Hiking Mt. Olympus • Ko’olau Mountain Range • October 28, 2017 • Written by Curtis
Having hiked Ka’ala the weekend before, I really started to think that we had probably done one of the most difficult hikes on the island. And, with a peak done in the Wai’anaes, I felt that it would be appropriate to do a peak in the Ko’olaus. I found a reasonable 5 mile hike up a ridge to the peak of Mount Olympus on the Ko’olau Summit.
Facing South towards Honolulu
We drove through downtown Honolulu and made it to the trailhead in the Wa’ahila Ridge State Recreation Area around 8. There were a few other cars there, but not enough to discourage us from hiking. We made good time for the first mile and a half, following the spine of the ridge as it gradually gained elevation and brought us closer to the Ko’olau Summit. There were occasional breaks in the trees that allowed us to look down the valley and towards the Waikiki and Honolulu skylines. I made sure to point out to Jess an insignificant hill down in the valley that had been my first hike on the island.
Just after the mile point, we reached a fork in the trail. The left fork was the maintained trail leading down into the valley towards the peak I had climbed. The right fork was the trail we would be taking to the summit, with a sign at the junction stating that it was the end of trail maintenance. We’re learning that this is common for trails here. We went right and continued to the summit, and as we went the trail became less and less maintained, and more and more eroded. As it became more eroded it also became much steeper. It’s a hand in hand relationship, steepness and erosion; I would probably say that steepness causes the erosion, but it probably goes the other way as well. That’s what ropes are for! I just try to not think of the ecological impact that it causes.
We continued up and up, trying not to think of the way back down and just focusing on the goal. We were thankful that the ground was much drier than it was last week while hiking to Ka’ala. As we got closer to the summit, we spied the KST off to our left leading up the ridge to the North. We never actually saw the trail junction, but we soon got onto the KST and headed South a short distance and a short climb to the peak of Mount Olympus. We found that the peak was tree covered — we walked too far expecting to see something, and soon realized we were heading down the KST away from the summit. We’ve learned hiking here that often times the most scenic part isn’t the peak, but walking along the ridge on our way up. That was certainly the case for both this hike and Ka’ala.
Hiking along the narrow ridge
However, even if it had been a bald summit, our views would have been obscured by clouds rolling in from the East. We had noticed clouds passing over the summit as we hiked up, and only now did we realize that those clouds were bringing rain. We decided it was time to hurry back down the mountain to make it past the steep rope sections before they became too slick. It’s amazing how fast the clay ground can go from being dry to muddy. Knowing that things would only get harder, we pushed through the steepest parts and made it back to the more level, though still normal part of the trail. We were surprised to see people still hiking up the trail even with the rain, but noticed some were wearing crampons and those seemed to be working well for them.
Once we made it back to the “maintained trail,” we found that it had hardly rained here, if at all. The remainder of the the trail was easy and we made it quickly back to the car. Overall, the hike was just over 5 miles out and back, with 2080 feet of elevation gain.