Saturday, July 03, 2010

Stairway to Heaven (Haiku Stairs)

Hey all,

I know it's been a while since I posted, but I've had a lot going with work and not so much with Photography :( So the Haiku Stairs, aka the Stairway to Heaven, well a little back story on them and how I first heard of them. It was actually right after I hiked Koko Crater. I was showing the pictures to my boss and she was like "That isn't the Stairway to Heaven is it?" I was like "I don't think so, I'm pretty sure this was Koko Crater. What's the Stairway to Heaven?" So she proceeded to tell me it's a little stairway that's on the East side of the island, you can see it right after you get out of the tunnel on the H3 interstate. Naturally the next time I had some free time I drove that way and caught my first glimpse of it, I immediately thought "I have to climb that!"

So I did a little research, came across a great site Friends of Haiku Stairs, on the first page, "The Haiku Stairs lead 3,922 steps up the Koolau Pali to the 2800-foot summit of Puu Keahiakahoe overlooking Haiku Valley." Holy bigebus, Koko Crater was only 1,205 ft high and 1,106 steps and kicked my butt pretty good. Then I read the tiny fine print above the info, "WARNING: THE HAIKU STAIRS ARE CLOSED." My heart sank a little bit. I did some more web searching, saw some awesome pictures, some videos on YouTube, which just upped the ante on me wanting to do it. I dunno if it being closed made me want to do it more, probably not since I first heard of it in March 2009 and didn't climb it until July 2010. Every now and then I'd find someone who hiked it, since it was a dangerous hike I definitely didn't want to do it alone, and I wanted someone who had done it before to go with me, since you have to sneak in and all. I had some co-workers who wanted to do it over a long weekend, however they picked a day when I said I was shooting a wedding :(

So flash forward to this week, we had some training over on the marine base on Kaneohe, and we're all riding a bus. I look up as we pass the tunnel to catch a glimpse of the elusive stairway when I hear someone say "Man I wanna hike that..." we get to chatting and I was like I'm down, and he's like Let's do it Friday, since we have a four day weekend. I was stoked. I had driven around the neighborhood where you have to park to get it, but I re-googled it to make sure I knew where to park and have directions.

So Friday morning rolls around, I wake up at 5:30am, since we wanted to leave Schofield by 6:00am to make it there before the security guard showed up. It was raining on our side of the island, but we both figured maybe it was only raining here, and we were already awake, let's do it anyway. I packed my Army issued wet weather gear, a camelback, and my camera. Speaking of camera, since I'm deploying in July and had no inkling to take my DSLR with me, I left it with Steph so she could get pictures of the kids while I was gone. I was thinking of buying a camera before deploying to take with me, but when I heard I was going on this hike, I had to have a camera. So Wednesday I picked up the Canon Powershot G11 from Best Buy, a camera that was getting great reviews "near DSLR performance from a compact camera", which is exactly what I wanted since I consider myself a DSLR snob, I didn't want a POS camera that I'd be frustrated with all the time. Anyway back to the hike, so we get to the gate, park the car, try not to attract too much attention and slip through the gate. It was right about 7am.

Our first view of the H3 overpass from inside the gate.

So we start up the access road and neither of us have no real clue where exactly we need to go. Out of respect for the residents who live near the gate, there isn't a definitive guide on where you need to go (I guess this is there to try and cut down on people hiking the stairs). So we're wondering and wondering, there's a couple of forks in the road and we end up at a dead end.

Dead end number one.

Well crap, so we head back to the nearest junction and take it, find another junction pick one way and crap another dead end. So we start heading back to where it split when finally we catch our first view of the stairs...

Well this gets us fired up and we kinda have an idea on where we need to go.

More awesome views along the way.

We finally find the entrance to the stairs after an hour of walking around (I guess this is pretty common).

Thankfully even after wondering around for an hour we still got to the entrance before the security guard. Here's some pictures and videos of the hike... For the videos, turn your speakers down as there is a ton of wind noise, it was a really windy day on an already windy hike...

The H3 interstate

Soon to be the first citizen of Kreplachistan to summit the Haiku Stairs ;)

A view down, I wish I'd gotten more of the actual stairs, but since 1) it was windy and rainy 2) my first time hiking and 3) I didn't want to let go of the railing much I didn't get as many shots as I wanted. Keep in mind these stairs are only about 18" wide...

One of the steepest parts of the stairs

The clouds whipping around the ridgeline just looked awesome

Another scenic spot to take a picture with the H3 tunnel in the background. We were warned it was pretty socked in so we wanted some pictures of us while we could still see

Into the clouds, literally

View from the first landing (1620 ft out of 2800ft, holy crap we're just over halfway...

The next section, yikes...

Me at the first landing

Progress Report

Almost there...

Socked in...

At the top!

I'm trying to smile and look happy but the wind was gusting probably around 40-50mph up here

And back down...

1st Landing on the way down

Back on the ground!

So definitely the hardest, scariest and probably awesome-est thing I've ever done. When we got down the security guard was pretty cool, we chatted and BSed with him for about 15-20 minutes. He said on the weekends on holidays he gets there early and will chase people down the stairs. Yes the stairs are closed, and yes you are trespassing if you decide to hike it anyway. I'm not gonna tell you what to do, but if you do decide to hike it, remember to be respectful of the environment, other hikers, and the security guards if you're instructed to leave. It took us somewhere between an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes to summit. My legs were on fire most of the time, and were definitely shaking (muscle failure) on the way down). It took about an hour to get down from the top. The security guard said his fastest summit was 37 minutes and he did Koko Crater in 14:54, yikes.

Afterward we grabbed some lunch in Kaneohe and of course the summit completely cleared up. As we left it was socked back in again. I heard from a friend there's only about 15 days a year where it's clear the whole way up. I didn't mind the cloud cover, mist and wind going up as it kept me pretty cool. I couldn't imagine hiking it on a clear day. After I got back yesterday afternoon I took 3 extra strength Ibuprofen as my back was very sore to the point where I really couldn't walk without looking crippled. Today my back is better, or since my calfs are literally on fire I don't notice my back hurting ;) I can't really walk, I kinda hobble if I need to move. I have weird bruises on my arms, they're sore from when I'd used them to help pull me up to give me legs a break, and using my arms and hands as brakes on the way down. Other than that I feel great (lol yeah right) it was definitely worth it. Koko Crater aint got nothing on Stairway, and Koko Crater was still pretty tough lol. So will I do it again? I dunno lemme see how long it takes to recover ;)

Thanks for reading,