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07 Jun 2015

Updated July 6, 2013

Big Island 2013: Adventures & Beauty Galore

Hapuna Beach Sunset, South Point Magic, Bumpy Ride to Spectacular Green Beach - Jewel of Hawaiian Islands; From Makai (Beach) to Mauka (Mountain) - From Yin to Yang - Roof of the World - in same afternoon




From Rainbow Shower, Maui

Big Island 2013: Adventures & Beauty Galore

Hapuna Beach Sunset, South Point Magic, Bumpy Ride to Spectacular Green Beach - Jewel of Hawaiian Islands; Climb to Roof of the World atop Mauna Kea - all in one day of fun and adventure!

* * *

From Makai (Beach) to Mauka (Mountain) - From Yin to Yang - in same afternoon

Climb to Roof of the World: Mauna Kea Summit

From sea level to 14,000 feet in less than 3 hours

BIG ISLAND, Hawaii, July 2, 2013 -  What is the highest mountain in the world? Mount Everest, right?  Wrong.  It's Mauna Kea on the Big Island in Hawaii. From the ocean floor to the summit, Mauna Kea stands 33,500 ft tall (vs. 29,000 for Mount Everest - see the images below).


The world's largest biggest volcano is about as Yang a place (masculine) as Yang gets. (By the way, here's another "Trivial Pursuit"-type question for you: If Mauna Kea is the second largest volcano, what is the biggest? Answer: Its neighbor - Mauna Loa.  Its only a few feet shorter at the summit than Mauna Kea, but it is much bigger at the base - see the map right).  In fact, you'll get a chance to see in a few moments what the summit of Mauna Loa looks like from the summit of its volcanic sibling - Mauna Kea.

Now, Hawaiian beaches, especially the Green Beach we had just visited for the first time, are about as Yin-places (feminine) as they come on this planet.  And we had just spent a few hours driving to and frolicking on the Green Beach.  Yet less than three hours later, even "only" a 9,200 ft elevation of the Mauna Kea Visitor's Center, this is what we looked like.  That's how quickly we transitioned from Yin to Yang.

Now, for those of you who may not have been to high elevations, such as the 14,000 ft Mauna Kea summit, or the even taller Andean mountains that I have climbed as an Inca-trained shaman (my first Rites of Passage (ordination) took place at 16,300 ft - after a swim in an icy lagoon - again from Yin to Yang, except that I did not realize it at the time) - high elevations can play havoc with people's health. I have seen perfectly healthy people at lower elevations get as sick as dogs in high altitudes. That's why the Mauna Kea Visitor's center offers a plethora of warnings before one continues on to the top (see Visiting the Summit Warnings).

Luckily, high elevations do not affect me much.  I get a little lightheaded for the first few hours, and then things go back to normal. But Elizabeth is very different. She is very much a Yin-person. Having been born and grown up at sea level (Corpus Christi, Texas), her body does not tolerate high elevations very well.  We found that out in Cusco (11,000 ft elevation), when she joined me for the first time on a trip to Peru in January 2010. But after a few days, she was also okay and had crossed with me the 14,000 ft La Raya Pass, enroute to Puno on Lake Titicaca (12,000 ft elevation).  So despite what doctors have told her, I knew her body can take it if her mind allows it.  Besides, the entire time, both in Peru and here, I knew we were guided and protected by our Spirit guides. And that includes her. I always make sure to ask them that before we go on a trip.

Anyway, Elizabeth was excited about our upcoming Yin-to-Yang, Makai-to-Mauka adventure. She had never been to Mauna Kea before. So after a brief stop in Hilo to refresh our energies [green tea frappuccino in her case :-) ], we headed up the mountain on Saddle Road.  I told Elizabeth not to get her hopes up as we may not be able to make it to the top. 

"It all depends on the weather," I said. And in Hawaii, that means things can change several times within an hour, let alone an afternoon.

At about 5,000 ft level, we entered the clouds. The "fog" was as thick as soup.  The above shots were taken at about a 6,000 ft elevation. I told Elizabeth my hope and prayer is that if we keep going, eventually we are going to rise above the clouds. And then we may still get a chance for a beautiful sunset at the Roof of the World.

We stopped at the (busy) Mauna Kea Visitor's Center. Ostensibly we did it to change into warmer clothes. I did not tell Elizabeth that, but I also wanted her to spend at least half an hour at the 9,000 ft elevation before proceeding to the summit at 14,000 ft.  Going straight up could be dangerous for anyone, let alone a former heart patient. I also used the chance to check about the weather at the top. As I was hoping, it was clear. They have a live webcam at the center which shows pictures from the Mauna Kea summit observatories. (It is one of the most important astronomical sites in the world, I was told on a previous private visit to Subaru, the Japanese telescope, the most powerful in the world, they said. That's because Mauna Kea has probably the greatest number of cloud free days of all observatories. Subaru is one of about 10 telescopes atop Mauna Kea - see below).

Anyway, we bundled up, got back into our El Jeepo Naranjo, which by now looked more like El Jeepo Dorade (Golden) after the South Point dirt, and heade up the mountain. The temperatures were in the mid-50s. By the time we eventually reached the summit, about five rough and tough 4WD miles up the mountain, it had dropped to 48F. Not bad, I thought, for a 14,000 ft summit.

But one thing we did not figure on was about half a dozen stops over the five-mile ascent. Bathroom calls. I remember that from before. Whenever you change elevation and temperature quickly, your bladder fills up and tends to run like a hose.  We laughed about the thought that, had we been with a group tour, which is what most people do, we would have had to stopped the bus every five minutes. :-)

"I am trusting you with my life," she said at one point at the summit. And then she added, "let's go down. I am scared." :-)

And now, with that as a preamble, join us in our sunset climb to the Roof of the World. 

Sunset Climb to Roof of the World - Photo Album

At Mauna Kea Visitors Center

Final push - start of 5 mile climb to summit

For a while, we saw a lot of nothing... :-)

Breaking out of clouds - at about 11,000 ft elev

"Like being on the Moon," Elizabeth said taking this pic.

Notice the rainbow orbs at the summit?

Back down into the clouds and fog and mist.

On our way back down, we stopped to take pictures of this plant that's unique to Mauna Kea

The morning after: Back at Hapuna Beach


And now, here's a short video clip Elizabeth shot during our climb to Mauna Kea summit...

From Yin to Yang in 3 Hours: Climb to Roof of the World (Mauna Kea)


And that's all she wrote so far for the month of July from the Rainbow Shower.

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