Pucker Factor 3 – Koko Crater Rim

Chris having some free time this weekend, we decided to check out the Koko Crater rim trail. The man who put the bug into my brain couldn’t make it so it was just the two of us parking at the botanical garden. This isn’t an official sanctioned trail so you wont find any marker. Suffice it to say that as soon as we turned left through the plumeria we were heading the wrong way. A pit stop at a stinky porta potty and it was looking pretty obvious this wasn’t going the way we wanted. We turned around and took the path less travelled.Before a clearing we spoted a trail through the tall grass marked with a couple very faded ribbons. Taking it followed a fairly clear trail running in a slight gulley that paralleled the proper ridge. Lots of elephant grass and low hanging kiawe. The trail started to descend, while the ridge was rapidly climbing. There was no visible access as far as we could see, the climb to the ridge looked much too steep from where we were.

We decided to turn around and look for an access to the ridge. Looks like this faux trail might have been the result of others doing the exact thing we did. There was traces of people bushwacking off the side of this trail to find the ridge. We decided to go pretty far back to where the difference in level with the ridge wasn’t so bad and there were more obvious signs of foot traffic.

A short tromp up through the kiawe and we found the ridge.  The path was clear, a bit rocky, lined with low grass, shin scratching scrub brushes. The path was fairly narrow but the slopes on either side were not severe. This wouldn’t last long as the trail quickly got steeper.

This trail doesn’t get heavy traffic so the volcanic rock hasn’t broken down to a lot of rubble and loose dirt, it actually affords a lot of traction. Which is a good thing when we come to a broad fairly featureless slope. Pretty much relying on friction to climb up, the little protruding rocks are not good to rely on as holds. While this volcanic rock gives a lot of friction grip, it does not rank in stability. It can break and crumble easily. In fact at the top of this slope we slide behind a large chunk that looks like if we pushed would go tumbling down the side of the crater. No houses below, but I’m sure it would still be frightening.

And things start to get serious here.  We find the first knife edge and experience the effects of the brisk tradewinds. And this is not the worst one, this one is still relatively comfortably navigated on two feet. Cresting the other side of this was waiting the first truely butt puckering section. A true knife edge where left hand is on one side and the right on the other of ridge and climbing up it! No pics here, too busy puckering! You’ll have to wait for the video.

Following this the trail thankfully mellowed out for a bit with easily walkable ridge through low kiawe and cacti. The respite was just long enough to relax the sphincters a little when things started to get rocky and climby. Then we hit the next pucker section. This was a good one, another knife edge. This was fairly level but quite exposed. Being level made me crouch down and use hands, not quite a crawl, but close. It was that butt puckering. And the cherry on the sundae, the whip on your mocha, the jalapeno the next morning on the spincter, was the gap. It was really just a little gap. But a gap. A F you, yes I’m a wuss gap. If you had any inkling of a fobia, this will do it. I don’t have one, but I’m not entirely comfortable with heights either, so this was pretty unnerving. Had to sit on my ass and work out a foot hold and work up my nerves. Finally bridged it and clambered up the other side.

We had to back up a little to find a better path that ran along the inner side of the rim. Better is a realtive term as we’re still working a narrow path on a steep side slope. The trail eventually returned to the ridge where it became relatively mellow for a while. It did narrow quite a bit in points, but it wasn’t as exposed and was comfortably walked. Eventually did come to a rocky knifedge rise, but the path contoured around along the outside. This did lead to some more knife edge sections that were walkable and then to fractured wall.

The visible path was up the face. It was faceted creating natural stair steps, but also made you wonder about the stability of the facets. Getting up this, clambering up one last knife edge and we made the platforms at the top. It was with relief that we took a break here. There was no protest to my plan of going down the tracks. No intention now of completing the rim trail.

So this trail rates a solid 3 on the Pucker Factor scale that we discussed while hiking. Meaning I can now say I did it, but I will not do this trail again by choice. Sorry Dave, you missed it, if you want to do it you’ll have to get Derek or someone else to go with you. And if there’s any hint of it being wet, don’t do it.

PF1:  sphincterrific, completely relaxed, trail easy enough for kids.



PF2:  warm up those sphincter muscles, ridges and edges for some appearance but no real danger, steeps that can possibly slip on, but would only result in booboo scrapes unless you do something really wrong.

PF3: some serious sphincter tightening, real knife edges, steeps that if you slip will hurt, a lot, and a good possibilty of worse. Anything requiring a rope is at least this level.


PF4: sphincter clench of doom, basically any mess up and the risk of beyond serious injury is very real. Have your last will & testament prepared.

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