Hawaii 2012 - Day 8: Haleakala National Park the roof of Maui
Maui Travel Blog› entry 871 of 1090 › view all entries
Haleakala is Maui's highest point. It is the volcano that shaped east Maui. Although Haleakala has not erupted since 1790 (see previous blog entry about La Pérouse Bay) it is still considered dormant. A long time ago when Haleakala was in the power of its life it could have been as high as 4500 meters (15.000 ft) high. Today, after thousands years of erosion and slowly sinking the summit is at, a still impressive, 3055 meters (10.023 ft). And that is only the tip of the real mountain. Below sea level it continues down for an additional 5998 meters (19.678 ft) making the total height of the mountain 9053 meters (29.
In the Hawaiian language Haleakala means "House of the Sun", it was thought that goddess Lilinoe, the grandmother of the Hawaiian god Maui, lived here and was able to control the sun orbiting its daily path over the sky. Haleakala is still considered a holy place.
Another specialty of Haleakala is its road to the summit. This very winding road was constructed in 1935 and has allowed many people to visit a place that is normally inaccessible except for trained climbers. The word "trained" must be stressed here, the oxygen density at the elevation of Haleakala's summit is so low that people can suffer from altitude sickness. Warning signs to walk slowly are prominently present at the summit, and people who feel dizzy are urged to immediately descend to lower altitudes.
A big part of the mountain, including the summit, is part of the Haleakala National Park, one of my favorite parks. The summit is not only high, it is also a very special, unreal, landscape. When Haleakala eroded down, several river valleys formed. These eventually merged forming a crater like valley on the top of the current mountain. Crater like, because the valley is by far not a volcanic caldera, yet it still looks like one. So, Kaua'i has a "canyon" that is not a canyon, and Maui has a "crater" that is not a crater! Being a part of the National Park the "crater" offers awesome views and challenging hikes. Its slopes so much resemble the planet Mars and the Moon that NASA actually performed several trainings and test here.
During my previous visit to Maui I had briefly visited Haleakala's summit (see here).
Then we took the Mazda2 for the big ascend to Haleakala. The higher we got the colder it got. Despite our good intensions to be in time we arrived late once again. So we immediately hurried into the crater to, at least, get some crater experience. During the 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) down we descended 300 meters (984 ft). Surrounded by rocky slopes and mini craters it indeed felt like we hade been "beamed up" to the moon.
Like always, we arrived back just around sunset which we witnessed from the summit. A formidable sight! Clouds surrounded the mountain, and like sitting on top of an airplane we looked down, and sometime through the clouds, which became colored by the evening glow. Now, with the sun almost gone, it got really cold (around 10 °C (50 F)). In order to warm up I sprinted up the 50-steps-long stairs to the summit's overlook shelter that was heated. Stephan decided that the unheated car would be the best place to warm up. Not sure which choice was better. The view point shelter was definitively warmer and offered a better view, but in my urge to get there soon, forgetting about the low oxygen level, I almost fainted from lack of oxygen.
The 73-kilometer (45-mile) long road back to sea level and back to 26° C (79 F) was done in the dark. And downstairs a delicious Thai pineapple curry on our room's terrace did the last warming up.
More pictures below!