Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sea to Summit to Sea on Maui

I have recently been throwing around the idea of trying to set a "fastest known time" or FKT for a published route on this website:

I found one that fit the bill, a climb from the bottom to the top of Maui.  There were no women's results listed, and in fact no one had reported a completed sea-to-summit-to-sea.  The men's ascent FKT is currently 5:00:06.  I found a separate online report of a guy who climbed the Kaupo Trail to the top and then descended to Kihei in a total of 14:21.  So it appeared that I could be the first female to report the ascent, and John and I could be the first to record a round trip up and back on the Kaupo Trail.


We're living here for a few months, the bar is set low, a perfect first try at a FKT.  And it would be a significant accomplishment, one continuous climb bigger than any we have done before (as far as we can recall).  Oh, and then down that same amount, that should be fun...

The relevant stats:
Date = Saturday April 9, 2016
Elevation at the start = 0 feet (Pacific Ocean, or the "sea")
Elevation at the top = 10,023 feet (top of Haleakala, or the "summit")
Distance tracked = Just over 18 miles each way for 36+ miles total
Route = The shore near the Huialoha Church below Kaupo, up the road to the Kaupo trailhead, up the Kaupo Trail into Haleakala National Park, over to Keonehe'ehe'e (Sliding Sands) Trail and up to the road leading to the mountaintop.  Return the same way.

My goal was to set a "reasonable" women's fastest known time (and John was shooting for the overall FKT, if possible) for the ascent and then get back down again, for a couple things to report to the FKT website.

The goal of this post is to report in detail our accomplishments, as proof to the extent possible with what we had to work with.  To that end, there will be more tedium even than normal for me, feel free to skip or scroll!

Also of note, this is probably the Most Photos Ever for one post on this blog...

Here's a spoiler right off the bat (another reason to skip/scroll through the rest of this post) - we made it!

The headliner photo from the summit:

Part 1 = John's ascent

John dropped me off near the trailhead and drove to park the car - now that is a loving husband.  He spotted me a ~10 minute head start, which would slightly reduce his wait time at the top.  We planned to descend together as a safety measure since we had zero phone service for most of the route and also none in Kaupo town.  It's a little remote.

John attempted to get a photo of his start time at the water - but neither of us can read the watch in the photo, I assume no one else can either:

Here's the timestamp for that photo (taken with his phone), filename circled above and the time (5:02 am) circled here:

John saw 5:03 on his watch but we can only verify 5:02 from the photo timestamp so that's what we're going with.

John's shoreline photo in the dark:

John passed me heading up the road toward the trailhead - Hi John!  Bye John!  We had nice cool weather for much of the climb, and pretty views back to the ocean.  All the photos in this section are from John:

He scared up a herd of deer bedded down in the field.  They were long gone by the time I arrived.

Appreciating the sunshine hitting the top of the crater on the left side of Kaupo Gap:

John reaches the National Park boundary - no park pass needed to enter from this direction (timestamp = 6:48 am):

More sunshine, still climbing in the shadow of the east side of the gap:

At the intersection with the side trail toward Paliku Cabin (timestamp = 8:09 am):

At the next intersection, the split toward Holua Cabin (timestamp = 8:24 am):

Just past Kapalaoa Cabin, where John decided he didn't need to stop for water - he carried everything up from bottom to top, wow (timestamp = 8:54 am):

Looking back at Kapalaoa Cabin from the same spot:

Lovely picture of low clouds (well, 7000 feet up, but still, that's kinda low for a cloud):

Clouds pouring in from Ko'olau Gap to the north - but still running in sunshine!

Sliding Sands trail, ever upward:

And now on the paved road, the last bit to the top, with a view of the telescopes across the way:

John's summit time of 10:25:51 (photo timestamp 10:26) - well done John!  He didn't beat the current ascent FKT, ~24 minutes off.  5 hours seems pretty fast!  John tells me he'd have to train more than 2 miles a day to prepare for a faster effort such as that.

John's view of the Big Island; I never tire of looking across at the volcanoes in the distance:

Part 2 = Marcy's ascent

Meanwhile, back at the beach... here's my predawn start.

A look at the date/time, although I had not started the chrono on my watch yet.  I used my watch timer to gather all splits and overall times.

The GPS tracker app (RunKeeper) on my phone, started a couple minutes before I began my ascent (so I could stash it in a waterproof bag in my pack).  I used this for route tracking and for a distance estimate.

