TR - Mauna Kea, HI (13,796')

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TR - Mauna Kea, HI (13,796')

Postby USAKeller » Thu May 24, 2007 11:48 pm

Date: Tuesday, May 22, 2007; solo
Route: Mauna Kea Trail (Humu'ula Trail)
Total mileage: 14 miles
Total elevation gain: ~4,590ft.

I woke up at 4:15am and left Waikoloa (just outside of Kona) at 5:00am ready for my first complete solo climb. I arrived at the Onizuka Visitor Information Station (VIS) (9,200ft.) at 6:15am. I came from the Kona side of the island, through Waimea, and entered Saddle Road (Hwy 200) from the west. It's not a bad road, just narrow in some places without any services. Around mile 27-28, the Mauna Kea Access Road takes you to the VIS. It is all paved to this point. I registered with the ranger, and began hiking at 7:15am. The trail is about 100 yards up the road on the opposite side of the VIS. It was definitely chilly when I started- around 50 degrees, completely sunny and no wind.

The trail is an easy class 1 gradual walk-up marked with signs at the beginning, and then with metal poles afterwards as shown in the photos below. It is mostly comprised of sand sprinkled with rocks, and interspersed with large sections of lava rock and scree throughout a land of several volcanoes. This terrain gave me with the feeling of being on Mars- it is amazing how much we get used to hiking in Colorado.

Photos of the Mauna Kea Trail:

While hiking, one of the things I found interesting was how low the clouds existed; they created a skirt far below from where I was. You can see this in the photo above (on the right side). It was also incredible to see the massive profile of Mauna Loa behind me throughout the hike. Just after mile 6, the trail gently contours around Pu'u Hau Kea ending at the road (at the Mauna Kea Ice Age Reserve boundary). When I came around this peak (Pu'u Hau Kea), the first views of the observatories were overwhelming- they are huge! Unfortunately, my camera battery died and I couldn't get a picture of that sight.

Where the trail meets the road:

I continued up the road for the last mile to find more observatories and higher winds. A little 5-minute easy detour (similar to the jaunt from the road up to the summit of Mt. Evans) takes you over to the summit of Mauna Kea to where I arrived 3hrs. 50min. later from when I started. The temperature was definitely warmer; but due to the amount of sweat I produced, I put a hat on. The summit is simple, with an interesting shrine atop, and lacking a summit register. It still was amazing to me how low the clouds were- it definitely made me feel like I was much higher than I've ever been. A tourist came over and offered to take some summit shots and later email them to me.

On the summit of Mauna Kea with some of the many observatories behind:

I soon had the summit all to myself and for a few minutes the wind calmed down. I said a prayer for David- I knew I was going to be emotional, but didn't know how much. Throughout the entire hike, I could feel David's presence with me; it was a weird but wonderful feeling. I didn't want it to end.

After an hour of walking around up there, I decided to head back. I hauled back down the 7 miles back down and returned to the visitors center 2hrs. and 30min. later. One of the rangers was surprised to see me back that soon! Recently, I found out from sdkeil that David had always wanted me to solo something. I did this highpoint for David and for myself. Mauna Kea was my first solo climb, and, although it was problem-free and animal-free ( :D ), I'm happy with this trip and want to learn more about solo climbing. Nonetheless, it was a good peak to start with. I found that the hardest part was waking up at sea level (of which I was at for a week prior to), driving up to 9,000ft., and then climbing to nearly 14,000ft. and back down in a matter of 8 hours (pretty much gaining almost 14,000ft. in one day without anything being pressurized)! I generally don't experience problems with altitude, but that definitely gave me a taste of what it is like for people who come to Colorado feel when they climb. It was a beautiful day with weather I couldn't complain of. I've heard that when the weather is foggy, driving on Saddle Road and climbing up Mauna Kea is not recommended; I definitely see how the road can be unsafe and the trail might be a challenge to stay on in these conditions.

I just went down to the beach to watch a striking sunset:
Last edited by USAKeller on Tue May 29, 2007 8:21 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Postby 14ers4me » Fri May 25, 2007 3:34 am

USAKeller, awesome trip report! It is weird to look at the picstures of you on the summit at almost 14,000 feet and see large buildings not to far off. Like you said, its amazing how much we really do get used to climbing/hiking in Colorado. Sounds like overall it was a great climb. The pics you took were beautiful, especially the one with the sunset on the beach, amazing. Thanks for the TR! David is definitely looking down somewhere and thinking about how proud of you he is!
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Postby ChloeBlue » Fri May 25, 2007 5:38 am

USAKeller - Nice trip report! Congrats on your solo...I'm sure David is very proud! :D
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Postby FlyGirl » Fri May 25, 2007 6:13 am

Just beautiful and very touching USAKeller! I love the sunset shot on the beach.
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Postby Hunter » Fri May 25, 2007 6:47 am

USAKeller- David was a hero to me. With your permission I would like to make a Jihad t-shirt similar to the one he had to wear on all my trips this summer. Hang in there and keep living the dream. God bless.
"I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious."
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Postby OBX Fisherman » Fri May 25, 2007 6:49 am

Great job on the solo climb!! David would be very proud of you!! I look forward to reading about all the hikes you will be on this year and years to come!!

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Postby Aubrey » Fri May 25, 2007 6:59 am

Congratulations, USAK! Really glad to hear you made it up there, and that the Saddle Road wasn't so bad. I also thought it looked like Mars up there.
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Postby Spam » Fri May 25, 2007 7:08 am

Right On!! Very beautiful there it seems. Nice job!
"Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory." -- Ed Viesturs
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Postby MountainHiker » Fri May 25, 2007 8:07 am

USAKeller, great report. Here's a picture of some of those observatories from when my wife & I did Mauna Kea in Oct 2004. It was really strange to be climbing close to 14,000' and then go back to tropical sea level. ... 084937.jpg
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Postby joe4186 » Fri May 25, 2007 8:13 am

amazing sunset

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Postby smason505 » Fri May 25, 2007 9:05 am

Great report, nice pictures.
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Postby mtnbikerskierchick » Fri May 25, 2007 9:07 am

Great TR USAKeller! Thanks for sharing!
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