I have dreamed about hiking Kaala for the past year while participating in Summits On The Air (SOTA) here on O'ahu. Most hiking enthusiasts think about summiting the top hill in their neighborhood. Being the highest peak on the island, Kaala (4060' / 1237m) is the summit to reach on this island. On July 27, 2014, four hiking club partners and I decided to attempt this great mountain. We arrived at the trailhead at 8 A.M. taking the last couple parking spots. The summit was shrouded in clouds and the partly cloudy sky kept us cool during the entire trip. The ascent took us about 3.5 hours. I was thankful for the KX-3 radio my friend Richard (KH7HNL) loaned me for this trip to lighten my typical load. This was the lightest radio pack I have hiked with in the past year; about 20#. I just wish I would have brought an additional liter of water, three would have been just right.
The most popular route to reach Kaala is to start from the Waianae side. From Honolulu, head west on H-1. Once in Waianae, turn right on Waianae Valley Road and continue until you cannot drive any further. The last stretch of the road is a single lane and ends at a gate with a small parking area at around 650' elevation.
Pass the gate on foot, up the paved road, and past the three water towers; which is about a mile long. Passing the picnic table you will quickly find yourself in a grove of Macadamia trees from an old plantation. Not far past the picnic table, follow the purple markers down and to the left, through a dry creek bed. Remember: purple up, orange down for the trail markers. Up, up, up, relentlessly until you reach the ridge where there are three electrical towers. This is a great spot to rehydrate while taking in the spectacular views of the Waianae Range and out to the ocean.
Then the real work begins. The next stage of the hike is a series of steep segments. Some of the rock sections are somewhat technical. Past hikers have patched together a variety of ropes, cables, and even wire to help pull yourself up. Mud is a continual challenge to keep from slipping. As always, test the ropes before using them and don't put all your faith in them. Above all, take your time and use caution. Do not hike up what you will not be able to get down.
And then you reach the Kaala Natural Area Reserve. Prepare to step back into time. This plateau is simply amazing. Giant ferns, mosses, dragonflies. You can just feel that this area has been all but untouched for thousands of years. It is about a half mile across this area; stay on the wood planks, to the radar site. Although the FAA site is off limits you can circumnavigate the perimeter to view almost all of the island from this high point (weather dependent).
|Kaala radar site in view.|
|View of the North Shore|
|View towards Honolulu from the Kaala summit.|
|Bob on the decent.|
|View of Kamaile'unu Ridge (KH6/OH-002) from Kaala trail.|
Special thanks to the following SOTA chasers for making this activation worth so much more:
Call Time Band
KH6KV 2137 2m
WH6DZF 2143 "
NS7P 2159 21m
W7RV 2159 "
W6JP 2201 "
N4EX 2206 "
W5ODS 2208 "
KH6XL 2214 "
WH6DZP 2234 2m S2S on Kaua'i!
WH6DZQ 2235 " "
73 and safe hiking,
Allen / KH7AL