Hawaii – Hiking Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa

Hiking Hawaiian Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa

– Thriving In Crisis: New Personal Growth Tools for Perilous Times

In this post I’m going to talk about my experiences that forced the decision to finally write the book “High Attitude Hiking the Hawaiian Maunas – Thriving In Crisis: New Personal Growth Tools for Perilous Times” about my adventures training and long musings while solo hiking Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, and on occasion to the summit, well over 100 times in all sorts of weather.

I had been considering writing this book for a number of years. But procrastinated, its a lot of work. When I started training to hike Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, sometimes on long solo hikes at elevations far beyond anything that I had ever thought possible for me, I had plenty time to think, listen to podcasts and in the rarified atmosphere there was such a tapestry of inspiration and consequently musings about life.

It was Midsummer day, 2019 that I got the cosmic 2×4 incentive to train for reaching the summit of Mauna Kea, the so called tallest mountain on earth, and to discover prehistoric adze quarries dating back 12,000 years, presumably the original ancient native Hawaiians, the Menehune, and higher up the beautiful Lake Waiau, all to be achieved, thankfully, at some date down the road.

My son Orion, then 16 years old, my friend Linde and I set out from the visitor center at 9200 feet before dawn. It was chilly with frost heaving frozen ice mixed with soil looking like mysterious mushrooms besides the trail. Earlier, as we were acclimatizing, an owl had passed over-head in the moon light, I could hear the wind in its wings.

exhausted Orion, after hiking up Mauna Kea Humu'ula trail Hawaii

We didn’t make it very far that day, maybe a mile from the visitor center. Orion lay sleeping in the warm sun as I looked at amazing views thousands of miles from everywhere in the middle of the Pacific. The morning light of ever changing hues and before the clouds roll in through the saddle between Mauna Kea and the active volcano Mauna Loa. In the calm before the trade winds pick up around 10am I noticed some movement down the trail, there was somebody closing in on my partner very quickly.

A few minutes later a lady with blue hair run past us and she replied that she had run with a group of friends setting out at 3am on their annual run from Hilo at sea level and was on the way to the true summit of Mauna Kea some 50 miles total and close on 14K elevation rise.

BAM! Something inside me knew that my life was about to change, if they could run, I could surely train to hike it too, and have time to think and pray.

Mauna Kea looking towards Hulalai around 11,000 feet

I was 68 years old at the time, and felt so inspired by the other runners that came up later that I felt joyfully challenged about the prospect and it was something measurable for me to train for. I reached the summit of Mauna Kea on my 69th birthday, and over the months learned from altitude sickness experiences, overeating and asthma from an elevation rise of almost a vertical mile over 6.5 miles to 13,803 feet elevation.

I was elated, and a changed man, more secure in my own skin, physically fitter and hours of musings, thousands of pictures and videos, and a few notes for the book and found memories of many hikes, and naturally few not so fond memories before I upped my fitness levels. 

I totally screwed up on a two day hike once and ended up hiking along the Mokuaweoweo caldera rim in the September full moon from the summit of Mauna Loa to the Mauna Loa cabin miles around the circumference on the other side of the caldera (part of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Mauna Loa trail system).

At that time the Mauna Loa trail was accessed from the Mauna Loa observatory trail at 11k feet. The the lava covered the one lane Mauna Loa paved road at around 9000 feet from the November/December 2022 eruption that stopped just before it crossed Highway 11.

I’ve hiked well over 100 times up there and all sorts of sometimes exceedingly challenging Arctic conditions I have had a lot of experience and a lot of time to think about my life, and to think about my passions and future vision of myself. And to fix my 20 year old SAABs from blown hoses and radiators quite a few times, once having to coast down from 11k to 6k feet elevations over 22 miles with no water in the engine, no power steering, no power brakes, safely. And fix the leak beside the road with borrowed tools, and Linde holding the hood against the strong winds as I threaded my hands and arms around to the back of the engine to replace the heater valve that had exploded, and that I thankfully happened to have a spare with me. 

Hiking Mauna Kea and Maua Loa are both extremely challenging strenuous hikes, not for casual hikers, take plenty of acclimatization time, plenty of water, rain gear during the winter months, and check the weather and trail conditions before you tackle the sometimes more rough terrain on the Mauna Loa trails. Above all feel confident about your fitness level, and give yourself plenty of time and listen to your gut, the weather can change quickly. 

For me its always been about the journey, not the destination.

Back in the day, I preferred Mauna Loa because of its wilder more remote location, lack of road access to the summit and of consequence less people. This contributed to more time to think and to be, although on occasion I have acted as a guide, one experience tells me I’m safer by myself, than guiding an egoic stranger and his high altitude inducted demons.

My hking gear for a warmish snow hike on Mauna Loa. Always the dodecahedron attached to my pack, and crampons for the snow.

These hikes have taught me so much about my body, my nutrition, my water intake, my egoic demons who on occasion played havoc with my mind. Its also taught me about what hiking shoes to wear, the gear to take, and how to renew warn soles with shoe goo, and I always had the ether antennae dodecahedron attached to my pack. These all has taught me to stay focused even in the most ardent and on occasions life threatening situations. (more after you sign up).

August 5th, 2023 I was taking a five day online workshops with Tony Robbins and Dean Graziosi that challenged me to sit down, do their tough soul searching exercises and I discovered my deepest fear was of going public again, and commit to write and publish my musings and close on 5 decades of research and development, all in health related fields, but non mainstream.

I soon had the first chapter completed about a lucid dream while camping by the ocean at the Laupahoehoe Beach Park on the Big Island. It was a full moon and the encounter with other realms of such peace and beauty, like a NDE, changed my life (more when you join my email list).

I sold everything on the east coast and a month later had moved to the Big Island in 1997. It was then that I wrote my first still unpublished book “The Dance of Gaia and Prana” an account of the driving influences in my life that had led me to continue the work of Dr Randall Baer’s Starcrest Academy and research and aided by lucid dreams to invent and research new sound healing musical massage cymatic tools for stress, pain management and my passion – personal development.

But that was another lifetime, so to speak, and decades before this new found passion of hiking Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea and the deep lessons I was learning about my limitations and strengths.

One of the crucial lessons was of nutrition, my stamina was pretty good from years of Ashtanga yoga. I had been doing intermittent fasting for a few years prior, and knew the benefits of 3 day fasts and how my energies were much enhanced when I was fasting.

The problem I was having was my 60 years of eating whenever I wanted, because i never put on weight, and even though I had a lot of pain, even dizziness and roaring in my ears at times from a severe back injury then I tripped and fell when I was 14 on a building site on the farm where I grew up in England.

Mauna Kea 10k feet elevation, man running down into mists

What I was discovering was that some of my best hikes, my so called easiest hikes, where accomplished when I fasted the day before till after I reached the goal, (and no energy bars ever again!) or until the hike was complete. This was very counter intuitive, but I’m at my age my body type, biome composition, and ability to breathe and exercise has improved at higher and the higher elevations as I trained.

Hiking the Humu’ula Trail Mauna Kea summit trail map

I’m still in the process of this discovery even as of today as I have been doing a very deep dive into my diet recording every gram of food that I eat and putting it into a spreadsheet of calories, fats, carbohydrates, protein and fibers. Graphing these results has been a very interesting discovery that I will discuss in another post and hopefully it will help you to fine tune your nutrition for optimum health, and nutrition for mental health without supplements, pills and processed foods.

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