Ascent of Mauna Kea on 2020-03-08

Climber: David Gambone

Others in Party:Nancy Bartlett; Hayley Gamabone
Date:Sunday, March 8, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mauna Kea
    Elevation:13796 ft / 4205 m

Ascent Trip Report

One week vacation in Hawaii. Arrived in Hilo; rented a Jeep Wrangler 4x4 (they're all over Hawaii- must be the state car). Drove the Saddle Road (very nice drive) to the entrance to the Access Road to Mauna Kea. There were a lot of protesters camps set up at the entrance, but I saw few protesters and the road to the Visitors Center was not blocked. Drove the 6 miles to the Visitors Center- easy drive on paved road. Spent about an hour there at 9,200 feet acclimatizing to the altitude. Nice Visitors Center- helpful people, bought some souvenirs. Then drove the 8 miles to the summit area (first half was gravel, second half was paved). You definitely need a 4x4 to drive this road, especially on the descent when you need low gears to brake the engine without using the brakes that often themselves. Parked at the summit area near the 8 mile mark and near the Hawaiian observatories; lots of space to park. You can feel the altitude at 13,700 feet very quickly. There is a sign posted that asks hikers not to proceed to the true summit as it is designated a sacred area. I must admit, I ignored the sign and hiked to the summit over some snow, but nice 40+ temperatures (I wasn't going to travel over 6,000 miles to Hawaii to fall short of the true summit). There is a rock shrine at the summit. I stayed for about 10 minutes, paying my respects. I placed a rock on the cairn in honor of my mother who would have been 108 on this day. Said a prayer to her- that made me feel like I was also attending to the sacredness of the site. The shrine was composed of rocks, coconuts, and other items. There was some snow covering 1/2 of the summit area. Not sure if the benchmark was buried in the snow or if it was missing (I understand that it may have been removed by the rangers and not replaced). Hiked back down to the parking area. My wife and daughter hiked up to the highpoint of the Hawaiian observation area (close to same altitude of the true highpoint) choosing to honor request on sign not to hike to the true summit area. Then we drove back down (slowly) the 8 miles to the Visitors Center. Once again the Jeep 4x4 was perfect for this. Stopped again at the Visitors Center to relax a bit and then drove the last 6 miles to Saddle Road and back to Hilo. U.S. State highpoint #42 for myself and Nancy; #40 for my daughter Hayley. Nice adventure.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground

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