04 July 2009:  The highest point in Hawai'i at 13,796 feet above sea level, the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai'i has always been a goal of Paul's. While Mount Everest is Earth's highest point above sea level, Mauna Kea is the world's highest mountain when measured from the its base at the sea floor. Obviously not nearly as cool or illustrious as Everest, but superlative nonetheless.

This mountain is special for a few reasons. Its summit has relatively clear air due to its elevation, distance from air and light polluting sources, and tendency to be above the clouds. As a result it's considered one of the best (arguably THE best) locations in the world for astronomical research, and hosts several major telescopes from several countries. It also receives snow in the winter -- Mauna Kea means "white mountain" in Hawaiian -- so it's possible to ski in the morning and snorkel in 80 degree weather in the afternoon. It's also a sacred site for Native Hawaiians.

My hike started at 9,200' and ended at the summit of 13,796'. It's the highest elevation I've yet attained and my headache was testament thereto.





The early portion of the trail (between 9,200' and 10,000') is right around Hawai'i's tree line, so sporadic trees still dot the landscape


The ceaseless upward slog through volcanic rock and sand in high elevation forced me to stop often. During this respite I admired Mauna Loa, the sister mountain to Mauna Kea, also a gradually sloping shield volcano.

Lake Waiau at ~13,020', a glacial lake and the seventh-highest lake in the USA



Much of the trail traverses this reserve. Glaciers once existed here and helped to sculpt the landscape.

At the summit, flanked by several of the telescopes


View from the summit to (I think) the northeast. Mauna Kea's summit area is dotted with cinder cones like these.

The USGS survey marker substantiates the elevation


After summiting, with energy spent and water nearly gone, I hitchhiked back and passed this sign before catching a ride.

On to Kilauea, the active volcano on the slopes of Mauna Loa. Halema'uma'u crater is pictured here. It's erupting but the lava is underground so all you can see are the gaseous emissions. Closer to the ocean, lava can be seen live.


Very near Halema'uma'u is this 'Ohia forest, a tree endemic to Hawai'i