Kalihi Saddle to Lanihuli

by kenji SAITO on August 18, 2013

Hiking Kalihi Saddle to Lanihuli

Was I hallucinating? Was I actually standing in the company of  Tom, J, Sara, Marcus, Rito, Ted and Kilei on the side of Likelike Highway? I had to rub my eyes and pinch myself to realize that after five false starts that was cancelled due to weather, we were finally going to hike Kalihi Saddle! Pat Murphy was nice enough to play shuttle driver and pick all of us at the top of Alewa Drive and drop us off in front of the Wilson Tunnels on the town side. Photo by Kilei Nelson.

No hard hats, only hard heads

No hard hats, only hard heads

The somewhat paved road led us to this fenced off area. We picked up the trail to the left of the power station. I believe at this point, that Rito started the running gag about something “blue and sharp” that started to make its rounds within the group. Inside joke.

Mountain apples

Mountain apples

Not yet ripe for the picking. Too bad, would have been a nice snack to take with us.

Powerline trail

Powerline trail

After making our way up the mosquito infested trail for about half an hour, we came up to the powerlines that marked the center of Kalihi Saddle. Going to the left involves climbing up towards Kahuauli (Bowman), another hike for another day. We were going right towards Lanihuli.

Kalihi Valley

Kalihi Valley

Sometimes it’s hard to spot signs of civilization.

"Easy" extreme?

“Easy” extreme?

Walking along the somewhat narrow ridgeline. So far, so “easy.” Nothing we haven’t done before, as Marcus had explained to us. Photo by Marcus Griego.

On the way to Shark Fin

On the way to Shark Fin

Making our way down to the first obstacle – Shark Fin. Legendary hiker, Pete Clines, gave the colorful names to these obstacles on the saddle.

Shark Fin sighting

Shark Fin sighting

Going up, the trees were more of an obstacle than the obstacle itself on this climb.

Watch the Windward drop

Watch the Windward drop

The entire saddle is basically a narrow undulating ridgeline punctuated by obstacles of varying difficulty. In other words, enough to keep you interested and on the edge. Literally.

Going up the first Bunny Ear

Going up the first Bunny Ear

The first bunny ear was as she sounded, nice and fluffy with trees. No real difficulty to be found here.

Winds are blowing!

Winds are blowing!

Strong winds blowing from the Windward side pushed us away from the steep Windward cliff drops.

Tickling the second Bunny Ear

Tickling the second Bunny Ear

The second bunny ear was a tad taller and somewhat crumbly. Nothing to sneeze at. Marcus pointing at a loose rock that was best to be avoided. Photo by Tom Engle.

Hang on to those bushes!

Hang on to those bushes!

The trees and bushes on the Leeward side combined with the pushy Windward winds kept us somewhat vertical on the narrow ridgeline.

Butt slide or belly flop - take your pick

Butt slide or belly flop – take your pick

Sometimes you just have to pause and check out the views. Photo by Marcus Griego.

Koolau Range

Koolau Range

Like these views for example.

Knock Knock

Knock Knock

Going up the Doorstop was a little more tricky, as it involved some rock climbing. A taste of what was to come. Photo by Tom Engle.

Bird's eye view

Bird’s eye view

Coming down the backside of the Doorstop, we discovered that there was rope leftover from previous hikers. Mahalo! Photo by Tom Engle.

Coming down the backside of Doorstop

Coming down the backside of Doorstop

Coming down these obstacles is challenging as you are fighting gravity and oftentimes it’s hard to see where your next foothold will be. Photo by Marcus Griego.

Caveman yawn or yell?

Caveman yawn or yell?

“Move it you maggots, I have mountain apples to pick!”

Squeeze, not pop it

Squeeze, not pop it

Ropes are our friend on this hike. Coming down, my left foot made contact with some rocks which then promptly gave way, the rope helped me to recover.

Coming down the Pimple

Coming down the Pimple

This would be the last major rock obstacle we would have to climb. But the fun was not over yet. Not by a long shot. Photo by Marcus Griego.

Looking back at our challenges

Looking back at our challenges

Yup, we had to climb all over those bad puppies, that’s what makes ridge hiking fun and challenging. Photo by Ted Calvero.

Scrambling towards the Can Opener

Scrambling towards the Can Opener

There were a couple crumbly dirt sections to be climbed as we made our way up from the Pimple.

Snack break

Snack break

Taking a well deserved snack break below the Can Opener. Photo by Marcus Griego.

Kalihi Saddle

Kalihi Saddle

Looking back at Kalihi Saddle, one of three saddles on the Koolau mountain range. The other two being the Moanalua and Nuuanu Saddles.

