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How not to climb Stairway To Heaven

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Feb 7, 2018 aka the scariest day of my life

Stairway to heaven was on my to do bucket list and I knew I was going to do it sooner or later.

I saw enormous amount of photos from the famous stairs and since I arrived to Hawaii I was waiting for the perfect day.

First few days I just wanted to relax on the beach, than I had 3 days of tours around island, climbed Diamond Head Crater, then one more day on the beach and the day for Haiku came.

I met a young girl who also wanted to do Haiku, so we planned to meet at Duke statue at 6 am, both of us messaged we need more sleep in the morning so I was ready to go at 8 am. I called her couple of times but there was no response so I decided I’ll go by myself.

I got to my Uber and drove to Moanalua Valley Trail. This is the side which is not restricted (illegal) as the Haiku stairs one.

First hour or so the trail was flat and the road was wide. Then, on the left hand side there was a sign of a trail to some summit (can’t remember the name of the summit). I wasn’t sure if this is where I should turn as my wide road was still continuing straight but I heard some people and decided to wait as someone was coming my way.

Two girls were heading on Haiku and they said I can join them. Their speed was much faster than mine so after 20 minutes I lost them, also after those 20 minutes I was on the top of a mountain and the road was very narrow with abyss on both sides.

stairway to heaven moanalua valley trail

stairway to heaven trail top

 

 

stairway to heaven trail me

This is the picture they took of me not long before they disappeared from my sight.

The longer I went the harder it was. From a sunny and mostly dry path I was on a muddy and slippery path, risking falling into the abyss.

From time to time there were wet muddy ropes I could use to help climb. I was so scared of getting back the same way I hoped it will get better and I will quickly reach the stairs.

Those girls told me it is about 90 minutes hike, well with my speed it seemed much longer. At one point it was so slippery and there was no rope I had to climb on my knees, catching the grass and bushes around me. I literally never was “scared to death” as than. I had signal and 50% battery I called my husband in NYC and told him I went on Haiku by myself and I am scared and there is no way I will be able to go back same way I came.

I described my location I saw on google maps and he was like, well you are close (yeah, maybe if I was not climbing on summit of the mountain but on flat surface than it would be close. He asked me to make more stops and rest and ensured I will be fine.

Screen of where I was, completely terrified.

stairway to heaven trail almost there

stairway to heaven trail rope

stairway to heaven trail

 

I climbed more, still scared AF and than it started raining, and it was very very foggy. I had nowhere to hide from the rain. The mud was soaking wet and I was loosing my shoes in it.

As the rain was not stopping for half hour he called and messaged me many times. After it stopped raining I called him and said him there is no way I can go anywhere now, and I should probably call 911 to get to helicopter.

He calmed me down, happy to hear me, as he was just about to call emergency services as I wasn’t responding for 30min. (the only thing that made dry on this trip was my phone).

stairway to heaven trail radio station

After the fog cleared out I noticed the radio station on the next summit. I had to go down from my peak and than climb the next one.

My hand was already cut and bleeding. I was shivering from cold rain and sweating from humidity. He messaged me that the stairs start at the radio station. I said I will try to get there.

I managed to get to the stairs, I called him and said there is about 4000 stairs and then I need an UBER and I have no data on my phone anymore. I told him I call him when I am down there and will send him my location so he can arrange an uber for me.

I think the first 1500 stairs went pretty easy as there was a lot of fog on this side of the mountain and although I knew where I was going I wasn’t seeing the abyss around me. Once it cleared out I had to be very focused to not look anywhere.

It was already 5h from the start of my trail, I was exhausted and hungry and dehydrated. My shoes were muddy, wet and slippery. Rails were wet from the rain as well. It was probably 1h until I was down. I ran into 3 groups that were just starting the Haiku stairs. And there I was, I reached the bottom.

It started raining again, There was a guard that I pass by, he was in the blue sedan right in front of the stairs. At this point, or even at much earlier point I didn’t care if I get a fine (expect a $500 fine as the stairway to heaven is illegal). I just wanted to go home. I went to the entrance no 3, to meet with my Uber driver who helped me go through the thorny fence.

fence on Puoni pl

I was so lucky to run into him, I told him the story how I got behind the fence, and from how I looked and smell (the mud) it was easily understandable. 30 min later  I was back in Waikiki still shivering and scared after the whole experience.

So I am writing it the next day, as I can barely move from the muscle pain I have. I would defiantly never go again, and as I set on a beach today and looked in the mountain I still shiver.

How not to pack for Stairway to Heaven hike.

  1. Remember this is Hawaii, it is going to be hot, so 2 little bottles of water is not enough.
  2. I had 1 quest protein bar and 1 triangle sandwich, manageable, but I could easily eat more in those 6-7 hours.
  3. Slippery shoes, probably not a good idea, this is the current state of mine, I am not sure if they will ever get back to white again.

mud on stairway to heaven

 

 

4. If you plan to take the Moanalua Vally trail to climb with the ropes, I would definitely recommend gloves, so you won’t cut yourself. If you plan on just doing the stairs both ways, probably no need. Also if you plan to do just the stairway to heaven this is gonna be 80% more easier then what I did, as you will climb 1h up and than 1h down + you will stop to take some pictures. My trip was from 9am till 4pm and was much longer than just the stairs.

Here is a useful map I found a day before I went there. As I mentioned earlier I came back with the entrance no 3.

haiku stairs enterance

Credit

If you want to go with someone, not alone as I did, you can write to @mike.karas or @hawaii_mountain.man.matt on instagram as they both offer guided tours and made this route many times. I spoke to Mike before I went there and he tried to open my eyes on the difficulty, and I met Matt going down the stairs, he was taking a couple up the stairs.

 

Here is my start and end point.(don’t mind the blue route, I obviously hiked the mountain, not the highway)

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my trail from Moanalua Vally Trail start to Haiku stairs

One additional photo I made roughly 2,5h from the start of my trail, at the far far behind when you see the houses there was the start of my trail:

 

Pin for later:

How not to climb stairway to heaven


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