Ascent of Haleakala on 2016-01-25

Climber: Marcus Lostracco

Others in Party:Sean "Run Bum" Blanton
Date:Monday, January 25, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Elevation:10023 ft / 3055 m

Ascent Trip Report

The "Run to the Sun" - Maui's rite of passage in the ultrarunning world. The challenge is to run from sea level to the summit of Haleakala (Hawaiian for "House of the Sun") for a total elevation gain of 10,023 feet over 35 miles.

I was in Maui for the second time to enjoy myself while being between jobs. My good buddy Sean "Run Bum" Blanton was putting on his running tour on the island which I helped out with last year, and it made for ideal timing for me to do the repeat this year. Staying at the Aloha Surf Hostel from January 18-25. A really awesome week of trail running in the morning, midday beach relaxation, easy evening runs, and a lot of awesome food (poke, mix plates, chili rice, BRUDDAH HUTTS, DA KITCHEN...). While on the first day of the tour Sean asks me when I'm leaving, and I said Monday 9pm. He suggests that we do the Run to the Sun Sunday night. I agreed.

Over the week we ironed out the details of our plan. Sean is a Run to the Sun veteran, having already completed the challenge 7 previous times. It's almost routine for him at this point as far as the preparation goes. We decide to aim to set off at 11pm Sunday the 24th to arrive at the summit for the 7am sunrise on Monday the 25th.

Sunday January 24th
I wake up today feeling really nervous, knowing the challenge that was ahead of me. My main concern was running on a road for 35 miles - I had never done anything near that on road before. Trails, sure, but not road. I relaxed in the morning doing some yoga, visiting the little Buddhist temple meditation wheel in Paia, and did a grocery run at Mana foods, the really great local grocery store - I spent $85 on food: 8 cans of coconut water, 6 clementines, 6 peanut/caramel chocolate bars, 2 personal strawberry rhubarb pies, 2 spring rolls, a chicken sandwich on focaccia, 4 cans of Blue Sky cola, 4 sesame seed bars, 2 macadamia nut chocolate bars, 2 stinger energy waffles, and a giant meal from the hot bar. We would also add a bag of onion chips and a sleeve of oreos on a supplementary grocery run. These supplies would be split into 5 aid drop bags to be stationed at miles 8, 13, 18, 24, and 29. We loaded up the aid bags (brown paper bags so they could be torn into toilet paper if need be) and drove up the route to drop the aid. Doing this drive was really cool to get a preview for the route. We were in for a long night. As we drove up to the last aid drop point, there was this weird super bright yellow light coming from behind the clouds...... moments later, an incredible, huge yellow full moon would emerge menacingly staring at us. I felt that unmatched sensation of insignificance you get while out in nature. I was honestly really intimidated by the way the moon was staring at me, and could not get that image out of my mind as we drove back to the hostel. The plan was to sleep for an hour and a half before waking up at 10:45pm to head down to the beach.

My alarm went off - I didn't sleep at all... the moon's stare was still haunting me. I felt its energy. I got out of my bunk, not feeling tired or nervous or anything. Just excited. Energetic. Eager. Let's do this. I threw on my kit: American flag shorts, Mandala shirt, bandana, headlamp, compression socks, Newtons, and a windbreaker tied around my waist. Go time.

We were super lucky to have an awesome friend at the hostel - an Irish girl named Ave who was working there. Really fun girl, and super nice. She drove us down to the beach so we could get our official sea level start in. She also "volunteered" to help us towards the end to be our support vehicle - amazing. We started slightly late at 11:15pm - no worries at all. I was happy. The tide was high and the waves were frequent - touching the water was a bit of a challenge without getting the shoes wet. Feeling the cold water made me feel grounded and connected with the Earth. We got going and were off running. We stopped to take a quick pic at the hostel on the way up for a quick "before" picture.

We were cruising early on at a decent pace, making deliberate walking breaks. Baldwin Ave is the first road we would run on up to Makawao. It's very lit up with street lights, but we still wore our healdamps to be visible for when cars would pass. We made it up to Makawao in less than an hour (5 miles). After passing through the town, the roads were less lit, and it became obvious how bright the moon was. There it was way up directly on top of us, shining so bright that our shadows were right under us... a really eerie effect. We didn't even need headlamps to see - the moon was plenty bright. Its presence now was more of a guiding and supportive nature. It was there to help. I was grateful for the moon. I was channeling its effortless energy. While running we passed under a wire with a big white owl hanging out on it. We stopped to observe it while it looked straight back at us.... The strength of the white owl was with us. It flew off majestically into the night... we would hear it screech a few times. We then passed by a field of horses... the white horse was standing at the highest ground... glowing in the moonlight... magical...

Arriving at the first aid drop in about 1.5 hours for 8 miles, we refilled our water, and ate nearly everything. Except the spring rolls (they were huge... I thought maybe some crunchy greens would be good at this point but neither of us had any appetite for them - I fed them to a horse). We carried onward, refueled and feeling great. This section was dark, but the moonlight was ever present. Passing by a wooded area, we saw some deer looking back at us... more animal spirits to support our journey. As we were running along, chatting about something while aweing at the stars, in a flash there is a giant vertical golden streak that cuts right through the night sky. WOAH!! DID YOU SEE THAT??? We had the exact same reaction... a shooting star!!! Amazing... I had chills... I couldn't stop smiling... I made a wish... So far this run had just been a spectacle of nature... I was feeling amazing and so grateful for everything in life.

