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Climbing Ahuimanu Uka in the footprints of Pete Clines

Updated: Mar 6

By Nandor Szotak - July 11th 2020

ahuimanu uka
The half of our route, the other half is somewere under the clouds

Lately, I was lacking the inspiration to write blogs about my recent adventures. I was more occupied shooting new episodes for my YouTube channel, which is a lot of work...

This climb was supposed to be on camera too, but for some reason, I felt it is not going to happen, and it didn't. So now I decided instead to write a blog about this awesome adventure we had with Stacy and Steve.

This particular windward ridge was on my to-do list for a while. First when you start reading up on these old blogs, and you find out that people actually climbed these almost vertical (sometimes vertical) ridges, you think "Man, that looks gnarly! No way!"

Then you will read it again, you start looking at topographic maps, you look for possible routes, and then you find yourself with a machete and flagging tape in hand, scouting the route for the next ascent.

The only documented climb on this ridge was done by the fearless Pete Clines, who soloed it while getting rained on... "What???" Exactly...

When I am planning climbs like this, I always try to convince at least another person, who I can trust, to join me. Safety first! Well, besides safety, another climber can give you that morale boost sometimes, just enough to tackle some obstacles with more ease.

I usually have the people who I trust for this kind of adventure: Steve and Stacy.

These guys are fun to hike with, both of them are good climbers, none of them is scared of bushwhacking, and they are always up for some more difficult projects of mine.

hikers between ginger
Crusing through ginger on Ahuimanu trail

Fast forwarding to the day of the hike, Steve dropped his car at Aiea trailhead which was our exit point, then they picked me up in Kaneohe, and we drove to the Ahuimanu trailhead. The weather didn't look good, was rainy the night before, even in the morning. We were discussing other possible hikes to do, but finally looking at the ridge, we decided (2 vs 1) to try, and if the weather turns bad we would turn back.

koolau mountain ridges
After gaining 1000ft, the views opened up

I scouted the area couple of weeks before, so after a little bit of detouring we found my ribbons, and we started our ascent to the steep spur ridge. My original plan was to try to climb the actual Ahuimanu windward ridge, but looking at the notches on it, and a very exposed area, I decided to go for this one.

Very shortly we found ourselves on steep crumbly terrain, and soon we reached a narrow rocky section. That was the spot where my scouting ended the last time.

climber on ahuimanu nuka
You can see Ahuimanu neighborhood, K-Bay in the background and Steve...somewhere

At this point, the ridge started gaining elevation very quickly. For the first 0.5 miles, we gained around 350ft of elevation, but for the next 0.5 miles, we gained 2100 ft of elevation! Quite a big difference!

Holding onto an octopus tree while waiting for the guys to climb up

The narrow, exposed section was quite challenging because most of the trail was overgrown with this grass (not sure about the name) which covered everything. We didn't see where can we step, or where can we climb. Before every move, I had to clear the grassy area in front of me to see where to put safely my feet.

There were a couple more exposed sections, and on one of them, I had to set up a webbing for a safer climb up.

From that section, Stacy took over the lead, and she started bulldozing the overgrowth.

hiker on ahuimanu uka
The ridge leveled out after the initial 2000+ ft of elevation gain
hiker in the koolau mountains
Stacy feeling proud after her hard work in the bushes

This was a physically very demanding steep climb. It was a full-body workout!

After 2h15min we made it up to the junction. The junction was the spot where the actual Ahuimanu ridge joined our spur ridge. From there the views opened up. We could see already the KST and even the power lines from Aiea.