Friday, April 5, 2013

Hawaii!! + AR50 Taper

Monday - rest day

Tuesday - Flying stand-by to Hawaii has its perks (the cost) and it's downsides (not getting on a flight).  Spent the day in the airport today, standing by on flights to any Hawaiian island.  We bought a tickets from San Jose to Kona for Wednesday AM and when we got back to the long-term parking garage, we realized that my car keys were in my suitcase, which was in Kona (our bags got on the first flight, even though we didn't).  Good thing for the BART and CalTrain!

Wednesday - Arrived in Kona at 9:30 AM, island time!  Got our bags, rental car, and headed to the condo before lunch.  I went snorkeling for about an hour, ran ~5.5 miles on a nice trail along the shore, and then BBQ'd with family.  Fabulous first day of the trip!  Mauna Kea summit forecast called for snow showers and 30-40 MPH winds with 55 MPH gusts, so I decided to push my "Mauna Kea sunrise" trip out by a day.

Thursday - Woke up at 6 AM, bumbled around the condo for a bit and went out for a 5 mile run.  Explored a bit more along the Shoreline Trail before running to Juice 101 for a tasty Blueberry, Pom Juice, Acai, and Kale smoothie.

Headed north up the Kohala coast for some great experiences.  We saw a handful of whales breaching repeatedly (for ~30 minutes), sometimes coming almost completely out of the water.  Snorkeled at Puaku for about an hour and then headed to Hawi for lunch at the Kohala Coffee Mill.

After driving north to the Pololu Valley Overlook (I was dying to put in some solid trail running, but I want to taper for AR50!), we ventured south once again and met up with family at Hapuna Beach, which offered a pristine sandy beach, crystal clear water, and a really enjoyable snorkeling experience.  In ~2 hours of snorkeling, I saw some visually stunning fish, including a 3-4 ft. Moray Eel (a Peppered Moray, I believe).  The highlight of this snorkeling stint was a 3+ ft. Green Sea Turtle, who was casually munching on coral only a few feet away when I noticed it.  It paid little attention to me and I was able to float around with him/her for ~10 minutes.

Oh, it seems that yesterdays Mauna Kea summit forecast was off.  The summit was visible all day today and while I'm sure it was windy, there were certainly no snow showers.  Hitting the summit tomorrow morning!

Friday - Sunrise from the Mauna Kea Summit! On Thursday night, I went to bed at 10 pm, after having set my alarm for 12:30 am.  12:30 am came quick!  I got up, threw back a bowl of oatmeal, made a PB&J sandwich and hit the road.  After driving a little over an hour, I arrived at the Mauna Kea Visitor Center.  It was 2:00 am and nobody was there.  It took me 10-15 minutes to realize that I had to continue on the paved road, beyond the visitor center, on foot, in order to reach the trail head.  There was a lot of frost and ice on the few plants that existed.  I believe the temperature was in the upper 20's, colder than I expected it would be at 9200' (the weather forecast called for a low of 28 at the 13,800' summit).

Wrong trail.

Right trail.

Having recently read Jen Benna's blog on a terrifying shooting incident, this sign roused my nerves a bit.

I set out into the night towards the summit.  The moon was nearly full and was shining brightly enough that at times I wondered if I needed my headlamp.  I occasionally turned off my lamp and admired the view down onto the clouds below, which were illuminated with silvery moonlight.  I could vaguely identify the shades of green in the grasses and trees of the valley between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.  The stars were crisp and bright.  I saw a handful of meteoroids during the hike.

The trail was consistently steep, which was no surprise, given the fact that it climbs nearly 5,000' in the 6 miles it takes to reach the summit.  The footing was generally very good, but was made difficult by fairly long sections of cinders or scoria, occasionally as fine as sand.

As I made my way past ~11,500', I started feeling the onset of what I'm now certain was a case of acute mountain sicknes (ACM or altitude sickness).  I had a mild headache, an upset stomach, and was feeling dizzy, occasionally swaying to my right while navigating the rocky, but safe (in terms of exposure) terrain.  I was surprised I was feeling this way, as I've never felt symptoms before at altitudes of up to 13,000' (Mt. Dana summit).  I think having only slept for ~2.5 hours and the complete lack of acclimatization (I was at sea level roughly 3 hours ago) greatly contributed to this.  In addition to the ACM, there was a steady ~10-15 mph breeze, I was quite cold, and while climbing from 9,200' to 12,000' seemed to have passed quickly enough, climbing from 12,000' to 13,000' seemed endless.  At around 12,500' I sat down in the shelter of a small lava tube and put on a few extra pieces of clothing... arm-warmers under my jacket/shirt and a pair of wool socks.  I was carrying a pair of compression pants, but I wasn't willing to strip down in order to get them on.  I was shivering, it was 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning and I was 1,500' from the summit.  I pulled my fingers into my gloves, cinched up the drawstring on my hood, and trudged on.

