The Grief Cycle While Hiking Koko Head

Hawaii’s main island, O’ahu, is home to many famous hikes… but Koko Head is one of the most infamous. If you blindly agree to hike it, you soon realize that you just agreed to your own slow death.

While you’re hiking Koko Head, you go through a mental breakdown that parallels the grief cycle.

Kübler-Ross model - Wikipedia
This is what it looks like.

1. Denial.

Your friends drag you to the bottom of this hike. As you look straight up at the top, your mind starts racing:

“There’s no way. What if I can’t go all the way up? I can’t keep up. I don’t understand why we’re even doing this. Is it as bad as it looks?!”

Look at all the crazies doing this hike

2. Anger

You begin to approach the area of the hike where the tracks seem to hover over pretty large gap in terrain, and you’re praying you don’t fall through the slits. Meanwhile, your legs are already a bit shaky (either from the understandable fear and anxiety OR from being super out-of-shape apparently) and you’re enraged that your friends would think to bring you here.

“Why the actual f*** would anyone do this. Why would you, my friends, force me to do this. I can’t believe you guys. I could die of exhaustion. You’re insane.”

The photo is blurry from my sweat. 🙂

3. Depression

You have to take a breather. This is truly unbearable. Meanwhile, your friends are in front and they’re trying to keep a good pace. You stand to the side, let other hikers pass, and you hunch forward to catch a breath while either sweat or tears drip from your face. It’s probably both, though.

Me: “I can’t make it. I can’t do this. This is hopeless. I am a FAILURE.”

Friends, yelling down: “You can do it! Almost there!”

Me: “You. Said. That. EARLIER.”

4. Bargaining

You’re back on your way, putting all your blood, sweat, and tears into this 30 minute hike up the natural stair stepper of doom. Now it seems to be going straight vertical. Some guy, barefoot, passes you with his Bluetooth speaker on full blast, like he’s actually ENJOYING this hell.

Poor quality… but doesn’t take away from the reality.

You keep talking to yourself, “You can do this. What is this hike going to mean to you? If you finish, you can treat yourself to an acai bowl at Island Brew. It’s gonna be great. Jesus, how many more steps are there… Please make it stop. OMG these steps just keep getting taller, at least make that stop…”

5. Acceptance

Your friends are standing at the top, waving you on. You’re like 10 steps away from the top. You look down. That’s a lot of steps.

“I can make it. I’ve done all those steps, I can do 10 more. I am strong. I am the master of Koko Head.”


The views are amazing, totally worth the mental and physical challenge!

… and now you have to go down.

Have you done Koko Head?! How was your experience? Would you do this hike if you visited O’ahu? Comment below!


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