DISTANCE
30.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
6,479 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

walking

views

wild flowers

wildlife

no dogs

hiking
7 months ago

I summited Mauna Loa in November and no surprise, it was cold!

There is a lot of very important gear BUT, the 5 items that I'm super glad I had?
1. Altitude medication. I got altitude sickness at night and it was rough, I probably would have had to turn back if I didn't have it.
2. Buff. The wind, sun, and cold are HARSH up there. Face/head/neck protections is essential.
3. Down 20F rated sleeping bag. So cold. High quality temp rated gear is good to have.
4. Sunglasses with side wind/sun protection.
5. Wish I HAD brought lip balm. My lips were MESSED UP toward the end and after the trip. Wish I had remembers chapstick.

My Route:
Day 1: Hike from 5 miles out from the trailhead on Mauna Loa Road (due to road work), to Pu’u ‘Ula’ula cabin 12.8mi
Day 2: Pu'u 'Ula'ula to Mauna Loa summit cabin 11.5mi
Day 3: Mauna Loa summit cabin to true summit, then back down Pu’u ‘Ula’ula cabin 17mi
Day 4: Rest and explore trails around Pu'u 'Ula'ula
Day 5: Hike back down to my drop off point 12.8mi

About 54 miles in all.

Some random useful tips...

-During the day I sometimes needed a wool/synthetic base layer + wind shirt + fleece, as well as gloves, face shield, sunglasses, and hat for sun and wind protection. Temps ranged from mid 30's Fahrenheit to 50’s during the day in the broad sunlight, 28F or so at night. With chill factor? Pretty cold.

-No fires allowed, there's no wood to be found anyway. No heat in the cabins, it's simply shelter. In Nov 2018, the bunk mattresses were still very clean and comfortable.

-Get your permit with the Back Country office in Volcano National Park. There you can find out current water catchment tank levels, cabin occupancy, and mountain conditions (though you can look the weather up online.)

-Altitude Sickness can affect anybody no matter how strong or awesome you are, makes no difference. Be ready for it, get a prescription, start taking it a few day before you start your ascent.

-The cabins are awesome and we're fortunate to have them! If you do use them, be clean and respectful. Leave them cleaner than when you found them. Normal camping philosophy applies. Leave no trace. Pack out what you pack in.

I was lucky I went when I did. The following week it was expected to snow 20-30 inches. Plan your trip carefully, but be ready to roll with the punches. Weather up there is unpredictable, you might have to delay your start date if there are windstorms or white-out.