Windward Olympus

Updated: Feb 19

By Nandor Szotak - May 2nd 2020

koolau mountain range
Windward views

I didn't do a new, exciting so called extreme hike for a while. I was more occupied with peak bagging, doing other trails, and lately got into creating YouTube videos for a new challenge I set to myself, climbing Hawaii 100 Highest Peaks. All those peaks could be a good motive to write blogs, but I still think I am a better video creator than a writer. I am more of a "documenter" if that word exists.

Okay, so a little bit of history about Windward Olympus. This trail was pioneered by old school HTMC (Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club) hikers, and the route they set is called unofficially the Turner Route, named after Dayle Turner HTMC member, who lead the actual hike. After them Pete Clines and his team made an ascent on a little bit different route, and that is called unofficially the Cline's Route. Both route join at the same spot up higher on on the ridge but have a different starting point.

After them they were 2 other groups who made the ascent, both using the Turner Route.

Windward Olympus routes
Both routes for Windward Olympus -

My friend Scott was in one of the groups who climbed this route, so I was exchanging some information with him about the hike months ago, and he even showed me his gpx track which I could examine couple times before our attempt.

Actually was not a lot of planning on this one, I was just asking couple friends if they want to do a hike on the weekend. That's it. Windward Olympus, here we come!

Initially we had a group of 4 people: Stacy, Steve, Ben and Me. Ben called in sick in the morning, so only 3 of us met in Maunawili, where we started our hike.

Maunwaili Connector Trail
Maunwaili Connector Trail

We used a shortcut trail from Steve's friends house up to the Maunawili Connector trail, and from there we hiked along the Maunwili Demo trail, until we reached our ridge.

maunawili demo trail
Hiking along the Demo Trail

Maunwaili Connector Trail
Mt Olympus from the Demo Trail

After 3 miles of walking, we checked our maps and decided to jump in the uluhe on a nice graded spot. The next 0.4 miles was a continuous bushwhack through thick ferns. We didn't stop until we reached the bottom of the hill (picture below). We thought naively that after the "uluhell" is over, we will have an easier time navigating uphill through the tress.


While getting closer to the hill in front of us, we found some good looking pink ribbons, possibly leftover from Scott's group from couple years ago. Pink ribbons made Steve happy, because he was getting worried that we might loose the trail? What trail?

After like 45 minutes the uluhe turned into something else...Well, let's just say that this section was one of the worst if not the worst part of the whole climb. It was a lot of thick vegetation, dry, rotten trees, invasive clidemia, ie'ie plants and their vines constantly blocking our way. Top of that in one section we even encountered a lot of cat claw with it's nasty thorns.

How we were moving in this section, the terrain started to get steeper until at one point we hit a rock wall. Stacy tried to look for a way top go straight up, but it wasn't an option. We had to go right to contour somehow the wall until we could climb up safely.

Safely is a loose term, but you guys know what I mean :)

After 10 minutes of looking around and contouring, we just decided to go for it. We were ascending tree by tree on an almost vertical terrain with loose rocks under our feet. It was a full body workout which required constant attention, and "rock yelling", but we made it up safely to the top of the steep hill. This section was so bad, that none of us even thought to take a picture!

hikers on windward olympus
Is Stacy smiling?

It was time for a short break after that exhausting approach. 1700ft high but we could see already the summit of Mt Olympus (2486ft). We knew at this moment, nothing can turn us back!

Adjacent Ridge to the North

After the brake, we discussed our next move. The smartest thing was to push towards that little lip/line looking formation carved in the mountain side. (see picture below)

It looked like that if we reach that part , we could contour on the left and have a better look at the remaining of the climb. None of us knew in that moment that after the contour we will be almost on the KST.

hiker on ridge line
Steve pushing towards "the lip"

Steve was in front pushing through the mixture of trees and ferns. When the uki grass showed up, we knew that the real grass climbing will start soon. Maybe too soon...

The last little section to reach the lip was a pretty vertical climb on crumbly ground. It was more muddy then the lower parts, and even the uki grass was unstable.

I found myself pulling onto this thin spiderweb looking grass, laying flat on the ground, while trying to juggle my body weight to my advantage. Thankfully we were all lightweight climbers. Surprisingly I was the heaviest in the group with a 141 lbs :)

hungaro explorer on windward olympus
Checking the map for the final push

After some hustle we reached the "lip", where we took a nice little break.

Meantime I got a message from Alex (who was invited to the hike, but he couldn't make it) that two of our friends was hiking Mt Olympus today, and they have extra ropes if we need help on the final ascent. Most of the other groups who done this hike before, needed some webbing/help to climb the last section. That gave us some extra positiveness for the end!

The "lip" was like a little faint trail on the side of the mountain, so the plan was to follow it. I was heading out first, slowly contouring the mountain. None of us really looked back down. I still don't know how is that view from 2200ft high, while hanging on a piece of grass. Next time.

hikers on windward olympus
Stacy and Steve fighting their way up the last section

Less than 10 minutes of contouring and we found ourselves in a position of "where now". Drastically the wind picked up, what was very weird. Almost blew my hat off couple times. In that moment I was 99% sure that we are reaching the trail, the KST (Ko'olau Summit Trail) if we climb just that extra 10 ft. I threw my hat up into the bushes, and was trying desperately to find a way up. The vegetation was very rare, barely any grass to hold onto, wherever I stepped I was sliding back. Somehow I found a somewhat good hold and pulled myself up landing on the trail! I was concerned that I destroyed the way behind me, but Stacy and Steve both managed to climb up without any help.

The actual exit point

We made it!

Without any break we continued to the lookout of Mt Olympus where we sat down, and enjoyed our well deserved lunch!

Checking the time I was surprised how fast we made it up to the actual

Mt. Olympus peak, 3h55min.

windward panorama
Windward views

Group selfie

After lunch we headed out on the Wa'ahila Rdige trail, but on the way we met Becca and Justin who were getting ready the ropes to help us on the last climb. I guess we made it without it, but we were happy to see them.

Socializing with the guys while heading down the trail

Looking back at Mt Olympus from the Leeward side

Beautiful views

The hike down was fast. I think Steve wanted to break some record or something because he was flying down.

We safely made it down Kolowalu Trail with a smiling face.

All of us felt accomplished!

Google Earth

Mahalo Steve for taking most of the pictures!

Team: Stacy, Steve and Nandor (Me)

Distance: Around 7 miles

Hiking Time: 5.5h

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 #adventures #winwardOlympus #koolaumountains


Recent Posts

See All