Love that uki grass

Love that uki grass

After our break, we contoured on the Windward side of the Can Opener hanging onto the uki grass for dear life.

Steep contour around the Can Opener

Steep contour around the Can Opener

Another perspective on the steep contour around the Can Opener. Photo by Ted Calvero.

Steep?

Steep?

It was pretty steep going up. If you slipped, it would be a long tumble down.

Rock!

Rock!

A word most hiker’s don’t want to hear. Especially when you’re on the receiving end! I don’t think my GoPro would have protected my big head. Luckily I ducked in time.

The "hook"

The “hook”

Looking back at the “hook” of the Can Opener. Photo by Tom Engle.

End of the rope

End of the rope

After 30 minutes of pulling ourselves up this near vertical cliff to regain the ridge using only plants and webbing, my arms were jello.

Above the Can Opener

Above the Can Opener

Taking a short break on this small plot of real estate perched precariously on a thin ridge. Photo by Rito.

Skinny, steep ridge ahead

Skinny, steep ridge ahead

We started our long climb up a very steep and skinny ridge towards Lanihuli.

Looking back down

Looking back down

Rito taking pictures of the group coming up the ridge. Photo by Ted Calvero.

Can you say erosion?

Can you say erosion?

Several sections of the ridge were more exposed and eroded than other parts. Photo by Tom Engle.

What's all the commotion?

What’s all the commotion?

This section of the ridge was severely eroded, it seems like only a matter of time before this section gives way.

Rodeo Ridge!

Rodeo Ridge!

The ridge was narrow to the point where you had to straddle and scoot to get across. Photos by Marcus Griego.

Back to climbing

Back to climbing

The ridge widened, that’s being generous, enough for us to resume our climbing. Photo by Ted Calvero.

Nice day on the Koolau's

Nice day on the Koolau’s

Mother Nature was nice to us in the form of breezy trade winds and overcast clouds that helped keep us cool on the hike.

Almost there

Almost there

The narrow ridge gradually became a tad wider as we approached the summit. Photo by Marcus Griego.

Lobelia gaudichaudii

Lobelia gaudichaudii

We ran across this rare and endemic plant found only on Oahu, also known as the Koolau Range lobelia.

Final push to the summit

Final push to the summit

Marcus and Kilei making their way over the last couple hills before the summit.

koelle damselfly

koelle damselfly

The bug whisperer, J, found this damselfly, that played possum when he caught it. NatGeo is calling!

Lanihuli summit

Lanihuli summit

Group photo at the cloudy summit standing left to right: myself, Rito, Kilei, Tom and Marcus. Kneeling left to right: Ted, J and Sara.

Summit view

Summit view

The clouds cleared to give us a postcard view of the Windward side.

Going down Alewa ridge

Going down Alewa ridge

A group of teenagers popped up at the summit, they had hiked up from Kamehameha School and were planning on going towards the Pali. They had no water and no idea what they were getting themselves into. That’s what leads to rescues. J was nice enough to give them some water and they wisely decided to go back down Alewa ridge.

Civilization!

Civilization!

The walk down Alewa ridge was the longest part of the hike, of course less fraught with challenges.

Graceful landing - 3 points!

Graceful landing – 3 points!

Kilei and Marcus making their way over the fence at the top of Alewa Drive. After this, it was a late lunch at Bangkok Chef.

GPS Tracks

GPS Tracks

The 4.9 mile hike was the hardest I’ve done to date. It was filled with mental and physical challenges and an extra serving of fun along with good company.

Leave a Comment

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanna May 2, 2016 at 3:59 pm

I enjoyed your photos of your hike. I would like to ask that the original place names of these ridges be used so that those names can continue on. The names you are giving the ridges will contine in the hiking community and eventually will end up as the “names” of these ridges. E olu’olu, please preserve the olelo inoa of these ridges. Mahalo!

Reply

kenji SAITO May 2, 2016 at 7:03 pm

Aloha Joanna,
Thanks and I’m glad you enjoyed the pics. I try to use the Hawaiian names when possible, if you could be so kind as to let me know when I slip and help educate me, that would be much appreciated!
Mahalo

Reply

Sarah March 16, 2017 at 2:30 pm

Hey kenji I appreciate your blog posts! You are an epic hiker. Do you mind revealing where you were dropped off to start the hike to kalihi saddle? Me and a couple other hikers plan to do this on Sunday :)

Reply

kenji SAITO March 16, 2017 at 3:10 pm

Aloha Sarah,
Thanks for your kind words. It’s on Likelike Highway after the Wilson Tunnels headed townbound, you will see a gate on your right soon after exiting the tunnels. You have to be dropped off as parking is not allowed. It leads to a HECO station, the trail is to the left of the fenced station. Stay safe and have fun.
Mahalo

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