Monday, December 3, 2012

9-14-2012: Moanalua Middle Ridge to Haiku Stairs

Ever wanted to climb the Haiku Stairs without waking up in the wee hours of the morning?  If so, then this hike is the best route to do so.  Normally, people will cut through people's yards to reach the access road that follows along the H-3 freeway.  This road is where the bottom of the stairs begin.  However, one can get a full night's sleep, wake up to a beautiful Hawaiian sunrise, and head on down to Moanalua Valley Park to begin this roughly 5 to 7 hour trek to the top of the Stairway to Heaven.  The Moanalua Valley actually begins on the leeward side of the Ko`olaus by Halawa and Red Hill.  To get to Moanalua Valley Park from Honolulu, take the H-1 going westbound.  Once you are at the Likelike Highway and Middle St. area, keep left onto H201.  Keep heading west on H201 and take Exit 2: Moanalua Valley/Salt Lake/Red Hill.  Parallel the freeway for a short distance and then turn right onto Ala Aolani St.  Follow this street until it dead ends at the Moanalua Valley Park.  If coming from the west side of the island or the North Shore, take Exit 13B to Halawa Heights and merge with H201 eastbound.  Proceed to take Exit 2 and parallel the freeway before making a left on Ala Napunani St. and finally left onto Ala Aolani St.  Unless you are only hiking the Moanalua Valley Trail, I highly recommend that you park outside the park because the gates close at around 7pm, which would ultimately strand your car inside and potentially towed.

The hike begins with a 3 mile road which crosses numerous streams.  Just about all of them can be crossed via small bridges, which avoids the slight elevation change with the mostly dry stream beds.  About halfway in is a large boulder with ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs.  After a large clearing, the number 12 marker with a trail going up is reached.  This is the start of the Tripler Ridge Trail.  Ignore this and continue on for another mile or so before reaching the junction on the left hand side with the Kulana`ahane Trail, marked with a sign.  Be careful here.  Many hikers get confused because this is a double junction.  The Kulana`ahane Trail continues along the Moanalua Valley to pick up a small spur ridge that tops out at the lowest portion of the Moanalua Saddle, overlooking Haiku Valley and the H-3.  Ignore this and proceed about 20ft or so beyond the trail head sign, keeping your eyes on the left.  You'll pick up another faint trail marked with some ribbons.  This is the trail that leads up the Moanalua Middle Ridge.

At the beginning, the uluhe can be thick at times but the trail is easily discernible.  About halfway up, the ridge becomes dominated with windswept vegetation.  It doesn't roller coaster much, instead it keeps a true upward fashion so be prepared for some huffing and puffing.  The next feature is a large boulder that makes for a good portrait shot by sitting on it.  Enjoy it now because one day, this boulder may be sent downward as erosion takes it's toll on it.  Following the boulder is a somewhat narrow dike, but it can be crossed easily without much fear of falling.  Beyond that is a rope section.  By now, the summit is easily visible and one can actually trace the remaining trail leading up to it.  Over to the right of it along the summit ridge stands the peaks of Tripler Ridge and Bowman.  All of these can be connected to the Haiku Stairs, making this section of the Ko`olau crest a fun one.

Eventually the last serious climb lies ahead.  From a distance, it can looking menacing but upon closer inspection, it's bark is worse than it's bite.  The grade of ascent is not bad at all and is even accompanied by a long rope.  Past this and you're almost home free to the summit.  If the clouds are not socking the summit ridge, the CCL building and it's 2 dishes are visible over to the left hand side.  A few 100 yards and the summit of Keahi a Kahoe is acquired, marked by a benchmark and with a wonderful view of windward O`ahu.  Continue to Haiku Stairs by turning left on the summit crest and proceed north for about a quarter mile to top out at the CCL building.  The trail is slippery and muddy as this receives a ton of foot traffic.

Congratulations, you've reached the top of Stairway to Heaven without climbing any stairs!  Enjoy the marvelous views.  From here, you can turn around and go back down the way you came from, or you can continue down the Haiku Stairs to reach the bottom of Haiku Valley.  You may or may not encounter the guard but if you do, please do not get aggressive with him.  They currently don't have instructions for dealing with people going down the stairs so he will often ask you how the hike was and show you the way out.  There's no need for concern, they are very familiar with the "back route" to the stairs.  If you do decide to go down the stairs, make sure you arrange transportation to shuttle you back to Moanalua Valley Park.

If you have climbed the Haiku Stairs, but never tried accessing it's top from this way, give this hike a try!  You'll be able to say you've hiked up and over the Ko`olaus from leeward to windward!

Check out another tale when I hiked this very route at night!

1 comment:

  1. AMAZING!!! This one is going to be done very soon by me! Thanks for the pics!