climbing Mauna Loa - part 3, a day at the top, then down the Observatory Trail.
May 27, 2012Public
Photo: On day 4, I rise early to see the sunrise. Here's a pre-dawn view of the caldera looking toward South Pit.
Photo: A few minutes later the sun rises behind me in the east ...
Photo: ... lighting up the opposite side of the vast caldera from the tips of the 1949 and 1940 cones at the southern end...
Photo: ... to the summit area opposite the cabin ...
Photo: ... and beyond.
Photo: Here it is again ...
Photo: ... a few minutes later.
Photo: Mauna Loa Cabin, elevation 13,250 ft. The Park Service recently installed a composting toilet (left), but there's not much use for compost up here. Will they chopper it out?
Photo: Happily, they left the old outhouse, the view from which is hard to beat.
Photo: Inside, Stuart is getting up.
Photo: Soon we are out and about. This long deep crack just beyond the cabin usually contains some water (often frozen)
Photo: Not far beyond the waterhole is a rockfall down which adventuresome souls can descend to the caldera floor.
Photo: Near the bottom is a waterhole--big enough for very adventuresome souls to immerse themselves.
Photo: the waterhole (mostly frozen)
Photo: From the bottom of the rockfall you can cross the caldera floor (over some truly terrible a`a) and reach the pumice slopes of the 1949 Cone. From there it is possible to climb to the caldera rim and enjoy a spectacular hike along the top of the cliffs to the Mauna Loa summit. This is infinitely more scenic than the "official" route.
Photo: Here's the view from the 1949 Cone toward the summit, taken back in 1981 on my first Mauna Loa trip.
Photo: Now it's 1991, and we've summited! (Why is everyone grinning?)
Photo: Because we had just witnessed the entire July 11 total solar eclipse! Almost no one else on the Big Island saw it because of clouds.
Photo: Stuart and John Hall on their way back from the summit in 1991, still grinning.
Photo: John Hall near the summit, 1991
Photo: And here we are in 1991 climbing down the 1949 Cone toward the 1940 Cone. (I call this shot "Descent into Mordor")
Photo: But enough nostalgia. Today we explore in the direction of South Pit. That gap in the cliffs is the entrance.
Photo: Looking back: the cabin atop the cliffs, with Mauna Kea in the distance.
Photo: Looking ahead: South Pit and the 1949 Cone.