the summer of '98. Rorie and Turner led it.

Waimano to Waimalu Middle Ridge: Completed by Pat Rorie, Laredo Murray, Pete Caldwell, Gene Robinson, Torrey Goodman and Dayle Turner in August '97. Time to complete section: 2 hours. Distance: 1.2 miles. A group of HTMC members, including Grant Oka, completed this also. Wing Ng did Waimano to Waiau, needing just 30 minutes or so.

Waimalu Middle to Aiea Ridge: Completed (Aiea to Waimalu) in 4 hours by Gene Robinson on 11/15/97 and in 3 hours by Pat Rorie on Thanksgiving Day '97. Distance: 2.5 miles. Stuart Ball and Jason Sunada, starting at dawn and ending at just past sunset, went from Aiea Ridge to Waimano a few years ago.

Aiea Ridge to Halawa: Completed by Pat Rorie in early 1997 and by Rorie, Dayle Turner and Nathan Yuen on 4/19/98. At one time, a 1993 Nissan Sentra sat on a pu'u just north of the Halawa summit. As of 4/98, this car is no longer there. Pete Caldwell and Don Fox, and Stuart Ball and company also completed this section. Time to complete segment: 2.5 to 3 hours. Distance: 1.6 miles.

Halawa to Moanalua Valley Saddle: Completed by Pat Rorie in early 1997. This section includes a steep, hazardous ascent from the saddle and an overgrown crest. Time to complete: 3 hours. Distance: 1 mile.

Moanalua Valley Saddle to Keahiakahoe: Reportedly completed by HTMC vet Dick Schmidt--date unknown. This section includes cables/ropes to negotiate steep cliffs. One will eventually reach an intersection with the Haiku Stairs. On 4-18/98, Pat Rorie and Laredo Murray attempted to descend this ridge to the Moanalua Valley saddle but decided against continuing when confronted with a steep dropoff.

Keahiakahoe to Kahuauli (Bowman Summit): Done by many. Time to complete segment: The summit of the Haiku Stairs and Tripler Ridge are accessible or along the way. Read a Keahiakahoe write-up. Stuart Ball, in *Hikers Guide to Oahu* describes part of the ridge section in his write-up about the Keahiakahoe hike. Pat Rorie, Nathan Yuen, Dayle Turner and others hiked from Keahiakahoe to Kahuauli on 4/5/98.

Kahuauli to Lanihuli: Not done by anyone to my knowledge although old maps show a trail (rated "dangerous") along this ridge. The descent to the Kalihi Valley saddle from Kahuauli and the climb to Lanihuli from the saddle are precipitous and certainly will require ropes and other climbing gear if attempted. Pete Caldwell and Don Fox ascended to the saddle via a steep trail above the Wilson Tunnel.

Lanihuli to Konahuanui: While descending to the Pali Lookout from Lanihuli is possible and has been done, much danger exists. Pete Caldwell and Don Fox went from Lanihuli and descended a ridge to a point off the Pali Highway. Caldwell gave me a copy of an old article that described an extremely perilous ascent from the Pali Lookout. During the battle of Nuuanu, warriors of Kamehameha descended from Konahuanui to the notches above the lookout to sack a cannon crew occupying the high ground. Pete Caldwell took a nice shot of the ridge leading to the Pali Lookout from Lanihuli and another shot of the Pali Lookout taken from Konahuanui.

Konahuanui to Olympus: Distance: 1.6 miles. Completed by many, including Jason Sunada on 8/3/97; Wing Ng, Mike Uslan and five others on 11/9/97, by Pat Rorie, Art Neilson, Mike Adams, and Laredo Murray on 11/22/97, and by Dayle Turner and twelve others on 1/25/98. Time to complete segment: 3 to 6 hours. Section features a rock/cable section and a narrow ridge section topped by Ironwoods. Uslan posted a nice shot of the ridge route to Olympus and a nice shot of the crest.

Olympus to Makapuu: Distance: 10 miles. Completed in 12 hours by Tony Gill, Sid Sturgis, Roger Sims, and Malcolm Kirkpatrick on 6/21/67, and by Rorie, Robinson, and Murray in July '98. Many shorter segments and combinations possible and completed by many. Pete Caldwell captured the initial descent from Olympus on film. Certain sections (above Kaau Crater; Wiliwilinui to Middle; Hawaii Loa to Kulepeamoa) are well-cleared thanks to the work of the HTMC and individuals like Gerald Leao et al. The Makapuu to Kuliouou section is mostly wide open. Some write-ups about this section:

Kuleapeamoa to Hawaii Loa
Mariner's to Hawaii Loa
Makapuu to Kamehame
Mariner's to Kamehame
Waialae Nui to Olympus
Waialae Nui to Kuliouou
Makapuu to Mariner's
More write-ups are available and will be linked as time permits.

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