• Nandor Szotak

Climbing Eleao Windward

Updated: May 4

By Nandor Szotak - June 1st 2019

Eleao Windward captured by Krista

It was a long time in plan to climb up Eleao Windward, but as usual, life happened, so I had no time to hit the trails.

My friend Mike was still here from mainland, so he was a good push for me to plan this hike already.

Drone shot of Eleao Windward ridge.

It was a wet and humid Saturday morning, when the guys picked me up in Kaneohe. Randy (another friend) drove us to the "unmarked trailhead" of Eleao Windward where we could start our long journey to the top of the Ko'olau Mountains.

We started our trek by going around a water tank, and followed a dry trail all the way to the 1st summit on the ridge called Nanaikaalaea. If I wouldn't have an offline topographic map with me, I wouldn't know that this is an actual 1060' peak on the ridge.


Krista fighting the bushes uphill

The "sketchy" section captured by Krista (left peak is Ulimakoli)

Passed that small peak, we were on the way to the 2nd peak Ulimakoli which was a bit higher, reaching 1300' in elevation.


It is always good to let somebody test out the webbing before you :D

From here started the actual "fun", exciting part of our adventure.

We were heading towards the bigger Eleao peak, but before we had to drop in and climb back up couple of interesting notches and rock faces.


We had to pull out our 50' long webbing for our first drop, mostly because the crumbly, slippery down climb. Until Mike was testing the webbing on his descent into the unknown invasive vegetation, Krista and me was just enjoying the dramatic landscape and taking some nice photos.

The clouds hanging over the green Ko'olau Mountains makes every hike or climb more intense, more adventurous. Like you are getting into the great Unknown.





I can see my house from here!

Balacing moves on the narrow ridge

Some of the drops were very narrow and crumbly, but that is very typical to any Windward ridge. Probably that makes them "extreme"?

Krista and Mike in the distance ascending a steep, crumbly section

Behind the scene

At one point I just sat down and waited until Krista and Mike got further out on the ridge, so I could take this photo. You can see that almost vertical rock face in front of them which looks pretty daunting at first...

When a Class III scramble turns into Class V

After the initial ascent, we started to encounter different obstacles, rock faces which required good focus, and scrambling skills.

...and then to free climbing!

Everything was pretty much Class III - Class V scrambling, until we hit this spot on the top picture. We were trying to figure out a good approach on each side of the cliff, but finally we decided to try to climb the more exposed part which had more stable (not really) handholds. Mike as always took the initiative to go first and drop down the webbing when he makes it up. It take him some time to figure out the right way, but he managed it. Krista followed him with already the help of a webbing (not that she couldn't of climb it), and I made it up safely too. This was the only section of the whole trip, where I felt tense on every step and every pull on the rock face. It was no place for a mistake...or "Welcome to the Hawaiian Abyss"

Mike proudly walking between the bushes

Passing that obstacle which actually was the last one, the ridge line started to become very overgrown. (not that is wasn't before)

When the overgrowth gets REAL

The "UluHell" was real! We were cruising in tall uluhe fern, gaining good elevation and meanwhile it started raining...so we had all the good ingredients for having a good time :)

The peak is not far anymore...or is it?
Ie'ie plants welcoming us onto a higher elevation
Shaka to boost our moral :)

YES, after almost 6 hours of playing "Man vs. The Wild" , we made it to the top of the 2,654' tall Eleao peak. We could not enjoy it too long on the top because of high winds, so instead we sat down in the meadows for a short launch break.

Cold launch break after we got to the top of Eleao

Here we had two options: going down Mananan or Waimano ridge.

Yes, I know who would like to go down Manana? Not us for sure! Of course we opted for the longer approach to Waimano trail.

Ko'olau Summit Trail crossing towards Waimanao Trail

After getting lost and circling around Eleao Meadows for like 20 minutes, finally we found the right way to go, and in less then an hour we arrived to the Waimano trail junction.

Happy faces at the Waimano terminus

The 7 miles down Waimano felt like it is taking forever, but we made it back to the trailhead before sunset.

Eleao Winward is comparable to Kalahaku Teeth, but I felt like it was more overgrown, not as many obstacles, and not as fun either. I definitely think it is a harder ridge climb than Kalahaku.


As always, we had a great time with good friends!


Google Earth Image

Team: Krista, Mike and Nandor (Me)

Distance: Around 11 miles

Hiking Time: 10h


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 #outdoors #adventures #eleaowindward #koolau

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