Bowman - Tripler Ridge

Man versus mountain, a hiker trudges through the mist
DATE: 8 August, 2010
TOTAL TIME: 8.5 hrs
PARTICIPANTS: “Reef Shoes” Jason, “The Optimist” Jeremy, Me
REHIKE VALUE: 5 … with a different return route

The mighty Bowman trail. I had wanted to do this one ever since I went on a hiking binge a couple of months back. So many things have been said about this hike. Stuart Ball describes it as “the most difficult of the ungraded ridge trails in the Ko’olau Range.” It includes a hair-raising scramble up the flank of a volcanic cone. Someone I know told me it took him six hours just to get to the top of Bowman’s Peak. I’d done my research, I’d heard the stories, and I’d watched the videos. I was ready to tackle one of Oahu’s most difficult, strenuous, hair-raising, and dangerous hikes …

Left to right: "Reef Shoes" Jason, "The Optimist" Jeremy, Me

Sections erode as the ridge narrows, making things interesting
BULL – SHIT!  Bowman wasn’t hard.  Even with the rain, this hike was pretty simple to negotiate.  I have to admit, it was pleasantly different than most hikes to the Ko’olau.  Instead of a straightforward uphill climb to the summit, we ran into some Ka’ala-esque mud climbs and a slippery do-or-die switchback portion near the peak.  A very nice change of pace from all those boring ridge hikes.  If anything, Bowman was fun.

Pictures can't fully describe how insane these switchbacks are

A muddy swamp on top of a mountain
The plan was to go up Bowman and return via the little used “Tripler Powerline trail.” It took us only 3.5 hours to get to Bowman’s Peak (Pu’u Kahuauli), and another half hour to the Tripler ridge overlook. After a little break and exploration on Jeremy's part, we started down the hill to look for that powerline junction. That’s when the fun stopped and we started having issues.

The Ko'olau Summit Trail, shrouded in clouds
Visibility on Tripler ridge was non-existent so looking for this powerline trail was like looking for good Hawaiian drivers. Long shot. Once we got below the ceiling, powerlines started appearing … everywhere, and they all looked the same. We chose one and made our way steeply down but after it ended abruptly, we decided it was the wrong one. I saw Captain Obvious fly by. Another, well marked trail veered off to the left and THAT ended in the middle of nowhere. I swear, the Tripler ridge hates me. Every time I incorporate it into a hike, something bad happens.

The Tripler Ridge and out to sea

Happy when we found a powerline trail, miserable when we found it was the wrong one
Long story short, I decided ditch the search for this mythical powerline trail junction and just follow the regular ridgeline. Time was against us and I didn't feel like doing a repeat of the Moanalua Waterfall incident. I’ve never acknowledged the importance of eating, but two cereal bars will not carry you on this one. Lesson learned. Down the calories before a strenuous hike. That means lots of beer.

Scenic view of Diamondhead and Punchbowl Craters, and the skyline of Honolulu

Normal, swampy conditions at high Oahu elevation

Taking a break on the Ko'olau Summit Trail

The final push to the peak of Tripler Ridge

One final snapshot before descending into the Moanalua Valley

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