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Ascent of Mauna Kea on 2013-06-30

Climber: Alan Barber

Date:Sunday, June 30, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Mauna Kea
    Location:USA-Hawaii
    Elevation:13796 ft / 4205 m

Ascent Trip Report

My previous trip to the summit of Mauna Kea occurred as part of a ski club trip in the winter of 1974. At that time I had not been interested in high pointing but did it anyway. Taking advantge of a family vacation, I wanted to repeat the trip. We left our Waikoloa hotel in the rented jeep early in the morning and drove from the Kona-Waimea area to the saddle road (Hwy 200). The narrow winding two lane road climbs steadily until reaching the Pohakuloa Training Area where it becomes a new four lane divided highway. We passed the Mauna Kea state park but the office was closed because of the early hour. Shortly after mile marker 28 we found the Mauna Kea access road which heads up the mountain and turned onto it. The views were great of both Mauna Loa and Maua Kea with clouds creeping up its eastern flank.

After another 6 miles, we arrived at the Mauna Kea Visitor information center (9200 feet) at 8:30 am and took the opportunity to walk around and use the restrooms. We have been drinking a lot of water to help with the altitude and thought a break at this altitude would help before heading the rest of the way up.

The visitor center was not open yet (hours were 9 am to 10 pm) when we arrived but we did walk through the garden nearby and saw several of the rare Silversword plants in their native habitat (high-altitude, volcanic, cinder terrain).

After about a 30 minute break we continued up the road. The road which had been two lane asphalt up to that point changed to gravel. It had a lot of washboard wear on it and was certainly rough. Keeping the car in 4 wheel drive and under 25 mph was the only way to go. The road up the mountain passes through an area considered to be an Ice Age Reserve. The view back down the mountain toward the sea was amazing. We were above the clouds and could look back at the Visitors center and the surrounding cinder cones.

We reached the top and saw several observatories. It was very windy and we appreciated having the additional layers of clothes.The trail from the parking lot at the top was easy to see and after a short 10 minute hike I reached the summit.

The rock cairn on the top was easy to find, however, no USGS marker was present. Previous trip reports show the USGS marker on a metal post but there was no sign of it. I asked a ranger at the visitor center after we got back down and he indicated that evidently locals or others have a habit of throwing it down hill. This had recently happened and while it had been recovered, the rangers had not have time to replace it. I ended up buying a marker copy for a paper weight as a souvenir. The summit is definitely higher than the observatories but the camera angle does not show it.

The terrain is mostly cinders with only an occasional piece of intact lava present. Because of the season, there was no snow left. I could see the road coming up the mountain from the other side of the summit and was thankful for the jeep. My first visit to the summit was as part of a group of skiers. The entire summit had been covered with snow. It was strange to see the bare cinder slope where we previously skied.We headed back down and spent some time in the Visitors center before continuing our trip to Hilo.
Summary Total Data
    Grade/Class:1
    Quality:1 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Weather:Cold, Windy, Clear



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