Altitude Notes: Entry Five

Mauna Kea 13, 803 Feet Above Sea Level
09 December 2021

The Approach

Mauna Kea is the highest summit in the Hawaiian Island chain, as well as having the distinction of being the tallest mountain in the world from base to peak. Beyond the statistics, though, I chose this objective for the significance this mountain holds for the indigenous people of Hawaii. The mountain is a historical place of reverence, and according to the ancient mythology of the islands it was regarded as the center of the world.

The plan had been to hike the Humu’ulu trail to the summit, but the day before we boarded our flight from Colorado, a storm unloaded about a foot of snow along the route. I came fully unprepared to hike in those conditions, so I opted to make the drive to the summit via the Mauna Kea Summit Access Road. Under normal conditions I would have waited the weather out and approached the objective with proper gear, but with limited time and scarcity of equipment, this would be the first, and hopefully last, objective I wouldn’t do under my own power.

The road itself had been closed until the day before our departure, so I made the drive at the last minute and was lucky enough to make the top just before sunset. At the summit I found an ahu, which is a shrine used both in ancient and modern day Hawaiian culture. These shrines consist of rocks piled up to create a platform with one stone in the center placed upright. They are used for ceremonial or religious purposes and are an integral part of the Hawaiian culture. Scattered around the upright stone were offerings left to pay homage to the mountain.

The hike had been planned to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, “A day that will live in infamy.”

Also of note, Hawaii is the birthplace of SFC David McDowell, one of the three Rangers memorialized from the summit, along with SGT Joshua P. Rodgers, and SGT Cameron H. Thomas.


bigtopo L1200xThe Route

Mauna Kea Access Road
Planned Route: Humu’ulu Trail
Distance:    13.4 Miles
Elevation Gain:    4,986 Feet