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Mauna Kea summit--trying to decide once and for all!

San Francisco
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Mauna Kea summit--trying to decide once and for all!

Reading all the postings about the dangers of driving up to (and down from) the summit of Mauna Kea have got me asking myself: Is it even worth it? Here's what my plan has been: I thought that the summit, with its sunsets and top of the world feeling, would be a great place to propose to my girlfriend. We are going in August this year. We will be there during a new moon and during the Perseid meteor shower, so we will be stargazing at the VC regardless of what we end up doing. I have the 4WD already reserved for the summit. Now I'm thinking that all the hazards involved in going to the summit are not even worth the sunset we may (or may not) get. Since it will be in August, I'm wondering if we will even get the kind of cloud formations necessary for the kind of smashing sunsets that I've seen in pictures from there.

We're both pretty informed about the hazards and if we go all the way to the summit, we have two acclimation stops planned and I plan to drive as carefully as I can in the proper gears on the way down (no brake-riding!).

But again, all this (as well as reading about the recent fatalities up there) has got me wondering: Is it worth it? For all I know, all those great sunsets that I've heard about may be in the winter time. Whatever we decide, stargazing at the VC is still a must for this trip.

Illinois
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1. Re: Mauna Kea summit--trying to decide once and for all!

If you are going to do it, I'd suggest a tour rather than doing it yourself. We went with Hawaii Forrest and Trail and they did a great job. Prepare yourself for the cold--I live near Chicago, and thought I could take the cold with no problem, but I was wrong!

Sunset was nice but seeing the shadow of the mountain projected onto the clouds to the East was the best part for me.

Island of Hawaii...
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2. Re: Mauna Kea summit--trying to decide once and for all!

Your girlfriend will be shaking! (Not because of the proposal, because of the cold!) :) Please note that only Harper's 4X4 are legal to rent to go to the summit. I personally would take my girlfriend to the Pahui'a at the Four Seasons and propose ther. Oops! I have no girlfriend! I already have done that and she is my wife now! :)

Kona, Hawaii
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3. Re: Mauna Kea summit--trying to decide once and for all!

Aloha, We have been to the summit, and I am glad we did it. My husband and I are amateur astronomers and do crazy things like plan our vacations around an eclipse and throw parties for the Perseid meteor shower. I find the visitors center just about as good as the top for star gazing. Having the warm center to pop into for a hot coco or tea, along with their bathrooms really is a plus. The astronomers who volunteer here are top notch and love to share their knowledge and answer questions. They bring along telescopes and will show you what ever you ask to see. We have learned so much about the heavens from them and all of it free. We go 6 - 9 times a year depending on schedules and visitors.

It is amazing how cold it is up there, I live in Boston part time and it is nothing like the cold I feel there, maybe it is because of how warm you are just hours before. I always pack long pants, wool socks, 2 layers on top of my t shirt, gloves, hat and a scarf to take all of that with me. If you go with a group they will provide you with a parker and such.

For me, loving the sky as much as we do, being proposed to on Mauna Kea would be very romantic especially with the added show of the Perseid!!! Keep in mind the drive back is dark, narrow and long. We always just take our time, let residence that know the roads pass us and enjoy the air warming up as we head down the volcano.

Glasgow, United...
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4. Re: Mauna Kea summit--trying to decide once and for all!

We too will be there in August and are planning to do a summit tour - had no idea about the shower and am now all excited. When in August is it expected?

I am also forwarding your post to my boyfriend by way of a hint!

F

x

Palm Springs...
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5. Re: Mauna Kea summit--trying to decide once and for all!

I too am into astronomy... and live here.. and have been to the summit lots even spent the night at the invitation of some professonals there However actual observing is poor on the summit because you are oxygen defficient..... you will actialy see more at the 9000 ft level The tours go even lower to 6000 ft.

The sunset is actualy better seen fron the beach and is pretty but not outstanding. As Jilbin notes, and I agree , the oppsite... the eastern view of the umbria and mt shadow is far better.

Now... to propose at 20degrees with a light wind gives a chill factor below 0.. AND couple that to the possibility that she may have a splitting headache and nausea, in addition to feeling a bit tipsy since there is 40% less o2 up there..... Id go with the Four seasons Idea....... way more romantic.

