Thursday, December 22, 2011

Koko Crater - Makai to Mauka Rim (Night Hike)

In the last few months me and a few buddies of mine have made a habit of trying to hike during the night at least once a week.  On last weeks agenda was a variation of the popular Koko Crater hike.  Instead of going up the stairs the five of us in the group would be going up the side of the mountain via what people have dubbed "the arch" and then traversing the makai rim to the top of the Koko Crater stairs and then descending via the mauka rim.  To make this hike possible we staged our cars in two different spots since we would be ending our hike on the opposite side of where we started.

Everyone in the group had previously hiked one or both rims during the day and a few people had done both at night, so there was not much concern, since everyone was very experienced on this trail.  The hike started off a little hectic and there was plenty of talks of turning around and not continuing.  It started pouring down rain just as we entered Koko Crater park, but instead of calling the hike we decided to all sit under a shelter and wait it out.  The rain did discipate just enough for us to decide to start the hike.  We continued through the park and made our way down in to the gun range.  I had never done this route so I followed with intrigue as one of my friends led the way.  There was no trail that I could see and we were pretty much just pushing through thorn bushes and tons of brush.  Upon exiting the brush we came to an access road on the gun ranges property and commenced following this road all the way to the highway.  Once to the highway we took a left and hugged the shoulder of the road on the mountainside.  Shortly there after we jumped over the guardrail and came to a tunnel that was about 50 yards in length.  We all made our way through the tunnel and came out right along the shoreline.

I questioned if the trail we were about to take was the best idea, since the tide was high and I was a little worried that something bad could happen.  Fortunately we all made our way safely along the shoreline trail, with only one semi scare, eventually coming back to the road and the start of our trail.  The ocean route we took was a little bit of a waste of time but was very interesting and along the way I got to see an octopus wash right up next to me on the shoreline.  I was shocked by how fast the little guy was.

Once back on the street we crossed the street from where a little shrine is and started up an obvious trail.  Within five minutes we reached the steep and narrow arch section.  For anyone even remotely experienced at hiking this should not be very daunting, but you do need to proceed cautiously.  We all made it up the arch with no problem and then the climbing commenced.  It went by quickly but the climb up to the rim is a tiring one.  While not nearly as tiring as the stairs, this climb still gives you a good workout and can leave you winded.  It felt like it took us an eternity to reach the rim but in reality it probably only took 20 to 25. 

As the entire group, one by one, arrived at the crest of the rim, we all took turns taking off our packs to take a rest and get some water.  After a short break we started the traverse of the makai rim to the summit of Kohelepelepe (koko crater stairs summit).  This rim is much safer and easier than the mauka rim but for someone who is affraid of heights or not comfortable with exposure or narrow ridges, this trail would be a horrible idea, especially at night.  There is a countour trail around the ridge that is a little safer, but all of us went right over the narrow rock section and had a blast in doing so.  The entire group looked very comfortable on this section and within 15 minutes of our break at the crest we had all reached the Koko Crater stairs terminus and proceeded to the Kohelepelepe summit. 

Afew people in the group set up their tripods on top of one of the bunkers to take some pictures, while the rest of us proceeded to where the Koko Crater stairs terminate.  There is a bunker where the stairs terminate and behind this is a building with a crack in the door that one can sneak through and walk through the old dilipadated structure.  It is incredibly creepy at night but was very interesting.  You follow through a tunnel and eventually arrive in an open beat up room, with another room off of that.  The entire walk through this place is dark and eerie and the floor is covered with boards and other random things, making one have to watch their step as they go.

As we finished exploring this structure, we headed back to the summit and met back up with the other two people in our group.  We then proceeded to the Mauka Rim and began the hike down.  The trip down the Mauka Rim took quite a while.  If one is not comfortable hiking the makai rim then they shouldn't even consider doing the mauka rim.  The Mauka rim is extremely narrow, with spectacular drop offs in spots.  A few of the parts require some technical rock climbing and maneuvering around incredibly narrow sections with no room for error.  There is some points that one can contour, but even the contour section is not entirely safe.  On this night the contour trail was only used once or twice and usually only by one or two people while the others continued over the crazy sections.  At one point I downclimbed a rock face and during the climb started wishing that I hadn't.  Luckily those in the group guided me down and I finally got my feet back on the ground with no damage done.  I could not find any hand or foot holds on this part though, and next time I do this hike I will just contour around that section.  I would climb up it in the future but I don't think I would come down it again.

The insanely narrow ridge sections and the rock climbing seemed to be never ending.  Every time I though we were almost down, yet another narrow section or another rock climb would appear.  The mauka rim makes the makai rim look like a stroll in the park.  After a long journey down the rim we finally arrived at the bottom of the rim and were now in Koko Crater Botanical Gardens.  Knowing that we were now officially trespassing we moved quickly, all though we didn't seem to really know where we were going.  We eventually arrived at a little drainage ditch with a steep climb to the top where a fence was at that we would have to jump.  As we were in the drainage ditch, numerous of cops drove by.  They seem to patrol that area like crazy.  As for us getting out of the drainage ditch and over the fence, it was quite a hysterical experience.  To get to the top you had to run as fast as possible and just pray that your momentum would get you up the steep concrete face.  A few of us slid back down numerous of times before finally reaching the fenceline and jumping over.  At this point we were back on the road, and exhaustedly on our way back to our car.  I am not gonna say exactly how long this took us, but it was quite a long trip.  At the end of the night I was incredibly happy with what we had acccomplished and proud of the way that the whole group looked after each other on this night.  As we reached our cars we all discussed what our "night hike" for the following week would be.  While we didn't come to any exact conclusions, we did all agree that it would be something on the mellower side for a change.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoy reading your blog posts. I'm a novice hiker and love to read about other hikers' adventures on Oahu. Thank you for taking the time to post your stories!