Mt. Ka’ala Sea to Summit to Sea 

Yesterday, I ran/hiked Mt. Ka’ala Sea to Summit to Sea.

It is described on the Fastest Known Time site:

Mt Ka’ala (4,025 feet) is the highest summit on the island of Oahu.  Start at Sea Level (0 ft) elevation at Pōkaʻī Beach (Pōkaʻī Bay Beach Park) run Waianae Valley Rd until you reach Mount Ka’ala Trail which will take you up to the summit of Mt. Kaala. The Mount Ka’ala Trail technically ends at the top when it runs into Mt. Ka’ala Rd, there is a sign on the fence that states end of the trail no trespassing past sign. So this is where the official turnaround for the fkt will be. The true summit (4,025 ft) is a few feet past the sign around the government-owned radio tower, you can probably walk past the trail end sign to the true summit and not get any trouble but proceed at your own risk. To finish the route, from the trail end sign you return the exact same way that you came all the way back down to sea level (0 ft) at Pōkaʻī Bay Beach Park and touch Pōkaʻī Beach.

I wanted to do something fun and hard while we were visiting Oahu and this was the route that made the most sense. It took us a little more than an hour to drive from East Honolulu. The beach was decent with calm water in a small bay, so Debbie and the kids had a place to hang out for four hours.

I read about the route on the FKT site and then further researched it on All Trails. The first (and last) four miles were on the road which was blazing hot, even at 9:00 A.M. I suffered even before the road started to pitch up in mile three. My body wasn’t acclimated to the heat. I felt better on the return leg.

Once the road started to climb, the surface changed to concrete, which was interesting. Unfortunately, there was a lot of garbage along this stretch of road. This included piles of trash, mattresses, old appliances, building materials, and abandoned vehicles. It was a real eyesore.

Eventually the road reached a gate. This is where most hikers start. Without the road run, the hike is half the total distance at 7.1 miles. My round trip ended up being 14.2 miles. Beyond the gate, the road continues for a little ways before turning to dirt and then narrowing into the trail. Once it turns to singletrack, it gets rugged and steep.

The steepness can’t be underestimated. There are long sections of 40% gradient. These sections have ropes (and some cables) that are permanently installed. It was a real shoulder workout. The ropes were in good shape but I always made sure to check and to also have contact with the ground, a tree, or a root to be safe. I didn’t want to put my full weight on a rope, have it break, and go flying. There were some sketchy spots but it was manageable. One thing I read about online that came in handy: I wore gloves. When I packed for the trip, I thorough in a pair of garden gloves. These had little “nubbins” for grip, which protected my hands. If you do this run/hike, gloves are essential.

I saw five other people on the trail. I passed a two-man group on the way up, and then a two women and a man on the way down. The best views were from the flanks of the mountain. The top was a wide table land with a marsh. There were hundreds of bog bridges with chicken wire (for grip) nailed to them. The trail was very overgrown. The top was ugly with the large radio tower installation. Apparently, there is an access road that goes all the way to the top but you can’t walk on it.

I didn’t linger at the summit. It had taken me 2 hours and 10 minutes to get up there. It was faster on the way down. I ran out of water with two miles to go. I wanted to run 7.5 minute miles, but could only manage 8.5 minute miles. By the time I got back to the beach, I was seriously overheated and it took several minutes to recover. Eventually, I joined the kids in the water and that helped cool me down.

This was a great route and a cool experience. The idea of going from sea level to the highest point on the island and back, was neat. If you only want to do the trail section, then you will still be delighted. This is a total body workout and it’s worth the effort. Don’t underestimate he physicality.

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