If you’re on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen this picture. It’s on bucket lists everywhere. Haʻikū stairs, otherwise known as the ‘Stairway to heaven’ – a 3922 step vertical climb up the side of a mountain. Sounds awesome, right? As soon as this trip was booked I began researching. Blogs, forums, hiking websites; I was there. I found out it was illegal as it involved trespassing on government land. Since 2013 a guard patrolled the bottom of the stairs issuing infringement notices of $300. Still not deterred. I knew the times the guard was posted and the times they changes shift. But then two weeks ago it happened. A landslide. It took out the stairs in three places! I was devastated. I began researching alternative routes up to the WW2 radio tower at the top. Where this hike has stairs to the top, the alternative ridge lines only had ropes. Not heaps safe. My dream died. (Second photo: That’s the tower at the top of the ridge line on the right near the edge of the could. Epic!)
On Saturday Laura and I did a tour to kayak out to Mokoliʻi, a conical shaped island fondly named ‘Chinaman’s Hat’. After some research in to the tour company, I suspected we may be the only ones on the tour. And right on cue a beat up red truck with only three kayaks on the trailer pulled into the beach park. The driver? Why of course, a 24 year old guy student, working in a food truck and doing tours on the side. Awesome! The tour was great and relaxed (bar a foot injury for Laura and a nice gash on my shin!). After mentioning we were keen for some hiking and finding out the Haiku stairs post-landslide now come with a $600 infringement notice and 30 days jail time, he started suggesting alternatives. Although he never strayed from his keen-ness and intention to go hiking tomorrow too.
Fast forward a day and we found ourselves in Ka’a’awa waiting for our new friend Dave and his mate – Trey. The crouching lion or Pu’u Manamana was our chosen challenge. The 6km track with 600m elevation almost immediately.
“Pu’u Manamana is a popular but challenging ridge hike that tests your nerves and tolerance of dangerous situations. It is mostly known on the island as being “one of the most dangerous hikes on the island”. It is pretty intense but the views up there were some of the best on the island.” Source
Forgetting island time and growing impatience for our 30-minute late hiking buddies, Laura and I set off as per the blogs instructed. “The trail head is between the ‘do not pass’ sign and the telegraph pole.” Sound legit?
More legit then these legit trail markers. Signs? Pfft, no. Pink ribbon is how tracks are marked in Hawai’i.
Under some trees, over a few others and we were off. Until Dave called within five minutes and we backtracked 100m of elevation and restarted the hike at a different track head – as questionable as the previous.
And within a few minutes we had expansive views of the Pacific Ocean. Not pictured: our 150+ BPM heart rates.
We were pretty thankful for Dave and Trey at this point after commandeering our backpacks, becoming our personal photographers and safety extraordinaires. By that, I mean, they assured us we’d be fine as we scaled over and around rocks with drops on either side…
Another ridge line, another rock climb.
Almost at the top just in time for the cloud cover to be burning off!
The top! Woo! I couldn’t get over how awesome the mountains were. So green. So jagged. The ridge lines so narrow. Good thing there was little wind! The water, well, it’s just so clear!
The walk back down was pretty cool with views of Kawa’a’wa and Kahana Bay. You can see almost up to Laie on the North Shore.
See personal tour guide! Apparently another illegal hike is tucked in the Kahana Valley, ‘Sacred Falls.’ Trey was unlucky to get caught recently and issued with a court date and $300 infringement notice. It seems an island full of mountains invites exploration! (Note: the extreme descent!)
Can you see the crouching lion? Looks a little like Bella…
Keen to get into some caves, Laura and Dave did some climbing. Spot Laura on the rocks just left of the breaking waves.
Ignore the awkward perch. The rock was super spiky. It seems lycra provides no padding. Go figure.
One of the best views of the walk. We went about a third of the way along the top ridge line before heading back.
A few standard mountain top photos. And yes, that is Laura jumping on a rock about 30cm diameter with 250m falls on both sides.
Then down again! We made friends with the plants after a few slips and slides and then out through some long (!) grass and on to the main road around Oahu.
And a final happy snap with our new friends Dave and Trey. It was so good hiking with people who knew the area and made the sketchy rock climbs seem a little less, ah, sketchy.