Updated: Mar 6
By Nandor Szotak - April 16th 2019
Climbing the 1600 feet tall Pu'u Manamana (True Manamana) was on my list for a long time. This peak is not to be confused with Turnover Point (2076 ft), the highest point of Pu'u Manamana ridge. If you look at topographic maps you will find this peak as Pu'u Manamana, but to be differentiated from the ridge with the same name people call it "True Manamana". The actual ridge continues after you reach the peak, drops off 200', then reaches the "2 Apes Talking" rock formation. From there the ridge continues up to Pu'u Ohule'hule peak and finally will reach the top of the Ko'olau mountains.
Many people tried to climb this peak including Al Miller, Chuck Godek, and Charlotte Yamane who were some of the best climbers on the island, but none of them succeeded.
In 2010 Pete Clines and Laredo Muredo were the first documented climbers who reached the top of True Manamana. After their ascent, many others climbed it, but it is still one of the rarely climbed mountain peaks on the island of O'ahu. The final approach to the peak is very treacherous, climbing the narrow, gnarly ridge line can be very dangerous and time-consuming too.
Fast forward to our climbing day, I met Mike at my house at 7:00 am, and I asked my wife to drop us off at the trailhead before she goes to work.
The plan was to hike up Cemetery Ridge to Turnover point, which is the last flat high point before the real challenging part of the trail. The weather in the morning didn't look good, black clouds were taking over the Ko'olau mountains, and raindrops hit the windshield of the car on the way to the trailhead.
This was my 4th time trying to hike this trail. The other three times I had to turn back because of heavy rain. But now even if it was raining a bit, I was positive about our chances.
Everything was super wet from the rain. The humidity, no breeze, and overgrowth didn't help either.
Some parts of the ascent were very nice, but then when we got to the last part, where it became very overgrown with uluhe fern and very muddy.
By the time we arrived at Turnover, we were soaked.
The time to the top was 1h30min, which is a pretty solid time considering the wet terrain.
We took a long break, ate some food, and tried to figure out the weather forecast. It was a whiteout, but the rain stopped. 10 minutes later the sun came out which gave us the "go for it" sign.
We knew that the first section of the trail will be wet, and overgrown, but wide, so we were hoping that until we get to the sketchy, narrow sections the wind will dry it up a bit.
Well, it started raining...
Crossing the overgrowth wasn't too bad. The excitement started when we saw for the first time the ridge line covered in misty clouds. It was just so epic!
We forgot that it is raining, or that it is cold, didn't matter. We were focused on reaching the top of True Manamana!
After this amazing view, we started descending slowly the supposedly 600-foot drop.
We were very cautious on the wet terrain, which put us at a pretty slow-going pace. Better safe than sorry, I guess!
On the descent, we were thinking about our friend Krista who just did this hike couple of weeks ago. She said. "There is a 50-foot drop where you can use the rope, it’s probably safer". I guess we missed that drop and the rope too? Hmmm...not sure.
There was only one rock face which was a little bit tricky to descend because it was wet, but other than that, we just went through the whole drop section without realizing it.
Not much after we reached the bottom of the 600-foot drop, we arrived at the famous puka (hole). We were playing around with the Go Pro to take the best shot we can of the whole thing. I think we managed it pretty well.
On the right, you can see a picture of Al Miller in the "puka", who was one of the best climbers on the island. He did some pretty gnarly climbs, including plenty of windward ridges up to the Ko'olaus, and he even crossed the whole crest of Mo'o Kapu O Haloa which includes one of the ranked summits of O'ahu, Pu'u Kanehoalani. That peak is still on my list, the question is when and how I will be able to climb it :)
Passing the puka we just basically stayed on top of the ridge, and made our way through the overgrowth, getting closer and closer to the peak.
The last section to reach the 1600-foot peak wasn't as bad as I thought.
It got steeper, but a lot of vegetation to hold onto. I guess being skinny on a "skinny" ridge is an advantage :)
Getting to the top was an amazing feeling of great accomplishment. I was so happy to be up there. Was not the hardest or sketchiest hike I've done, but one of those stuck in my head.
After both of us reached the top, Mike had the idea to check out the 200-foot drop.
Well, a waste of half an hour it was... Trying to fight our way through all the tangly overgrowth just to get to an octopus tree, and see nothing... Anyway, lunch felt better for sure after our little side trip.
It took us 2h 30min to get from Turnover Point to the peak, which is less than a mile...uh. I guess that is not too bad considering the wet surface and overgrowth.
On the way back the whole ridge dried up which made for a safer hike to Turnover Point. Took us much less time too, about 1h 45min, and from there back down to Cemetery.
What a great day!
Check out our YouTube video from the hike:
Team: Mike and Nandor (Me)
Distance: Around 5.5 miles
Hiking Time: 9h
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!