Route: Mauna Kea (HI)

Hawaii, US

Mauna Kea (13,796 feet) is the highest point in Hawaii, and the highest point in the Pacific. If you count the part of the mountain that is underwater, it is the tallest mountain in the world!

Most hikers start from the Ellison Onizuka Visitor center at 9,000 feet elevation on the south side of the peak, which is accessible by a paved road. Above the Visitor Center, a 4WD road continues to the Mauna Kea Observatory, just below the summit. Hikers use the Mauna Kea Trail (aka Humu'Ula Trail), which follows an abandoned dirt road, to ascend 4,800 feet over 6 miles to the top.  For some reason though, earlier FKTs (up to & including Mike Popejoy) were done using the auto road (also starting at the VC), which is longer but maybe faster?  Either route is valid for the FKT.  The Humu'Ula Trail (plus the last 1+ mile to the summit) has a Strava Segment.

Mike Bailey reports having run from the Visitor Center to the summit and back, via the auto road, in 4h "give or take a minute", on Sept. 16, 2007. According to Bailey, the road route is 9 miles each way. He started his run at 11:20 a.m., reached the summit at 1:55 p.m. (2h35m), and ran back down the road, arriving at the Visitor Center at 3:20 p.m. (1h25m). "Mauna Kea does not have record of a faster circuit time, although elite athletes should be able to go considerably faster. They just need to vacation in Hawaii more," he said. His blog post on the trip, written 2 years later, is here.

Bailey explained some of the difficulties of ascending Mauna Kea on foot: "Unlike other mountains, like in Colorado, you are already at 6,000 ft when you begin your attempt. Thus, you have already spent time acclimating to the altitude. Most visitors, like myself, in Hawaii begin their day at sea level. My body experienced 0 ft to 13,796 ft in under 6 hours. This can cause numerous health problems, and thus the many stern warnings to visitors about hiking even a small part of the trail. Aside from the altitude issues, it is a very steep trail with a lot of climate change. The temperature during my run varied from 70 degrees at the start to 36 at the summit, with wind, fog, and rain." Bailey chose to use the auto road route, instead of the considerably shorter hiking trail, because "I guess I wanted to try the longer route. Ultrarunner mentality. If there's a shorter way, don't take it." "My wish is for runners to see my time, and set out to break it," Bailey added. "Plus I can't think of too many more beautiful places to run."

Another challenge that has been done is to run from "Sea to Summit", starting from Hilo and running to the top, about 70km.  The fastest time (10h3m21s) is documented in this video, but the runner chooses not to be recognized here.  A longer (90km) "Sea to Summit" route starts from Anaeho’omalu Bay on the west side of the island.

GPS Track
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