Monday, December 17, 2012

Hiking the Wa'ahila Ridge Trail to Mount Olympus

Yesterday, Cathie and I climbed the Wa'ahila Ridge Trail to the top of Mount Olympus. By now, we've done a good number of hikes on Oahu, including Haiku Stairs, Kuli'ou'ou Ridge, Manawili Falls, among others. I have to say, this one is now one of my favorites. If you go all the way to Mount Olympus you end up right on the ridge of the Ko'olau range and get terrific views of a big chunk of the Island. Swinging from East to South you can see Waimanalo, Rabbit Island, Koko Head, Ka'au Crater, Diamond Head, Manoa Valley and Honolulu.  Continuing West and North you see the Ko'olau Range, the Manawili Basin, to Kailua and around again to Waimanalo. Fantastic views.

Mt Olympus, as seen from our condo near Ala Moana.

We started out by driving up through St. Louis Heights to Peter Street, pretty much as far as the road would take us. At the corner of Peter and Ruth we took a left onto Ruth and followed it into the Wa'ahila Ridge State Recreation Area.

When we started out, our plan was to do the Wa'ahila Ridge Trail only, having heard that the upper trail was more advanced and technically closed. The main hike is about 3.5 miles round trip and is supposed to take an hour and 45 minutes.

Once we hit the 'end of the trail' marker we were feeling good, so we decided to push on. As we proceeded, we felt OK, so we cautiously continued. Before we knew it, we were there.

The hike was a challenge in places, but overall, pretty safe and manageable. At times the trail was steep and slippery. This was disconcerting and a little tense, but somehow we got by. Also, it was windy and in places, the wind absolutely roared over the ridge. At these points we hunkered down and scooch along the trail. In the end, our leisurely hike took a little more than 4 hours. We were tired, but very satisfied.

Here are some pictures with comments.

The parking lot at Wa'ahila State Recreation Area. Here there is a nice mix of Cook Pines and Ironwood trees.
All along the Wa'ahila Ridge there are groves of Strawberry Guava.

On this day, many were ripe and still on the trees -- in spite of the wind.

We feasted.

They're delicious! If seedy. 

Like so many hikes on Oahu, the views and vegetation are lovely.

A yellow Ohia flower

There were plenty of red Ohia too.

An octopus (aka rubber) tree. This one is unusual in that the fruit appears black. I've ever only seen it red before.

A view of Manoa Valley, with Honolulu in the distance, from Wa'ahila Ridge

The "End of Trail" Marker for the Wa'ahila Ridge Trail.

We felt good when we reached this point. The ground was damp, but not too slippery and the weather favorable, so we decided to push on a little further.

Cathie using a rope to get to the top of a knoll.

There were a half dozen places along the trail where ropes came in handy. In some spots, climbing without a rope would be treacherous  if not impossible -- especially in bad weather. On this day, the ground was muddy and slippery and we needed the ropes. We quickly learned the rule: One person at a time on the rope! Oops. Sorry about that.

A panoramic view South from the upper reaches of Wa'ahila Ridge.

As we continued onward and upward along the Wa'ahila Ridge it merged into the Ko'olau Range's main  ridge (the backbone). From here looking back southward we could see the Wa'ahila Ridge itself behind us (center, left in above picture), Manoa Valley (center right), with Diamond Head and Honolulu in the distance.

Taking a short break before making the last push to the top, Cathie with Mount Olympus in the background.
Near the upper end of the Wa'ahila Ridge, the trail opens onto a nice grassy spot. This was a good place for a rest, a snack, and a drink before making the push for the top. From here there are 3 additional knolls to climb to reach the summit.

Eventually the Wa'ahila Ridge meets the Ko'olau Range's main ridge. From here, we got a nice view along the ridge line and views of the windward side of the island.

A view of the cliffs leading down to the Manawili Basin 

The summit marker
The summit of Mount Olympus is more or less covered in vegetation. The summit itself was marked rather inauspiciously with a pink ribbon. We walked a bit past the summit, where the ridge trail opened up to expose wonderful panoramic views.

To the North, North-East you can see the Ko'olau Range Ridge, Manawili Basin and Kailua in the distance

Looking South-East you get a nice view of the Ko'olau Ridge looking toward Kuli'ou'ou.
(Hey, what's with that bald spot!)

Swinging to the South-South-East you can look down into Ka'au Crater.

Looking South you can see Diamond Head and Honolulu in the distance, and Wa'ahila Ridge (center, right) and Manoa Valley (right-edge) in the foreground.

The trail continues beyond the summit. After maybe 100 feet, it drops steeply down, following the ridge line. If you keep going, it appears that you may be able to walk the ridge all the way to Kuli'ou'ou. However, this is where we stopped and headed for home. We still had a couple hours ahead of us and by now it was mid-afternoon.

We were a little tired, so we took our time working our way down.

Cathie using the rope to descend a steep, muddy section.

It was a little intimidating because it was slippery and steep.... 

...and long. In some places you had to traverse 2 or 3 ropes in a row. 
Eventually, we made it back onto the lower section of Wa'ahila Ridge. We were no worse for the wear, just a little muddy with and a few scratches. The mud came from the ropes, and the scratches from the brush along the trail.

Mud and scratches from the hike. 

At this point, we resolved to go to Ailana's for shave ice once we got home. That promise powered us the rest of the hike.

Back at the parking lot.
Boy were we glad to get back to the parking lot. We were tired, but satisfied. Very satisfied. What a great hike. Now, on to Ailana's! Yum!!


If you go, I recommend that you:
  • Bring the following:
    • Water -- we had water and stopped a few times to hydrate.
    • Food/Snacks -- While the Strawberry Guava gave us a burst of energy, don't count on them being available. We also had Spam musubi and fruit to munch on. 
    • Gloves (optional): Some folks might want gloves to protect your hands from the ropes. Personally though, I probably prefer to go without.
    • Leg coverings (optional): As you saw, your legs can get scratched by all the brush along the trail. You may prefer to wear long socks or pants to protect your legs. Me? Nah.
  • Watch the Weather: We had good conditions, but the trail was still damp and quite slippery in places. Don't let a rainstorm move in on you while you're up top. You might just get stuck, as the trail could become quite dangerous when soaked. Also, if it's cloudy the view may suck.
  • Have fun. :)