Elevation Gain: 3,500 ft
Distance: 8 miles roundtrip
Duration: 7.75 hrs (includes stops for breaks along the trail and at the summit)
Difficulty: Moderate to Very Strenuous
Danger: Medium to High (steep sections with loose rock, rock scrambling along trail)
My first attempt to summit Mount Ka'ala ended at 2,800 feet. It was winter in Hawaii and by the time we got up to the 3 poles it was raining lightly making for a slippery trail. I had brought my spikes and trekking poles with me from the east coast but had left them in my cousin's truck at the trailhead. It was too slippery to continue so Neil, my cousin Darrell and I turned back. Today was a different story. The weather was beautiful and it looked like I was going to be able to bag the highest peak on the island of O'ahu.
There were six of us at the trailhead but that changed at the junction of a gully. One of the hikers "D" had brought his iPod and earphones to listen to his music while hiking. He hiked ahead but instead of stopping at the junction at the gully, he kept going up the ridge following the yellow blazes. Knowing that for this hike it was "purple up, orange down" I told Neil and Mike to call out to him but was told that "D" wouldn't hear anything with his earplugs on. Darrell, Don and I continued on the trail while Neil and Mike texted and called "D". Shortly before we reached the 3 poles, Darrell got a text from Neil saying that although "D" had twisted his ankle, he was fine but just couldn't continue the hike. Neil and Mike had turned back with him. :(
**Caution: this section of the trail is very steep and one side is exposed to a steep dropoff.
We spent 45 minutes at the summit eating snacks, hydrating and taking many photos of the FAA Radar Installation as well as the North Shore and Leeward views. I think there's a benchmark at this summit, but I didn't find it. :(
Those exposed rock scrambles were easier going down than up.
- Don't assume that everyone has hiked the trail, much less hike, especially if you didn't invite them on the hike!
- At the start of the hike, before leaving the trailhead, make certain everyone in the group knows you can hike ahead of the group, but to stop and wait for the group at each trail junction. If you don't want to wait up at the trail junctions for your group, then don't hike with the group in the first place.
- Warn everyone in the group what they will encounter on the trail.
- Don't assume everyone knows how to rock scramble.
- Don't assume that everyone knows NOT to dislodge a rocks, tree branches, dirt or any type of debris. And if they do dislodge debris, don't assume that they know to yell ROCK loudly so those below can get out of the way.
- I got lucky on this hike. I could've been hit by a rock and become a Rescue recipient. And you wouldn't be reading this blog, but be reading about me in the local Hawaii paper.