Olomana--Another Ascent

Olomana--Another Ascent

Olomana, referred to by some as Oahu's version of the Matterhorn, is one of windward side's unmistakable landmarks [48K GIF Image]. So sheer are its flanks that it seems unclimbable. A trail to the top of Olomana does exist and I made my fourth ascent of it recently.

In Hawaiian, Olomana roughly translates to "divided hill." According to legend, Olomana was a renowned warrior, a giant of a man who stood over thirty feet tall and dominated the lands of windward Oahu from Makapu'u to Kualoa. The king of Oahu at that time, 'Ahuapau, dispatched one of his top warriors, Palila, to square off with Olomana. In the ensuing confrontation, Palila, gifted with supernatural powers, sliced the windward giant in half. The top portion flew off and landed near the ocean while the bottom half remained at the battle site and became Mount Olomana.

The trail up Olomana begins along an access road leading to the golf course in Maunawili Valley. To get to the trailhead, I parked near a bridge just off of Kalanianaole Highway near Auloa Road and then walked about a mile. On the way, I passed a guard shack where I was asked to leave my name (in my experience, the guard there always has been genial). Further along the road, the point where the trail begins is unmistakable, for a large hand- painted sign on the left marks the spot.

A few paces into the forest, a tattered flyer hung from a tree asking passers-by to be on the lookout for Tim Pantaleone, a hiker who was last seen in tramping about in Maunawili Valley more than a year ago. Despite a massive search effort, he was never found.

Early on, the trail passes under a sunlight-shielding canopy of trees and vegetation. At a spot where the path bends left and up, an abandoned pumping shack sits in the shadow of a huge banyan tree with vines intertwined so tightly that they appear like the kind of thick rope used to tie-down ships.

I continued along, ascending along the gradually sloping trail through aromatic ferns and Christmas berry. It was mostly quiet here, save for the occasional shrill call of a forest bird and the rustle of leaves from a puff of wind. The trail, mostly compacted red dirt in the lower section, was also dry, making for sure footing. I have hiked Olomana when the path was slick--not enjoyable at all.

The path opened up at an eroded spot beneath a grove of Ironwood trees. From that vantage point, views makai can be had for the first time. I stopped there to gulp down some water and enjoy the gently trade wind gusts that swept makai to mauka from the foothills below.

After the short respite, my upward march re-commenced. I passed through the ironwoods, the wind sighing steadily between the branches, sounding the way a jet engine sounds from the inside of an airplane. Underfoot, dried needles from the trees carpeted the ground, cushioning my footfalls.

Beyond the ironwoods, the trail beelined up the north ridge of to Olomana's summit. I ascended through a corridor of Christmas berry and lauwae ferns, passing by several large pohaku along the trail (I always find comfort from touching these stones). At the hike's 45 minute mark, I reached the base of a sizable rocky section--100 feet by my estimate. Although fairly steep, the segment--best scaled along the right side--is manageable because of a plethora of tree branches, roots, and rocks that serve as foot- and handholds. I took my second break here, and then climbed the section without incident.

The angle of ascent became less pronounced as I neared the top. In some sections, the ridge also became much narrower. Vegetation offerred some security. To reach the crown of Olomana, I had to negotiate two more hurdles--a near vertical 12-foot rockface and a narrow neck right before the apex. To assist the ascent, a cable and two ropes are affixed to a tree atop the rockface. The first time I hiked up Olomana, I turned back after being confronted with the rockface, for I lacked confidence in my ability to hoist myself up it and in the ability of the ropes and cable to support 245 pounds of sweating hiker. This time, with two other successful ascents of Olomana already completed, I had figured out the correct line of attack and made it up easily.

After the rockface, the top is minutes away. The trail veers to the right side of a quite narrow section of the ridge. The dropoff is quite considerable there but the path is wide enough and an ample amount of spots exist to place hands and feet so that negotiating this isn't death-defying. Admittedly, thoughts of free-falling hundreds of feet usually produce a wide-eyed, hair-raising adrenaline rush in first-time Olomana ascenders. I've seen this enough times to vouch for this.

The top of Olomana (elevation 1,643 feet) is a rocky outcrop with a 360-degree view of windward Oahu. To the west and southwest is the Koolau Mountain range and its bevy of peaks I've ascended or hope to ascend. From right to left they are Keahiakahoe, Kahuauli, Lanihuli, Konahuanui, Olympus, Lanipo, and Pu'u O Kona. To the east, catamarans cruised offshore in Kailua Bay and near the Mokulua Islands off Lanikai. A single bird swooped a hundred feet above me, and glided without effort to the green expanse below. Sweet breezes evaporated the moistness from my sopping wet mesh shirt.

The trail continues down the southern flank of Olomana to what hikers refer to as the second (or middle) and third peaks. Unbeknownst to most, these also have names. The second is Paku'i, named after the caretaker of the fishponds that used to exist in nearby Kailua. The third peak (and the most dangerous to climb) is Ahiki, the warrior Olomana's most favored overseer.

Satisfied with my accomplishment for this day, I decided against continuing on to Paku'i and Ahiki, and after ten soul-soothing minutes at the summit, I stuffed my water bottle into my pack and ever so carefully made my way down Olomana. I descended the steep mountain, mindful of where ever bootstep landed, but also with visions of my next hike, a cool drink, a delicious meal, and Hawaiian giants floating in my thoughts.

Some nice pics of Olomana I found while searching the web.
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