Ka'ala 2x P2K

Dec 22, 2019

With: Ryan Burd

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile
previously climbed Jun 9, 2014


This was a repeat of a hike I did more than five years earlier, but was happy to do it again to allow my son the chance to reach the island highpoint. My daughter was supposed to join as well, but came up with an odd excuse the night before that gave me the impression she was afraid of being shown up by her brother. I'm not exactly sure why, but it was just Ryan and I heading out from our AirBnB before 8a on Sunday morning. It was only a 15min drive to the trailhead at the end of Waianae Valley Rd, the third time I had been to this trailhead in less than a week. There was a party of five Hawaiian natives (looked like a dad with four sons) starting out at the same time, but they forked off on an unsigned trail to the right soon after starting out. We saw a couple coming down the road a few minutes later, but it was clear they hadn't been up to Ka'ala - no mud on any parts of them. In fact we would be the only ones going to the summit today, it seemed. Conditions were not ideal - windy, cloudy at the top so no views there, wet and muddy for the last mile of trail. Still, it was nice to have cool weather for a change on the west side of Oahu and we drank less than a quarter each on the whole outing, a little over 7mi total with 3,400ft of gain.

The first 1.2mi of trail follows the continuing road behind a locked gate that services a few County of Honolulu water installations up the road. The road ends where a covered picnic table is found, an Eagle Scout project by one of the local Scouts. From there the route turns to a trail as it climbs steadily, sometimes steeply, as it makes its way up to a saddle on Ka'ala's West Ridge. The trail is in good shape, no brush to contend with and only a few downed trees. The saddle is reached at a place called Three Poles, where utility lines run up and over the ridge. A pig fence appears along the ridge running west-east, useful for handholds on the steeper sections. A lesser trail forks left to Peak 3,020ft, one of the summits I climbed with Nandor earlier in the week. We turned right to follow the ridgeline east. It becomes almost knife-edged in places where it marks the sharp divide between Waianae Valley to the south and Makaha Valley to the north. The route soon grows steep as old ropes and cables appear to assist on the sketchier sections. Steps had even been installed on one rocky section. These are most helpful when the ground is wet and slippery, conditions we would find as we climbed higher where the clouds kept the ground from drying out despite the windy conditions. Once past the last rope, the route flattens out across the boggy summit plateau. A fence surrounds this sensitive area with a boardwalk laid down through the stunted forest for the last half mile. It took us two hours to reach the military/FAA facility at the northeast end of the summit plateau. We crossed the road and followed a use trail to the highground at the perimeter fence where the Ka'ala benchmark can be found. We paused briefly here to rest and hydrate, but without views, we had little reason to hang around. It took us almost as long to go down as it had taken going up, thanks to the many steep sections that were a bit more treacherous going down with gravity-assisted slippage. We each took a few minor spills but nothing serious, and were pretty well covered in mud by the time we reached Three Poles again. The ground was drier descending from here, giving our boots a chance to dry some before we got back to the TH shortly after noon. A good workout to be sure - now it was time for some kalua pork. Mmmmmm...


David A comments on 12/30/19:
Dang! we missed you by one day!
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