Since you are into astronomy I say go on your own on one of the saturday or sunday special free tours that go into the domes.... the pay tours do not do that !!! and neither are the pay tours allowed to use the scopes at the visitor center. The pay tours use 8" celestron and mead STC,s whereas the visitor center has a 18" mead/stc-UHTC monster. as well as an astro physics 4" floutite refractor..... If you have a fav eye piece.. Mine is a 40mm university optical... 2" then bring it............ I would also suggest a Oxygen 2 filter for nebula..... they dont have them... They will let you use yours... The let me anyway

It will get very near freezing during the night at 9000 so be prepared and the drive back down to Kohala will take or sohold take 3 hours.... it is black beyond black as the lava absorbs any and al ambient light...............it is a nasty road in the day....and very narrow... add that to the idiots who try to drive it and its even more fun.

Use harpers and as you descend use gears....only low range 2 works for me.... no higher.. or you will burn your brakes out fast its up to 17-18% in a lot of places. 3 were killed here who had 4x4 but didnot understand how to properly use it.........learn to.

sydney Australia
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6. Re: Mauna Kea summit--trying to decide once and for all!

Go to the summit. Sounds awesome the day you plan for it.

Dont propose up there, very few people actually work up there it is too oxygen deprived, so observations are mainly done at sea level with computer attachments to the telescopes.

you would be mad to contemplate doing the first descent to the visitors centre after dark, so you will see the shower from there not higher.

I am so glad to hear that it wasnt just a case of spoiled aussies who felt frozen at the top.

I saw someone in shorts. Why would you do that?

the prob with doing it yourself, is firstly silly locals who get hypoxia and drive stupidly, and also the lack of a sub artic parka and gloves to warm yourself.

I would bunk for the forest and trails tours. all their guides are experts at astromomy so they will not dissappoint you. And they carry hot chocolate to warm you up. they also use an area which is much darker than right near the centre. So the telescopes are really good, trust me. I saw lots of very good detail. and we had people with us who also know astromomy and they were impressed by the knowledge adn expertise of the guide.

Oklahoma City...
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for Oklahoma, Grove
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7. Re: Mauna Kea summit--trying to decide once and for all!

Fly, I think it is Aug. 13th. Can't wait!!

perez, I'd take TT and HD's advice and propose at the 4 Seasons, BUT I would also suggest you take HD's advice on visiting the summit and VC at some point during your trip. It is an awesome, once in a lifetime experience. The sunset is not spectacular looking, but being there at sunset was great. We took a tour, I think it was Stargazers something. Google, stargazing, Big Island and you can find it. They provide down parkas, gloves, hot soup, cocoa, etc. and you don't have to worry about driving down after dark.

Omaha, NE
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8. Re: Mauna Kea summit--trying to decide once and for all!

There are two issues here: One is going to the summit to see the sunset and stargazing. I agree that seeing the shadow of Mauna Kea stretch for 100 miles over the Pacific is cool. But it's very cold up there, with wind chills in the teens in the winter. I imagine it's a little warmer in the summer time. The sunset will be MUCH better at the beach, I can guarentee that.

I would recommend taking a tour. Saddle Road and Mauna Kea road are not the easiest roads in the world to drive. Several Japanese students were killed recently when their car went off the road. You will be going from elevation 8 feet to 13,000 feet in a matter of a couple of hours, which means you'll probably get light headed. The drive back on Saddle Road in the dark is difficult since you aren't familiar with it. Plus the tour will provide parkas so you won't get as cold up there. (Are you planning to bring winter clothes to Hawaii in August?!?!?!?) I used Mauna Kea Summitt Adventures a few years back and can recommend them as well.

As for whether it's a romantic spot to propose...only you can decide. If you like stargazing and adventures, it could be good. Mauna Kea is not a romantic spot by itself, but romance is whatever you make of it. I proposed to my wife on the 50 yard line of a football field, so it depends on the people. You know your future fiance better than any of us.

sydney Australia
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9. Re: Mauna Kea summit--trying to decide once and for all!

I just wonder if she would be shivering too much to say yes.

San Francisco
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10. Re: Mauna Kea summit--trying to decide once and for all!

Thanks everyone for your responses. I'm leaning now towards just going up to the VC for the stargazing and the meteor shower. It seemed to me that the summit of Mauna Kea, along with the active lava flow and the opportunity to dive with manta rays, is one of the things that makes the Big Island such a unique and fascinating place. Where else in the world could one experience such diverse adventures and sights? I imagine the summit of Mauna Kea to be an otherworldly place, where I could see the sunset of a lifetime, a place where I could see the world from a perspective I may never have an opportunity to somewhere else. But with the hazards, the cold, and the logistics (getting the 4x4, etc), I guess that I'd have to be pretty blown away by the sights to make it all worth it.

So...then. I'll be coming up to the VC from Hilo. My car rental is from Enterprise (which I got through Expedia). The online rental agreement does not even mention Saddle Road. Earlier I saw some postings here that say some companies are okay with Saddle road and some not. Does anyone know?

Thanks!!