OK, here we go!  The beginning of way too many photos of my face...  please scroll faster, I beg of you  :)

My surf shot, trying to touch the water without getting my feet too wet as the waves rose and retracted over the round rocks:

Up the road, using my trekking poles since I'm quite sure this is the perfect day for that.  Hi John!  Bye John!

At the parking/trailhead and the first gate to climb over:

We were both very happy about our two prior scouting trips, as the first part of this trail is way overgrown and hard to follow.  Starting in the dark would have been even more challenging.  Knowing what we were looking for, we were both able to stay on track without issue.  The trail is apparently some kind of easement that the locals are allowing for access to the park above us (and there are trail signs behind all that vegetation), but that doesn't mean they have to keep it maintained.

A couple of eyes in the darkness - hello horse!

Soon it started getting lighter and I had a bit of a view to the sea:

Some construction going on in this section, easy enough to continue on the trail (easier than it used to be, actually):

Eventually I'll get this headlamp off my head...

I scared up 2 pairs of piglets, no sign of Mom at least.  They were too fast to allow themselves to be photographed.  Too cute.

One of the rockier sections of the doubletrack trail (this one slowed my descent a tad, I probably went up it faster actually):

Excited to be approaching the park boundary, the highest point I had previously reached when starting from the bottom - oh, and I finally swapped the headlamp for some shades, although I didn't need those yet either:

Inside Haleakala National Park!  Still feeling good and happy to be there:

And... here's the trail:

John had explored part of this trail previously, so I knew what was ahead.  Lots of wading through deep grass.  Wet feet, wet pants.  Possibly a couple spots of questionable nav, but nothing as bad as down below.

I figured it might be 45 minutes of tiring pushing through the fields, and it turned out to be more like 30 minutes, so that's always a nice misestimation.  Following the trail was also pretty easy, although I strayed just briefly trying to follow a drainage instead of taking the trail to the left and around.  Fixed that right quick and didn't have any question about where to go after that.

Wet feet, wet pants, yep, can't do anything about that.  At least I was wearing orienteering pants and only got a little scratched around the ankles.

Up and up, through fields and up little ridges, finally out of the worst of the grasses, through short sections of pretty forest, watching the vegetation change as I climbed.  Very cool.

Also - a rainbow!  Even more cool!

Even though it was now raining on me, I was a happy camper.  It was just a light rain, in any case, just enough to get my shades wet:

Coming up a section of trail directly at the rainbow:

Oh yeah, so beautiful!

I experienced a bit more rain and clouds and wind.  Then not long after passing the turnoff to Paliku Cabin, I was finally in the sunshine that I had been looking at the whole way up:

I skipped the out-and-back to Paliku since I had enough water to get to the next cabin.

It's a fun trail over to the first cinder cone (or "pu'u"):

Pahoehoe!  I just like saying that:

Enjoying the views, especially now that I'm back in familiar territory:

The trail over to 'O'ilipu'u:

All of the park cabins listed on one sign:

Hello chukar!  An interesting bird that hung around long enough to be photographed, why thank you.

Looking back at the clouds looming over Kaupo Gap, I can see why I got so wet on the way up.  Not complaining, it was certainly nice and cool, excellent climbing weather.

On my way across the 'a'a lava, less fun than pahoehoe:

I made a rather long stop at Kapalaoa Cabin to use the outhouse, fill and filter water, and dump rocks out of my shoes.  Thank you for being there, wonderful cabin:

The trail across the crater, this photo turned out quite nicely if I say so myself:

Always have to get a picture of the beautiful silversword:

At the intersection with the trail that leads to Halemau'u:

Ready for one last big climb!  My legs were doing great, very exciting.

Last big sweep of the trail, moving upward with good rhythm:

And now a change in perspective!  John was watching for me, capturing a shot of my final switchback:

Funny framing:

Up the road and to the top, we did it!  Oh, and yes, I was wearing an orange shirt and red pants that are slightly short, is that not good?

Selfie from inside the summit house:

The other half of the headliner photo from the start of this (ridiculously long) post:

10,023 feet up in one day, all at once!  It's not often we get a chance to do that.

Part 3 = Descending together

We love the Sliding Sands descent from the top down the first 4 miles, gently dropping down to the crater floor, mostly excellent footing with only a few rocky spots to keep you honest.

We made good time, walking a couple times just to keep from bombing too hard down the initial part of our 10,000 foot drop.  This could be a long afternoon, but it started out nicely.

We had been wondering about all the clouds coming and going and filling the crater more and more.  However, as soon as we got lower it all cleared out ahead of us.  So beautiful.

