Stairway to Heaven - Middle Ridge

The first platform of Haiku Stairs. Left to right: "Loafer" Mike, Me, "Reef Shoes" Jason
DATE: 25 April, 2010
PARTICIPANTS: "Reef Shoes" Jason, "Loafer" Mike, and me

For my first hike on the island of Oahu, I wanted to start with a bang; a combination hike which pairs a crazy 90 minute stairmaster workout from one side of the island and a narrow ridge hike down the other side. Many have done this hike either forwards or backwards, but I want to acknowledge that the idea for me to do this ultimately came from hiking blogger Kaleo Lancaster on his blog site, Well, the plan was to go down the Tripler Ridge, but we didn’t go far enough and went down another ridge by mistake. Figures.

Haiku Stairs, better known as Stairway to Heaven, is a steep, eleventy billion step climb up the Windward side of the Ko'olau mountain range into the clouds, starting underneath the H3 freeway and ending at an abandoned Coast Guard Omega Station at the top of Pu’u Keahi a Kahoe (elevation 2720ft). The Moanalua middle ridge down the other side combines a steep muddy descent and narrow ridge walks which ends up in the Moanalua district park.

Okay, first of all, this should not be anyone’s first hike. I’m a fairly experienced hiker, but about 30 minutes into the climb up the metal stairs of doom, Jason tells me that he’s never done any sort of hike in his life. Thanks. Glad I brought my overkill of a medical kit, not that I could do anything with my hands glued to the rails most of the way. I have no fear of heights, but I’m terrified of falling and there was no way I was letting go of the rails at any time. Parts of it were literally vertical and letting go would mean falling... a really long way. This was also where we met Mike, who was wearing sandals at the time. We thought he was a cop when we started the whole trespassing thing in the beginning, so we avoided him until he was on our asses up the stairs. Come to find out, he thought we were cops. When we told him we were going down the ridge, he opted to join us and thus became the third core member of our merry little hiking group.

Morning sunrise over Kaneohe Bay
The H-3, the most expensive freeway in the world ($13 million per mile), snakes under us into the base of the Ko'olau
The stairs seemingly went on forever. I mean forever. Past the first platform when we ascended into the thick morning clouds, time seemed to stop. All I could hear was the wind, Mike saying how cool it was, and me bitching about how this was a dumb idea. At the top, I realized that I had no real idea, except for a cardinal direction, of where to go to next. All I knew was that we had to climb the rails heading south-ish and turn right-ish somewhere to meet up with some ridge. The only thing I could see in any direction was fog. Period. Lesson learned. Next time I should research my hikes more effectively.

So we chilled out for about an hour BS-ing with other climbers, bragging about how we were going down some ridge we had no idea about. Being stubborn and not wanting to look like a wuss, I finally gave the go ahead and we took off over the rails into the unknown. Fortunately, one thing I’m really good at is looking at maps and reading terrain. On the other hand, I had no idea how many ridges we had to pass to get to the one we wanted because they all looked the same. Piss poor planning. At this point, I didn’t care what ridge we went down on as long as we got down the other side.

High elevation causes the Ko'olau Summit Trail to remain constantly muddy
The descent down the Moanalua Middle Ridge begins
Long story short, descending down the middle ridge was slippery and muddy, without any aid of rope. The stairs freaked me out, but the narrow ridge was super fun. Jason didn’t think so as he crawled along the entire ridgeline. It got worse once the clouds cleared because he could see how far he would fall. I thought the view was great. Mike switched to freaking loafers for this portion of the hike and that’s how he got his nickname. Jason got his since he did the entire hike in his reef walkers.

Walking the ridgeline towards the ocean on the leeward side
The last hump before descending into the Moanalua Valley
All in all, a great hike. If Reef Shoes didn’t have to crawl the whole way, we would have completed it a lot quicker, but since it was his first ever hike, I give the dude kudos. My first hike on the island was a huge success considering how ill prepared I was. Now that I know better, I will definitely repeat this wicked excursion sometime in the future, hopefully with some more crazy people.

I still can't believe he crawled the entire ridge
Field of fern near the Moanalua Valle stream
Waiting on me atop a fallen tree while I snapped pictures
A tree branch arches over, as we walk out of the park with a sense of accomplishment