Friday, November 4, 2011

11-2-2011: Koko Crater North Rim (Night Hike)

Kevin called me up the night before and asked if I wanted to do a short hike.  Since my last hike was the very very long Waimano to Aiea Ridge hike last month, I thought, "Why not?" and since I've done the Koko Crater Rim a while back, I decided to add a twist: hiking it at night.  Kevin agreed and I scrambled to get a crew together.  In the end, it was Neel, Francis, Thessa, and Tarnia.  We decided to start on the Hawai`i Kai Dr. side of the crater since the botanical garden was closed and probably guarded by security.  As I drove through the urban sprawl of Honolulu, torrential rains fell over the H-1, but I was not discouraged.  The weather was utterly wet around the main Ko'olaus, but the Hawaii Kai area was completely dry as usual in that area.

After parking our cars in the near by neighborhood area at around 8pm, we crossed Hawai`i Kai Dr. and dropped into a cement ditch to pick up the slope of the crater on the other side.  Francis took the lead and up we went through a dry and dusty forest to gain the crest of the north rim.  From there, I took the lead and pierced the darkness with my headlamp.  As we progressed further up, the ridge line narrowed, sometimes very thin, but contouring is possible to bypass most of the very sketchy sections.  It was a pretty eerie feeling to be standing on a narrow dike with 2 drops into the black depths below.  Like hiking in the clouds, there's that feeling of uncertainty to what's truly around you.

We took several breaks along the way and enjoyed the beautiful landscape as the lights of Hawaii Kai lit up the ground like white Christmas lights (the holidays are coming!).  I took out my tripod and took some night exposures of the lit up city scape.  Kevin pointed out a lit up subdivision looking towards Makapu'u that looked like a sailboat when the city lights are on.

Somewhere about halfway up, we were unexpectedly greeted with a very bright green laser beam, originating somewhere from the subdivisions across Hawaii Kai Dr.  Francis pointed out that there's a skate park in that area and was probably some kids with nothing better to do then to point laser beams at hikers at night.  I then remembered incidents where people flashed green laser pointers at airplanes coming in for a landing.  That is just utterly stupid and dangerous for them to do that.  Soon, it began to get very irritating so I had the crew hold position and turn off our headlamps for a while.  It appeared to work and the green beam was gone.  A little further up, a regular flash light was directed at us from another section of the neighborhood and appeared to be flashing morse code at us, perhaps asking if we were in distress.  Unfortunately we did not know morse code and simply ignored it.  Later on, a BIG white spot light was aimed at us from yet another area of the neighborhood.  At first I thought it was maybe an HPD officer but that thankfully was not the case.  Finally, if any of those other lights were not enough, a blinding blue laser pointer beam was directed from us from a 4th location in the same general area, much more powerful than the already powerful green laser pointer.  Hawaii Kai apparently loves their lights and laser pointers.

Soon we began contouring on the left side of the crest and lost sight of the laser beam.  At about the 3/4th point, we scrambled up some rock faces, made our way carefully through cactus groves, and walked over a final set of narrow dikes before coming upon the final rock face just before the summit.  It looks bad from below but up close, it's a cakewalk with plenty of hand and foot holds.  We soon acquired the summit and reached the metal platform.

The views of Hawaii Kai all the way as far as Diamond Head and Waikiki were wonderful at night.  Since it was getting late, we opted out of doing the Halona Blowhole side of the rim.  After resting here for some time and taking photos, we went to the top of the tram tracks/stairs/"Stairway to Hell".  Kevin pointed out a long tunnel just beyond the top of the stairs that leads into a huge bunker with several rooms.  I've never knew about the tunnel so we decided to take a look before we headed down the stairs.

Neel decided to skip the tunnel part and proceeded down the stairs first while the rest of us followed.  The time was a little after midnight when we reached the Koko Head Marina to retrieve the car and ferry us back to the neighborhood to get our cars.  If you are curious about what hiking is like at night, give the Koko Crater Stairs a try.  I probably wouldn't recommend traversing the rim itself at night, but the stairs leading to the summit makes for a great spot on a full moon night!

No video was taken on this hike for obvious reasons, however check out a video 
of a video I took last year when we did the Koko Crater Rim during the day.

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