Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Climbing Haleakala

On Sunday the goal was to climb Haleakala. Haleakala is a massive volcano that covers 75% of the island of Maui. The West Maui mountains (which we rode around on Saturday forms the other 25% or so of the island. The highest peak on Haleakala sits at 10,023 feet at the "house of the sun." 36 miles from Paia town to the top.
Photo Credit John Wollenbecker
Almost the whole group ready to go. We left the hotel at about 6:30 am and it was already raining and cold. But Sunday was the day, so we rolled. It's just over 6 miles from the hotel to Paia town. Once we got to Paia town a few of us got to take a 30 minute pit stop for breakfast and coffee to let the rest of the group get a little head start and continue up the mountain.
30 minutes later we were off and headed up the mountain. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, I knew it was going to be a long day and I knew it was going to get cold (it was already wet and chilly to begin with) and I knew it was going to be 10,000 feet of constant climbing (I thought it was going to be constant, but there were a few sections of relief!), but other than that, I wasn't sure what to expect. The beginning is pretty mellow, we had a small group, 6 of us, and we rode together, chatting and enjoying the scenery, just pedaling away. The "Makawao Wall" is the first significant climb of the day (mind you we've been climbing since we left Paia town) and it's pretty steep, but very short and nothing too crazy; it was actually much less steep than anticipated. After that it's more up, up, up, up. Through beautifully paved roads, free of massive traffic, fresh, crisp country air and friends. 
Photo Credit: Kalani Pascual
Our first aid-station/support vehicles were at 3500ft. At this point it wasn't too awfully cold, I kept switching from wearing my rain jacket, taking it off, putting it back on, taking it off. I couldn't quiet get my temperature right and I didn't want to get all wet underneath and then freeze when the temperatures dropped as we gained elevation. Anyways, 3500 down 6500 to go. We were off for section 2 of the climb (we were told the night before that the climb can be broken down into 3 different sections, the second section being the most difficult (which it was), but in the end each of the sections would probably take the same amount of riding time and that was exactly spot on!). 
Section two took us to a point where we got a little break from the clouds, the only point in the day that we were able to see some sun. Lots of switchbacks, but still feeling pretty strong considering we were getting on up there in elevation. And the temperature continued to drop! 
Photo Credit: Kalani Pascual
Still riding happy not quite to 7000 feet
Photo Credit: Kalani Pascual

Quick regroup for another change of clothes (hot, cold, hot, cold) and a picture. 

At about 7000 feet, just past the main entrance to Haleakala National Park ($5 needed if you want to go further by bike) we had our second support vehicle. At this point the weather started to get nasty! It was in the low 40s, cloudy, moisture in the air (I am not going to call it snow, but it was not just rain) and the wind was starting to pick up...time for a full change of clothes.  At this point, I think I put on a new undershirt under my jersey, my jersey, a winter insulated running jacket, a waterproof rain jacket, headband/ear-warmers, running tights over my bike shorts, two pairs of full fingered gloves and hand warmers underneath my gloves, if that sounds excessive, it might have been, but I'm soft now and don't do well in cold (I was by no means the most bundled either).  
Photo Credit: Kalani Pascual
All bundled up and ready to conquer the last 3000 feet. 

Photo Credit: Kalani Pascual
I made it maybe 1000 feet and I started to overheat, now, the temperature was still in the low 40s, but I did have on lots o' layers (see above picture and everything unzipped). I saw Stacia, Brandy and Katy on the side of the road so I pulled over and stripped off my tights, a pair of gloves and my outer rain jacket. They looked at me like I was nuts, asked if I was ok and told me it was going to be in the 30s by the time I got to the top. I told them that I was fine, I was just super hot and needed to shed some layers, if I kept moving I'd be fine for the last 2000 feet.

After I left them the wind began to really pick up. When we heard there was wind toward/at the top and the reports were saying 30+mph, we kept saying at least it won't be 30mph sustained winds...whoops, they were constant and relentless. I kept pushing forward, but those last 2000 feet were not easy and it was cold. When I made the final turn with less than 1000 yards of paved road left I saw Michelle up ahead, heard the cheers for Aaron finishing at the top and knew I was close. As soon as I passed Michelle the wind was whipping so hard I was barely moving up the mountain (I've never moved so slow on a bike before), I was moving so slow I was afraid I was going to tip over/get blown off the mountain. A gust of wind came and almost did knock me over. I got off my bike, walked for less than a minute, got mad at myself for getting off so close to the top, got back on and finished riding!  
The warm rental truck with hot chocolate and dry clothes. 
After I put on a new change of dry clothes and more layers, I told Aaron we needed to go ALL the way to the top to get a picture. I made it!  It was cold, it was tough, but I made it and I'll be back in June to "race" to the top. 
and then there was this........

After we got all bundled up and got our picture at the top it was time to descend. Not something I particularly wanted to do (but in the end I'm glad I did...on a nice day, this would be a beautiful descent), but there was not enough room in the vans for all the bikes and all the people so some people had to suck it up and ride down. You would think as we descended it would get warmer, I would thaw out a bit and it wouldn't be miserable, nope, I never got warm (it took me 24 hours and a run on Monday to get warm again! That  might be a little dramatic, but that's what it felt like). We stopped a few times at the ranger station bathrooms and stood with our hands under the blow dryers to warm up so we could hold onto our bikes, squeeze the breaks and shift when necessary. We made it back to the hotel without incident and Haleakala was conquered!

Climbing this mountain was close to one of the best rides I've had on bike. It was so peaceful up there on the mountain. It was never too steep, you just had to keep on pedaling, onward and upward, the fresh, crisp mountain air is something special (I found myself taking deep breaths, breathing in the clean air up there and it was glorious), the views would be spectacular if you could actually see through the clouds, a tranquil place to ride your bike. Haleakala is a extraordinary place and I can't wait to ride her again! See you in June!

Thanks to the BOCA fam that was out there supporting us on our trip up Haleakala, without you all, this would not have been possible!!!


  1. AWESOME. Congrats Lectie. Keep Shining On!

  2. Way to go, Lectie! Sounds awesome! Totally want to bike this when I visit Hawaii :)

  3. Erin, you let me know and I'll go with yoU!!