Friday, June 14, 2013

Completion of the Koʻolau Mountain Range

It was March 6th, 2008 when I did my first "hike", up to the top of  Lēʻahi, otherwise known as Diamond Head, the iconic crater that forms the skyline of Waikīkī.  From it's summit, I saw the cityscape in it's entirely.  Then, my eyes shifted towards the mountain range that dwarfs the urban city sprawl.  My curiosity got the best of me.  What was up there?  There was only one way to find out.  It was August 19th, 2008 when I hiked the Na Ala Hele state trail of Kuliʻouʻou and saw the windward view from the top of the Koʻolau Mountain Range for the first time in my life.  I eventually acquired Stuart Ball's "A Hiker's Guide to Oʻahu" and would continue to hike more trails up to different spots of the Koʻolaus.  The views were majestic from every point of the mountain range.  But I've noticed that there seemed to be a trail that went either left or right of each summit point of their respective trails.  I began to wonder, could all of these summit points be connected by way of what I've learned was the summit trail?

I began to research this summit trail and found virtually no documentation on the internet, except for a few old OHE (O'ahu Hiking Enthusiasts) articles with some film photographs that were scanned to digital.  I would soon discover Kaleo Lancaster's "Island Trails" blog with some information regarding the summit trail.  But overall, the entire summit trail from Pūpūkea to Makapuʻu was very little documented.  I wanted to change that.  I began my personal quest of section hiking the Koʻolau Mountain Range.  I started by connecting the southern portion of the range from Konahuanui to Makapuʻu.  It was then I would learn of the three Koʻolau saddles, the most dangerous portions of the entire mountain range.  There was one saddle that was virtually undocumented, the infamous Kalihi Valley Saddle or Kalihi Saddle for short.  As I made more friends in the local hiking community, we would set off to pioneer these saddles and document them in full detail for the future generation of hikers to come.  It was during the summer of 2011 when Marcus Griego, Jeremy Kreis, Michael Loftin, Rhonda Hutchinson, and myself became the first group of hikers to successfully traverse and document the Kalihi Saddle in it's entirely, at least during modern times.

All I had left to do now was document the northern Koʻolaus.  This area requires a lot of planning as the connector trails are much more scarce and the Koʻolau Summit Trail itself is very overgrown to the point of it not being discernible.  Also the topography is nothing but rolling hills everywhere you look, making navigation very difficult.  Once I had all the connector trails and the distance between them via the KST analyzed enough, my hiking friends and I proceeded to successfully section hike the remainder of the northern Koʻolaus to become among one of the first pioneers to traverse and document the Ko'olau Mountain Range from Pūpūkea to Makapuʻu.

On July 11, 2009, I did my very first Koʻolau summit traverse from Moanalua Middle Ridge to the Haʻikū Stairs. On May 5th, 2013, I did my very last Koʻolau summit traverse from Castle to Laʻie to complete the entire summit spine of the Koʻolau Mountain Range by section hiking via connector trails.

Below is a list (sorted by date) of every single hike I've done to "connect the dots" on the Koʻolau summit spine from Pupukea to Makapuʻu.  Some of these may overlap one another so take note of that when comparing these on a map.

7-11-2009: Moanalua Middle Ridge to Haʻikū Stairs (write up) (video)
1-21-2010: Kuliʻouʻou Ridge to Puʻu O Kona (write up) (video)
5-5-2010: Tripler Ridge to Haʻikū Stairs (video)
5-18-2010: Bowman to Haʻikū Stairs (video)
6-26-2010: Mariner's Ridge to Kuliʻouʻou (write up)(video)
9-12-2010: Halawa Ridge to Haʻikū Hidden Stairs (video)
10-8-2010: Olympus to Konahuanui (write up)(video)
10-18-2010: Olympus to Puʻu O Kona (write up) (video)
1-9-2011: Makapuʻu to Mariner's Ridge (write up) (video)
2-19-2011: Pali Lookout (Notches) to Konahuanui - Nuʻuanu Saddle (write up) (video)
4-3-2011: Kaupo Cliffs #3 to Hahaione Windward (write up) (video)
4-10-2011: Kamiloiki Ridge to Tom-Tom (write up) (video)
4-21-2011: Kulanaʻahane to Haʻikū Stairs - Moanalua Saddle (write up) (video)
5-10-2011: Kulanaʻahane to Red Hill Ridge - Moanalua Saddle (write up) (video)
5-15-2011: Pali Lookout (Puka) to Lanihuli - Nuʻuanu Saddle (write up) (video)
5-29-2011: Aiea Ridge to Kulanaʻahane - Moanalua Saddle (write up) (video)
7-15-2011: Kahuauli (Bowman) to Wilson Tunnels - Kalihi Saddle (write up) (video)
8-4-2011: Lanihuli to Wilson Tunnels - Kalihi Saddle (write up) (video)
9-29-2011: Waimano Ridge to Aiea Ridge (write up) (video)
11-12-2011: Manana to Waimano Ridge (write up) (video)
8-9/10-2012: Manana to Waiahole Uka (write up) (video)
10-21-2012: Waikane (Kaʻaumakua) to Waiahole Uka (write up) (video)
12-29-2012: Waikane (Kaʻaumakua) to Poamoho (write up) (video)
3-9-2013: Castle to Poamoho (write up) (video)
4-6-2013: Laʻie to Pūpūkea (write up) (video)
5-5-2013: Castle to Laʻie (write up) (video)

I want to give out shoutouts to every single person who accompanied me on these long, dangerous, and arduous treks.  If it wasn't for people like these guys and girls, there would be absolutely no way I could do this.  MAHALO NUI LOA to each and every single one of you!  And of course I would like to say mahalo to all who have supported me during these years.  There were many challenges to be overcome.  There were many battle scars along the way.  There was even a 20ft fall.  There were times that I just wanted to give up and go home, but I kept pushing forward.  I've learned so much from these awesome mountains to help me become a better person in life.  This was one that I wanted to do for myself and now I can truly go to sleep every night, knowing that I no longer have to wake up at 2am to do a 14-18 hour hike!  ;-) 

Lucky we live Hawaiʻi!  

Compilation of every single segment hike done.  Each clip is accompanied by it's aerial view!

Aerial footage of the Koʻolau Mountain Range from Makapuʻu to Pupukea (Be sure to watch in HD 1080p)

Another aerial footage of the Koʻolau Mountain Range from the other direction (Pupukea to Makapuʻu)

For those who can't view the embedded videos above can access them by following the link below:


  1. This is amazing! Congrats that you survived!

  2. Keep up the great work David. I know I always look at your pics and videos before I go on these hikes to better prepare myself. the hiking community is indebted to you. I know my some of my friends who are overweight and have limitations also look at your pics and videos. We all enjoy it and are grateful that you can bring Gods creation to the comforts of ppls home. Much Mahalos David and Godbless. Looking forward to your next video

  3. Wanting to do this sometime either 2022 0r 2023 this is an amazing accomplishment and this information will be super helpful. So little knowledge on the full trail.