We had a plan to climb a few ranked summits near the top of Saddle Rd where it
goes over the pass between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, but ended up doing something
quite different. The two summits and a host of other unranked summits were
all found inside the Pohakuloa Army Training Area, not the sort of place one
can wander into so easily, especially when the main road is signed for No
Parking and observation is quite easy. So we continued west across the saddle
and stumbled into the Ka'Ohe Game Management Area on the western slopes of Mauna
Kea between 6,000ft and 9,000ft. There is a network of dirt roads in
the area totalling more than 50mi and nearly circling around Mauna Kea itself,
mostly used by hunters.
4WD and high-clearance are recommended for the rougher sections of road that
one is certain to encounter, even on the main road, R-1, that circles around
There was only one ranked summit found here, Ahumoa, but there were plenty of
smaller vents with official names that landed them on LoJ and our peakbagging
app. We had fun wandering about for the rest of the day tagging a bunch of
these before running out of time - far more driving on this day than hiking,
that's for sure.
The only ranked summit
in the bunch and the closest to the pavement. A rough
road winds its way to the summit, becoming trail. We managed to get
the jeep within about half a mile of the summit and walked
the undriveable portion to the top. There are two points on the crater rim that
seem of nearly equal height. We visited both, but the southern one
depicted on the app is the highest. The northern point has
a survey monument in disrepair.
This one is a drive-up on the edge of the Kaohe Restoration Area, where
replanting of native trees has helped its recovery from decades of cattle
grazing (which still takes place on the slopes adjacent to it). There is also
the mile-long Palila Forest Discovery Trail, a loop that goes over
We chose the drive-up route as we were in wheeling, not hiking mode.
A road heading SSE from Pu'u La'au for more than three miles can be used to
easily access the next three summit plus a fourth we skipped because it was
more than half a mile to the summit - remember we were in wheeling mode today.
Pu'u Okauha was a quarter mile of brushiness and downfall that was
slow. Worse was the traverse to the SE summit I thought might be higher, a
very brushy and slow affair. It turned out to be about 7-10ft lower. Tom had
already aborted the effort shortly after leaving the highpoint and I found him
waiting at the edge of the crater rim on the southwest side. We found a much
easier descent route that would have made the ascent quite a bit easier.
Another drive-up, if properly equipped. We began to suspect that
hunters had forged these rough routes up to the tops of some of the vents as a
way to survey the surrounding terrain for game.
Leaving the Kahoe Game Area, we drove quite a few miles northeast around the
north side of Mauna Kea, stopping to tag this cone about a quarter mile
above the road. The slopes on this one were rock and grass,
the easiest of the summits we visited that weren't drive-ups.
We continued for more miles past Kemole, hoping to find a descent route down
to Mana Rd and an alternate exit to pavement many more miles to the north. We
followed R-9 steeply down to a locked gate at the edge of a ranch and
could go no further, so back up to R-1 we went. We briefly considered
continuing east to
find another way down but realized it could cost us a few hours' time if we
had to abort and return the way we came. So we decided to cut our losses and
head back. Pu'u Nanaha is found on the uphill side of R-1, about halfway back
to the Keohe game area. A spur road leads in about a mile to the uphill side
of the feature. A short cross-country effort takes one over a higher
intervening point to reach the named point on the other side. The
was in some contrast to the other summits we had visited today, some of which
had thick brush, the rest at least covered in grasses.
After returning to the pavement and then Saddle Rd, on a whim we decided to
head up to Mauna Kea for sunset and an easy 13er and the state highpoint.
The road is signed for 4WD
only, but it is well-graded and in dry conditions it is suitable for any
vehicle. The last several miles, which are the steepest, are even paved to
keep dust down for the sensitive telescopes that congregate
at the top. I knew
the final quarter mile to the highpoint required a hike, but we were
surprised to find a sign at the TH instructing visitors to stay off the trail
and highpoint out of respect for native Hawaiian traditions. This seems likely
to be related to the continuing controversy about the building of new
telescopes here and we weren't sure if the sign was legally enforceable or not.
Regardless, we stayed off the trail and the summit at least until after the
small crowd of sunset watchers that had gathered had headed back down the road.
It was very cold outside, 24F, so most of the folks there were inside their
vehicles with only short forays outside to gather a picture or two.
We never did visit the summit because a ranger parked his vehicle right at the
TH shortly before sunset.
He may have been there simply to escort the last vehicles off the mountain
so they could close the gate below, but we didn't bother to ask. Both of us had
already visited the summit on previous occasions so we simply enjoyed the
sunset and headed down with the others.