Ascent of Mauna Kea on 2015-02-01

Climber: Marcus Lostracco

Date:Sunday, February 1, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mauna Kea
    Elevation:13796 ft / 4205 m

Ascent Trip Report

After short night of sleep in rental Jeep at Kekaha Kai State Park (beautiful clear night - moon was way up in the sky), departed for Mauna Kea at 4:50am, about an hour later than I had wanted to leave, but still early enough. I took the saddle road to Manua Kea approach road, arriving at the visitor center around 6am. Spent 5 minutes "acclimating" then decided I had no time to waste if I were to make it to the summit for sunrise. The road following the visitor center is unpaved and is about 6 miles long. They restrict access to 4x4 vehicles only, but I think it would be doable with front wheel drive - there aren't any serious potholes or rough spots. The summit at 6:30 am is a great place to be... but I was unprepared for the piercing wind... it really took a nip off my face, and I couldn't stand in it for more than a few minutes. I did make the short hike from the observatory to the actual summit (GPS track), spent about 10 minutes on the summit, and had to get back to get down to get out of the wind. There was no snow obstructing any access. I felt the effects of skipping the acclimatization of the altitude pretty much as soon as I got to the summit. Lethargic movements, and subtle headache, it was bearable - I would say the windchill was more difficult to tolerate. Not many vacationers to Hawaii would choose to be in this situation at the break of dawn on their first day! But this is the life of the peakbagger. The sunrise was incredible and I would do it again - but arrive earlier and give myself a chance to get used to the altitude. I would also get to the summit earlier to take in some stargazing, as I arrived too late to be able to do so today.

comment on the access road: I've been told that during the day there is a ranger that ensures all cars that go up are 4x4's... this early in the morning there was no such check.

Mauna Kea has a lot more to offer than just the drive-up summit. There is also an offroad track around 9000 ft elevation just below the visitors center that apparently is quite impressive and takes about 7 hours to complete - I drove up to it but was a bit intimidated by the trail entry, thinking there would be no turning back... but I did end up taking Mana Road, which is at about 3000 ft elevation and it winds around Mauna Kea and pops out at Waimea. I started this drive at 8:30am and finished at 12:00pm - 3.5 hrs. This road got a lot more rough than I expected in some spots, but I really felt like I was getting the most out of my rental during the excursion. I saw 2 other vehicles during this entire loop - with many scenic views along the way. Waimea is a beautiful part of the island - Hawaiian Cowboy territory (paniolo). My next stop was Waipio Valley to relax in serenity. Afterwards, I went to Akaka Falls. Bought a Hawaiian shirt and saw the end of the Superbowl (crazy finish). Spending the night in Hilo at Hilo Bay Hostel. Great first day in Hawaii... this is how vacationing is meant to be.

Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Mauna Kea in all of its glory at sunset - taken from the Mauna Loa Observatory Approach Road (2015-02-03). Photo by Marcus Lostracco.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Marcus Lostracco
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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