We initially met up at Valley View Drive and arrived at the trailhead in back of Kalihi Elementary School an hour late of our scheduled time. It was partially cloudy with a few morning showers. As anticipated, the hike started with a steep and merciless climb up the ridge. It didn't take too long for us to realize the seriousness of this trail. With Justin leading the pack, I found myself trailing but I kept my steady pace. When we arrived at the dirt road, Justin finally realized that he was going too fast. The initial climb almost knocked him out. Luckily, he was able to regain his strength for the next 11 miles. After the first hour or so, we finally arrived at a clearing and could see an overall view of Kalihi Valley below us. But what was more visually striking was the highway cutting through the green valley in a straight line.
The real fun started near the highest peak of the ridge. The trail got more narrow and slippery with the overgrown vegetation scratching our legs at every step. The switchback was really steep and it involved some rope climbing and some nerves of steel. After overcoming the most difficult obstacle, there was still more hiking to do. At that point, my fellow comrades were having second thoughts, especially with their legs cramping. Despite the odds, we continued forward with hopes of reaching the end. After wading in ankle-deep mud puddles, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the windward side. It was here that we finally ate our MREs (thanks to Justin).
The return trip was less rigorous but it was more technical. I became very irritated with all the mud and slippery descent down the slopes. It seemed never ending and slipping was the last thing I wanted. I just hated the idea of not having complete control due to the slippery terrain. Not only does slipping leaves you with a muddy behind, but it can cause serious injuries and even lead you off the trail. I've seen it happen several times that day, but luckily no one got hurt.
It was getting late in the afternoon and we still couldn't see any sign of civilization. I was a bit concerned that we would have to finish it in the dark. Sunset was at around 7:20pm and we got back at around 7:10pm. We laid our bodies down on the basketball court near the trailhead thinking of what just happened that day, realizing what we have accomplished, and grateful to make it back alive.
The first half of the trail reminded me of Kamanaiki while the second half shared some features of the Waianae-Kaala trail. It was indeed the most strenuous hike to the Ko'olau summit and I enjoyed every minute of it.