Another long stop at the cabin for more water, plus we got to meet a nene (Hawai'ian goose, the state bird) - hello nene!  She came over and drank from a little puddle of water I had dropped.  I suspect this one has been fed before, but she wasn't getting any of that from me.

Just a guest spot on my blog post  :)

Lava fields and clouds, an excellent afternoon on the top of Maui.  I wasn't moving quite so fast anymore, partly respecting the amount of descent still to go and partly just getting a bit tired.  Our time back across the crater was not stellar.  I went faster in the "up" direction.

Back at the Paliku turnoff:

And a short break:

Love the steep cliffs along the east side of the gap:

A couple minutes later the sun was shining.  Clouds, sun, whatever.

And there's the ocean again!  Let's go there.

Big ferns, part of the huge variety of plants we saw that day:

Wonderful trail construction for some fun running sections.  We need to invite the CCC back to fix up the lower part of this trail and everything will be perfect.

Admiring where we just came from.  This trail is not easy to run down, tired legs or fresh.  At least I was back to negative splits, but not by much.  Lots of vegetation, lots of rocks.  Always interesting!

At the park boundary - I think we're getting a little tired.  John may be sleeping already (well, we did get up before 3 am).

Finally down at the base of the trail!  And we met the friendliest Great Pyrenees ("patou" if you learned about them in the French Alps).  He just wagged his tail and chewed on a stick.  So sweet.  I took his picture but decided not to push my luck with any petting.

The flock across the way that the dog was "guarding":

Love this picture - on our way back to pavement as the shadows lengthen:

Yes, it was a long, long way down.  My legs and feet definitely felt that.  Apparently my pace was good for John, though, as he was in better shape that I was by the end.  Nicely done, John!

My watch after I stopped the chronometer at the beach:

And we beat sunset, that was a huge bonus!  It was fun racing the sun for the day.

Thumbs up for that expedition:

John's finish time (photo timestamp 6:19 pm):

Double shots:

And the other half - thank you John for being an amazing adventure partner!

The GPS track from my phone - part 1:

The GPS track from my phone - part 2:

The GPS track from my phone - part 3:

The GPS track from my phone - part 4:

The GPS track from my phone - part 5:

The GPS track from my phone - part 6:

Overall GPS track, with the total mileage, except I stopped it later partway up the road from the church so the S2S2S distance is not quite 36.5 miles, probably closer to 36.3 miles.  At least, by one estimate.  Your mileage may vary.

(also note that I stopped the tracker quite a few minutes after stopping my watch.  The watch is my "official" time, such as it could ever be called that)

More minutia in case anyone is interested - here are our splits.

  Start = 5:02:00 (actual time, he saw 5:03 on his watch but we can only verify 5:02 from the photo timestamp)
  Summit = 10:25:51 (ascent time = 5:23:51)
  Finish = 18:19:08 (descent time, including waiting almost 2 hours for me = 7:53:17)
  Roundtrip time = 13:17:08

  From the sea to the turnoff from Pi'ilani Highway near the General Store = 16:48
  From there to the parking/trailhead = 28:42 (45:30 total)
  From the TH up Kaupo Trail to the park boundary = 1:32:51 (2:18:21)
  To the Paliku cabin intersection = 1:43:03 (4:01:24)
  To the intersection next to 'O'ilipu'u = 18:33 (4:19:57)
  To Kapalaoa Cabin = 36:36 (4:56:33)
  Break at the cabin = 13:42 (5:10:15)
  Cabin to the intersection at the bottom of the last climb = 30:44 (5:40:59)
  To the road near the top = 1:26:07 (7:07:07)
  Up the road to the summit = 10:04 (7:17:11 ascent time)
  Break at the top = 9:22 (7:26:33)
  Down to the first intersection = 54:22 (8:20:55)
  To Kapalaoa Cabin = 32:15 (8:53:10)
  Break at the cabin = 16:49 (9:09:59)
  To the intersection next to 'O'ilipu'u = 37:24 (9:47:23)
  To the Paliku cabin intersection = 19:31 (10:06:54)
  Down to the park boundary = 1:30:35 (11:37:30)
  To the Kaupo parking/trailhead = 1:18:32 (12:56:02)
  To Pi'ilani Highway = 20:00 (13:16:02)
  Back to the sea = 10:29 (roundtrip total = 13:26:32, descent time from leaving the top = 5:59:59)

All of our times are surely beatable, but it's fun to have accomplished a couple of "firsts" and be the top name on the FKT board, however briefly  :)

One final little tidbit, in case anyone is still here - a video with the sound of rocks rolling in the waves (if you can hear it over the wind noise):

And that's it!  Thanks for reading!

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