• Nandor Szotak

Climbing Ahuimanu Uka in the footprints of Pete Clines

By Nandor Szotak - July 11th 2020


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

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

This climb 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 a 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, beside safety, another climber can give you that morale boost sometimes, just enough to tackle on some obstacles with more ease.

I usually have my people who I trust for this kind of adventures: Steve and Stacy.

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

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 Stacy and him picked me up in Kaneohe, and we drove to he Ahuimanu trailhead. 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 weather turns bad we would turn back.

After gaining 1000ft, the views opened up

I scouted the area couple 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.

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

At this point the ridge started gaining elevation very quickly. First 0.5 miles we gained around 350ft of elevation, but 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 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.

The ridge leveled out after the initial 2000+ ft of elevation gain
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.


Windward Ko'olau views
Happy selfie after the big climb

We took a nice break on a flatter spot, enjoyed the views and ate some snacks.

After the break Steve said he can take over the bushwhacking. When you have 3 climbers in a group, it is a smart thing to exchange places for bushwhacking. This way everybody can take a break, and recover some energy from all the "vegetation fight".

"Steve, you move like a chameleon!" - said Stacy while smiling.

Yes, Steve was moving like a chameleon, very stiff and precautious, so I had to take back the lead from him, otherwise we would be still on the mountain :D

We learned afterwards that he didn't had his morning stretch that day, that's why he was moving so stiff...:)

"Chameleon Steve" on the side of the ridge
Enjoying the views
There is a blue spot somewhere in the bushes, can you see it? That's me :D

After the short break we felt much better, and we were ready to climb on. We could almost see the end of the trail, so that gave us some extra motivation.


Approaching the last obstacle

But there was a unexpected surprise close to the top of the ridge!

"The grass wall"

Closer we got to this steep section, more clearer it became that there is an almost vertical wall waiting for use to climb.

"That looks like a wall of grass, probably is not that hard to get over it" - I was thinking in my head.

I was wrong!

When I got to the bottom of it, it looked very steep, mostly covered with uki grass, clidemia and some uluhe here and there. I was the first climbing, one step at a time, holding on a bunch of uki grass to pull myself up, balancing my body, using my core, looking for good footholds while trying to don't fall down. I was basically with my whole body against the wall and smoothly working my way up. At one point I looked back, and it was just straight down.

The view after I made it to the top of the "grass wall"

"I made it up!"

"Worst part of the whole climb!" yelled to the guys after reaching a safe flat spot.

Stacy fighting her way up!

Thankfully all of us made it up safely!


Climbing the last section of Ahuimanu Windward

From that point in a short time we reached the KST.

I was very happy to see our time reaching the Ko'olau Summit Trail: 3.5h exactly. I estimated between 4h-5h, considering that took Pete Clines 4h to reach this point, while soloing this ridge.

Heading to Aiea Summit

Wind was blowing "KST style" so we had no time for a break.

Looking back at some part of Ahuimanu ridge

After 0.5 miles we reached the Aiea summit where wasn't as windy, so we took a last snack brake before we headed out on the long, muddy Aiea Ridge Trail.

Helipad stop

Another great adventure with awesome friends! Another bucket list item done!

This windward ridge was physically demanding, but because it didn't have any obstacles like notches, rock walls or very narrow crossings, it wasn't as sketchy as I thought.

If I want to compare with Olympus Windward, I would say it was harder physically, but easier technically, I think. If I have to compare it with Eleao Windward or Kalahaku Teeth, then I would say was definitely an easier, shorter route.

Don't get me wrong guys, it was not a walk in the park! It was as dangerous as the other ones in some places, but because of the thick vegetation, it always had that safety feel to it.

Google Earth Map of our track

Team: Stacy, Steve and Nandor (Me)

Distance: Around 7 miles

Hiking Time: 6.5h

Please don't use this documentation as a guide for you future hiking activities. This hiking route it's unsafe and very dangerous, mistakes made up here can have consequences such as serious injury or death. Make sure you know your own limitations and be a safe out there!

Tags: #hiking #hawaiihiking #extremehiking #ahuimanuuka #koolaumountains



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