Haleakala – 36 Miles, 10,023 Foot Climb

Today was the day of the big climb up Haleakala. Normally, it doesn’t happen until the Saturday of the camp, but the weather for the weekend isn’t looking good, so it was bumped to today.

My original plan was to start from the B&B (elevation about 1500’), however, I was peer pressured into going down to Paia to get the full effect of the climb.  Technically, I didn’t start a sea level, but probably around 20’.  I was paired up with a  couple of riders at a similar skill level, and since we are a little bit slower, they sent us off early at 7:45a.

The entire descent into Paia, I wondered what I got myself into – I’m riding down a hill to just turn around and ride back up! Coming back up the hill was easier than I expected – once we arrived at the B&B we did a quick stop to top off our bottles and to pick up a couple of riders that decided they didn’t want to start at town.

The next section of the ride was identical to the ride from Tuesday up to the 4500’ level. From there, it was just another 5500’ up! As we started the ascent up the mountain, the weather started to deteriorate – clouds were rolling in and the temperature was dropping. I stopped at 5000’ to get a picture of the half way point, as well as to put on my arm warmers

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The view from 5000’ was cloudy.

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From there, we continued up, up, up. At about 6500’ we had a support vehicle that I elected to skip – I thought we were close to the visitor center at the park and intended to top off my bottles there. It turned out to be a quite a bit further. I managed to pull in with about 1/4 of a bottle left. Even so, this made my stress level rise quite a bit given my experience with running out of fluids on our Sunday ride.  I took a quick picture of my bike at the lower visitor center before continuing on up the mountain.WP_20130314_004

The road inside the national park wasn’t particularly steep, it was just long.  The road is exposed and there was quite a bit of wind. Just kept plugging away slowly and making progress. Eventually, there was a “2 miles to go” sign. From this point on, I found things to get really tough. 5 hours of riding, plus being at 9000’+ elevation made it a strenuous climb. Then the last stretch from the upper visitor center to the summit was short but brutal. The road steepens to a 12% grade, the winds were gusting to 40 mph, and there was sleet coming down straight into our faces. Stopped for a quick rest about half way up, and then pushed hard through to the top.WP_20130314_006

The top observation area was nice and warm, but the view wasn’t so good.WP_20130314_007

Had to get a picture with the bike at the top!

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Now I’m only half way done, I’ve got to get down off the mountain! We had a vehicle in the upper visitor center parking lot with our warm riding clothes and some food. I put on my booties, leg warmers, sweatshirt, and running jacket, and I was still cold.

Then it was time to go down, down, down. That only lasted for about 1/2 mile before I threw my chain. Pulled off the side of the road for a quick fix and started again. Descending was almost as difficult as climbing. Even with all the clothes on, I was still cold. My hands tired from working the brakes.  I ended up stopping 3 or 4 times on the way to the lower visitor center to warm my hands and let them rest.

I stopped at the visitor center to warm up – went into the men’s room and put my hands under the blow drier. Once I warmed a bit, I went into the visitor center to get a stamp for my national park book, and then it was down the mountain some more.

After exiting the park, I stopped at the support vehicles that were waiting at about 6500’.  At this point I was frozen, and they had room for one more bike, so I opted to get a ride down the rest of the day.

Even though the weather was miserable, I have to say that I really felt like I accomplished something when I made it to the top of the mountain. I was unsure if I would make it starting from the 1500’ level, and the fact that I went all the way up from Paia really added to that feeling. I think I may have to come back next year and start by dipping my toes in the ocean!

My Garmin file can be found here.

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One comment

  1. If you had fuel injection, you wouldn’t have had any problems at the high altitude. Funny, I thought going downhill would be the fun part. Instead of “easy peasy”, it was “sneezy freezy” . Good job

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