The landscape was really amazing to look at and was quite mystical in the dark.  The rust colored cinder cones that pock the slopes of Mauna Kea made me feel like I was exploring the surface of Mars.  They also served as excellent false summits.  Various times I would look up at the top of a cinder cone, towering above me, wondering if I was looking at or near the true summit, only to be looking down on the same cinder cone as I progressed up the trail.  From time to time, I would hear rocks knocking against each other and would quickly point my headlamp in the direction of the noise, expecting to see a mouflon sheep or something (anything), but nothing was there.  I figure I was either hallucinating or the wind was dislodging rocks on the steep slops and causing small slides. It was probably the latter... probably. :)

After a long, cold while of climbing, I came to a fork in the trail and sort of guessed at which way to go. In ~.2 miles, I saw 13,020 ft. Lake Waiau.  I would have loved to explore it, but sunrise was fast approaching.  I turned around and headed towards the summit to a point where the trail intersected a paved road (yes, you can drive to within ~1/4 mile of the summit... but that's no fun).  I couldn't find where the trail picked up again, so I just jogged along the road (for 1/2 mile maybe) until I came upon the final trail section to the summit.  The horizon was glowing brightly now and just as I reached the summit, the sun blazed into view as it breached the cloud layer, far below me.  I was a bit overcome with joy to see the sunrise, providing views as breathtaking as I could have imagined, after a long, cold, lonely hike through the darkness.  It was frigid on the summit ad 13,796'.  A steady 25-30 mph wind was chilling me to the bone and I felt like I was going to lose my glove-less right hand to frostbite (a risk worth taking in order to capture some video and photos).  I took it all in for 10-15 minutes and then started meandering back down the mountain.

Approaching the summit... I suspect this was once a snowman.

Summit video.

Sunrise from 13,796 ft!

Part of the observatory + sunrise pano.

My watch was 100 ft. off.  Notice the pyramid shaped shadow of Mauna Kea, stretching off over the ocean towards the horizon.  Awesome!

I wasn't able to descend as fast as I had planned due to the mild ACM.  Whenever I started moving too fast, I would become slightly nauseous and dizzy, so I just stumbled on down, enjoying the specatcular views, running until I felt nauseous and then hiking for a while.  I started feeling better almost immediately once I had descended beyond the 11,000' mark, at which point I was able to run the rest of the way to the visitor center.

One of the many cinder cones on the slopes of Mauna Kea and the gently rising slopes of 13,200' Mauna Loa in the background.

Heading back down to the clouds.

Clouds started to form around me on my way down.

I couldn't help but purchase a cool USGS summit  marker. :)

I made it to the top in roughly 3 hours and back down in about 2.  As I drove back towards the coast, Mauna Kea became covered in storm clouds and stayed that way for the next few days.  For the rest of the trip, I felt extremely fortunate that I took advantage of the opportunity to visit the summit.  It was a highlight of the trip, for sure.

The summit was obscured by clouds ~45 minutes after I returned to the visitor center.

Another view towards the summit from Mauna Lani, ~3 hours after I summited.

A fitting sunset to go with such a great sunrise.

Hapuna Beach

Saturday - We headed to the other side of the big island to check out Volcano National Park and the surrounding area.

Akaka Falls

A black sand beach.

Racing around on some lava.

Recent flows.  Steam is rising off the current flow on the mountain slope.

Kilauea crater.

Kilauea crater from The Jaggar Museum.

Sunday - Happy easter!  More snorkeling, I may have snuck in a light jog.  I met some great sea turtles today!

Weekly Totals: 29 miles, 5,600 ft. elevation.

Snorkeling with green sea turtles.

We were all getting flipped around by the waves.

Snorkeling with honus (green sea turtles).  There were 8-10 in this cove.

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