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Climbing Bolohead Ridge

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

By Nandor Szotak - January 12th, 2019

An intense day up a gnarly, narrow, crumbly ridge to the tallest peak on the island, combined with a WST crossover.

bolohead ridge
Down climbing Bolohead backside

Welcome, 2019!

The holiday season is over, another year passed, time to get back to our everyday life.

What is better than a recovery extreme hike with some bushwhacking?

A week ago Steve came up with the idea to climb Bolohead, which is a narrow, crumbly ridge leading up to Mt Ka'ala. To make it more interesting we decided to connect it with Hobbs, another ridge located between Ka'ala and Kalena, which is leading down to Waianae Valley.

We asked around a couple of people if they want to join, but only Krissy and Arnold could make it finally.

The start time was 8:00 am at the trailhead in Waianae. Arnold looked like he was partying all night, but actually, he had to work, and barely slept 2 hours before the hike. (That's crazy). I think this is pretty normal for him.

So four of us started hiking in the deep forest looking forward to an adventurous day. None of us hiked this route before, so we got a track just in case, for easier navigation in the valley.

After some nice heart-pumping uphill climbs, finally we made it out of the valley floor to the open ridge line.

hikers on bolohead ridge
Heading up Bolohead

Arnold pops up from nowhere with a weird look

I guess all of us got warmed up and getting to the open ridge felt good.

The hike just started getting more exciting when we saw this narrow rock face in front of us.

Narrow rock face
Narrow rock face

"Is that Bolohead?"

"Nah, I don't think so.."

"So what is it?"

"Not sure but looks fun!"

I went in the front to check it out.

"Wow, that looks pretty awesome".

Before I started climbing up, I observed a black webbing on the ground, and figured later that probably it snapped, because I found the other end higher up the rocks hanging.

Never trust the ropes in Hawaii!

climber on narrow ridge
Krissy scaling the beast

hiker on narrow ridge
Just look at Arnold's face expression :)

This climb was fun! Everybody free-climbed it without a problem, wasn't as hard as it looked like from far away.

After all of us scaled the narrow rock face, we started getting closer and closer to the actual Bolohead. In pidgin, bolo head means bald head, so there is a rock formation higher up this ridge that supposedly looks like a bald head.

I think that's how it got its name from Waianae Steve.

ridge up ka'ala
The ridge leading up Ka'ala

We were excited to continue, but our excitement stopped when the fence line showed up on the ridge."Really? Right here?"It was just no sense for that fence on that small narrow section... Anyway, after jumping from one side to another over the fence, we got pretty close to the Bolohead rock formation. I forgot to mention that some friends told us, to make sure we bring 150ft of rope or webbing for the crumbly climb. Well, I think we just arrived at the bottom of the narrow, crumbly climb. We exchanged webbing with Krissy, so I took her 100ft webbing instead of my 50ft one. (150ft didn't look necessary). As I approached the climb, I found a black webbing, and an old black rope hanging off the ridge. It was surprising, but at least I didn't have to tie up my own. The webbing looked pretty new, but not a good kind, the rope looked very old, definitely nothing trustable. I was continuing up when I arrived at this rock section, which gave me a little trouble. Usually, if I feel safe, I try free climbing whatever I can. I was here in this situation trying to figure out how to climb up, but it took me a while to find two good handholds, and eventually, I was up without a rope. From there it was another good 50-60ft straight-up dirt climbing until we reached the top of Bolohead rock formation. For some reason none of us took pictures at the crumbly climb section, might be because it was pretty intense.

bolohead down climb
Steve was carefully descending

When you think you are all over the hard part, then you realize that you have to drop down the backside of Bolohead, which is a pretty "nasty", I mean steep down climb.

Hang in there

I could manage to carefully free-climb it down, and Steve followed me. Usually, Steve is doing pretty good climbing up and down, but for some reason, he was pretty nervous, and he had a hard time descending. He still forced a smile :) on his face, after he succeeded.

Krissy made it down pretty quickly with Steve's directions, same as Arnold, who started thinking "What the heck am I doing in here?"

That was all the fun part of the hike. After descending the backside of Bolohead, we started climbing up and up and up... First nice and grassy, then we hit some uluhe sections. Thankfully one week ago Kenji's group was here, and we could still follow their track in the deep ferny area.

Bolohead ridge on the bottom and Kamile'unu on the top

hikers bushwhacking up ka'ala
There is still a lot to go - Photo: Steve

kanawao plant
Kanawao in the bog - Photo: Krissy

At one point the temperature cooled down, the environment changed, and a lot of native vegetation showed up, so we knew that we are close to the Ka'ala bog. Took us a little bit over 3 hours to get to the top and another 30 minutes to navigate through the bog following the fence line. The last time I was here with Steve and Alex, we got lost, so now having the track, was definitely easier to navigate through.

waianae range from ka'ala
Looking towards Hobbs and Kalena

From here was all downhill to Hobbs.

But, there was another interesting section, the wet and mossy rocky down climb. Last time Alex had some Tarzaning going on here, so we approached this section more carefully this time. There is a big rocky drop with all kinds of ropes to aid you down.

The pictures don't look as bad as in reality.

hiker on ropes
Steve is fighting his way down

hiker descending on ropes
Arnold gets through and down the ropes somehow

This section descending Ka'ala is a very interesting rocky section still with native vegetation.

Rock formation on Ka'ala
Rock formation descending Ka'ala

Shortly after we hit the fence line again, and followed it all the way down to the top of Hobbs.

Waianae mountains from Hobbs ridge
Views of Bolohead Ridge and No Name peak in the background

Going down Hobbs started very steep, but it had at least half a mile of rope, so it went pretty fast. We had some views back to Bolohead and Kalena's direction but after that nothing exciting.

Eucalyptus forest in the Waianae mountains
Eucalyptus forest

hiking between guava plants
Cruising through the giant agave plants

After descending that steep section, we arrived at the forest where the trail was a little bit harder to follow due to all the blowdowns on the ground.

We managed to get down to the eucalyptus trees and this Jurassic Park-looking area full of giant agave plants, which looked pretty cool.

From here we joined the Waterworks trail and headed back to the cars.

It was another fun adventure with friends in the Waianae Mountains.

Was a perfect hike to start the New Year.

Wasn't the easiest hike, wasn't the hardest either, but everybody enjoyed it, and that what it's matters.

Googl Earth Image Waianae mountains
Googl Earth Image

Team: Krissy, Steve, Arnold, and Nandor (Me)

Distance: Around 6.5 miles

Hiking Time: 6h 20min

Please don't use this documentation as a guide for your 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 limitations and be safe out there!


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