Saturday, July 27, 2013

Moanalua Saddle to Haiku Stairs Hike

It's been quite some time since I've gone on a new trail and a trail worth writing about. Nick wanted to check out the Moanalua Saddle trail and hook up with the stairs so we could get down. I have to say, because of the terrain and likeliness of severely hurting or killing yourself on this hike, it's definitely one of the most crazy and extreme hikes on the island. Compared to True Manamana, I thought this hike was more difficult.

You're pretty much traveling on a narrow path that consists mainly of loose dirt and rocks along with far drops on either side. Depending on the weather, you might also need to deal with intense gusts of wind. If it rains, this hike may not even be possible. You shouldn't attempt this hike if you are afraid of heights or are not sure of your hiking abilities.

Before you reach the trail that takes you to the saddle, you walk along a long and mostly flat trail through Moanalua valley. After a couple hours of walking along the trail, which is pretty boring, you reach a fork where you can either choose the easier Moanalua ridge hike or the more advanced Moanalua Saddle hike. Both trails will lead you to the top of Haiku Stairs, but the Moanalua Saddle trail will require more physical and mental strength. Nick's friends from work joined us but weren't willing to risk their lives on the saddle trail, so they took the path to the ridge trail. You need to overcome any fear of falling as well as any uncertainty in your abilities when you attempt this hike. If you aren't confident, you may freeze up on the more difficult parts and can potentially seriously injure or kill yourself. If you absolutely need to, you can call fire rescue for help, but just know that they will take at least an hour or so at the earliest with a helicopter to get out to you. This hike requires careful thinking but also reasonable speed as well because if you spend too much time contemplating your route while trying to ascend a section, the mountain may give way and you could be tumbling down the steep mountain face. Also, on a minor note, if you don't want to catch a taxi or inconvenience

The climb up to the saddle is a steep one and will probably tire out any unconditioned hikers. After reaching the ridge, you get a nice view overlooking the H3, Kaneohe, and Kailua. At the ridge (and end of the state sanctioned trail) you can turn left, turn back and go the way you came, or continue in the Diamond Head direction towards the top of Haiku Stairs. The trail to the top of Haiku is loose and crumbly almost all the way, and people have even brought spikes for the hike. The way I remember the trail, there are 3 milestone obstacles on the hike. After you pass the third one, the rest of the trail is relatively smooth sailing up to the top of Haiku. These 3 sections require calculation and some climbing skill, and there may or may not be rope installed. When we went, the rope on one of these sections was removed for some reason, and Nick climbed up to drop some rope for me. We brought some 290lb work load rope to be safe, and it really came in handy. I don't know how Nick managed to get up that section, but he frequents the Volcanic Rock Gym, so I wasn't surprised that he was able to climb up the loose rocks.

The first difficult section was ok, and we were able to get up safely and quickly. There are other climbing sections spread out throughout the hike but were not as difficult as the 3 major parts. Eventually you reach what we called the pyramid, a large and almost vertical section of the mountain shaped like a pyramid. We weren't too eager to climb straight up the pyramid, but there is a route that goes up the right side. That route is steep as well, but you won't have strong winds trying to throw you off the mountain. Nick and I attempted different ways of getting past the pyramid, and Nick reached the top when I was about 2/3 of the way there. He dropped me the rope, and I just went up since my way was a little more steep and loose. Relieved that we got past the pyramid, we continued on, only to be stopped by the third difficult section. This was the one where there was rope previously, but for some reason it had been removed. After my failed attempts to get up, Nick was able to get up but told me he wasn't feeling too comfortable when pulling himself up. He dropped me the rope he tied to a metal stake that had been installed, and I was able to get over the section.

After seeing how many difficult sections we had already passed, Nick and I were expecting more but soon found that the rest of the trail was just cardio-intensive hiking. After following the trail towards the stairs, we came upon the older set of stairs that led to the radio tower at the top of Haiku. These stairs were in decent shape considering they probably weren't maintained, but the low amount of traffic on these stairs probably played a factor in helping maintain their condition.

At the top of the stairs, we met up with Nick's friends who had reached the tower about 45 minutes before us. Surprisingly, they were dirtier than us. The trip down the stairs went as usual, and it was nice to have a solid path to hike down on. Nick and I were both imagining going back the way we came up and thought about how much longer we would have taken. In all, the hike took us about 5 hours, and I think the average time would be about 6-7 hours. I didn't get many pictures since both of us were worrying more about hanging on to the mountain, so we're planning on going back sometime so that we can enjoy the scenery and bring back some pictures of the experience.