We arrived to Kula, our 2nd drop bag at 13 miles in at 2 hours and 45 minutes... a respectable uphill half marathon time. Here we took a bit longer of a break, making sure to eat as much as possible (I had my chicken focaccia sandwich... amazing). Sitting down for a few minutes here made me realize I was feeling it on the legs already. We departed refueled and determined.

The rest of the journey to the park gate is a bit of a blur - it's a long road... we joked around, kept the spirits high, kept drinking and eating and cruising along up to the park gate. At this point it was about 4am and cars were starting to drive up to the summit for sunrise. Sean made a rule at the beginning of the hike that no car can see us walking. Yeah it's a bit of an ego thing, but it's actually a good rule to keep us moving on our way up to the top (to the tip!). We reached the park gate around 5 in the morning, running past all the cars lined up to get in the park entrance. The guy at the gate was annoyed that we didn't have ID's on us but he allowed us in with Sean's national park pass. We carried onwards up into the switchbacks and hit our next aid drop. Now that we were in the park, the end was within striking distance as the moon continued to shine high in the sky.

Cars would pass on a more frequent basis the more the break of dawn approached, forcing us to keep us running. I was having to take more and more walking breaks through the steep switchbacks (it's hard enough to drive this section, never mind run it). As we rounded the switchbacks you could start to see the elevation we were at... way above the clouds now and nothing but road between us and the night sky. The altitude markers kept clicking by... 6000 feet.... 7000 feet.... the altitude affects me in waves. You kind of hit walls where breathing is more difficult, but pushing through it your body adapts quickly. I hit probably 3 or 4 of these altitude walls throughout the approach to the summit. Reaching the 4th drop I was hurting... I needed to relieve myself... felt better afterwards and hydration now was my main focus... I was going through water faster here at 8000 feet.

I was not struggling to keep up a strong pace and wasn't eating consistently. I was having trouble chewing the energy bars I had... they weren't going down easy. Sean passed me some oreos... those were easy to eat... super soft to chew and good sugar boosts. I felt like I was dragging and but making progress. Cars coming consistently now meant we were continuously running. At this elevation it was easy to get motivated to keep going, finding ways to get inspired, thinking of those you know are thinking of you. We reached the last drop bag at 9000 feet, 6 miles to the summit. Only a 10k left to go.

As we pushed onwards, dawn was breaking, we realized we weren't quite going to make it in time for the sunrise. I didn't really care but I wanted to put my best effort forward up in the sky. Our support party (and ride down) Ave came up in the PT Cruiser to cheer us on. It was really great to have her there. She came with water and snacks and a lot of positive energy. I was determined to make it and keep pushing... no walking at this point, running to the summit. The whole approach to the visitor center I was becoming overwhelmed with emotions... Sean had pulled ahead a bit at this point as we could almost taste the finish. Passing the visitor center the cars were starting to drive down now (the sun was up). Two of the hostel tenants (French girls living in Montreal) gave me high fives as I passed by. I was hoping they wouldn't notice my tears of joy but I really didn't care. The last mile was just surreal. The moon was still up in the sky, but the sky was blue now, and its expression was humble... smiling back to me, knowing it had served a significant role throughout the night, and my appreciation for it was like never before. I reached out to it for some reason I can't describe as I made my way up to the top.

I got up to the summit to the parking lot being encouraged by everyone around, and went up to the right where there is a single track trail slightly technical... Going over the rocks I realized right away I couldn't really pick my feet up like I normally can and almost tripped over a lava rock... powering down the small downhill I charged up to the summit area where a bunch of people were hanging out. I jumped up at the "elevation 10,023 ft" sign and let out a triumphant scream. 8 hours and 5 minutes from the ocean to the summit of Haleakala. I got a round of applause from everyone up there. It was pretty amazing. The moment was captured on video by a cool guy that was up there.

Sean and I were the celebrities of the summit this morning. There was a family there from Brazil where the father wanted there boy (8 or 9) to take a picture with us. I was really happy. Ave was a gem and had some cold beers for us. The views up here were incredible. Soaking it all in for a few minutes, finishing our beers, we hopped in the car and took it down to clean up our aid stations. I was high on life and just beaming.

We joked around on the way down, messing with the downhill bike tour people whenever possible. It was a really strange feeling descending so quickly after having taken all night, coming down to reality. I'm so happy to have done this challenge, I feel like anything is possible now. Sean's whole mentality about this is that "it's just a cool thing to do"... and now I get that. You gotta do it to appreciate it. I understand now why he's done it 8 times. I felt full of love and energy I didn't even want to go to sleep... I wanted to enjoy my last day in Hawaii and I was running on bliss at this point.

We were back at the hostel by 9am and had the whole day ahead of us. Lazed around and took it easy, napping. Ave, Sean, and I capped off the day with one last drive in the PT Cruiser heading to Sugar beach to watch the sunset... The past 24 hours had been a connection with the stars... we had seen the moonrise, sunrise, and now it was time to watch the sun go down one more time. It was a beautiful sunset. What a conclusion to an amazing trip.

Be good to da aina, because da aina is good to you.

Full of aloha love and Maui healing with the guidance of the moon and the strength of the white owl and the fate of the stars... we can feel a sense of purpose in our insignificance... however, Haleakala always beckons.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:10023 ft / 3055 m
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:10023 ft / 3055 m
    Distance:35 mi / 56.3 km
    Route:Paia > Makawao > Kula > Haleakala Hwy
    Start Trailhead:Paia Bay  0 ft / 0 m
    Time:8 Hours 5 Minutes
Descent Statistics

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