Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Road Cycling
Reload this Page >

Getting High on Haleakala

Notices
Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Getting High on Haleakala

Old 04-09-15, 04:43 PM
  #1  
icyclist 
Spin Meister
Thread Starter
 
icyclist's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: California, USA
Posts: 2,651

Bikes: Trek Émonda, 1961 Follis (French) road bike (I'm the original owner), a fixie, a mountain bike, etc.

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 54 Post(s)
Liked 41 Times in 16 Posts
Getting High on Haleakala

There are a variety of ways to get high. There are, for example, drugs. Generally, the experience is short lived and not always pleasant. We can fall head-over-heels in love, which can last a lifetime, but sometimes turns sour. And there are literal ways to get high, like reaching the top of a skyscraper or a mountain, especially when there is a challenge involved.

I chose the third route to getting high by riding to the top of Haleakala Crater, on the island of Maui, Hawaii. The ride would cover 35.5 miles (57 km), all but perhaps three hundred yards of it uphill, and it would end at 10,023 feet (3055 m.) above sea level. I made the ride in late February.


A local getting high on the road to Hana, Maui.



However, I was anything but high a few weeks before my ride. I'd flunked a stress test. Although I felt fine, an electrocardiogram reading indicated I had some blockage in my left descending coronary artery. So I sulked and stayed off my bike during what was supposed to be my most intensive training period. Until I had an angiogram several days later, I worried I might drop dead on my bike before making it to Maui. In the hospital, my cardiologist ran a thin wire through my wrist and into my heart, injected some dye that showed what was happening in my coronary arteries, and quickly concluded the stress test itself had failed. So I went home a few hours later in certified A1 condition. The next day I put in a 1,500 foot climb up some steep grades near my home. And I kept riding until I left for Maui about a week later.



The view from the top of Haleakala on a reasonably clear day


On our first full day on Maui, my girlfriend and I drove to the top of Haleakala Crater before sunrise. It was windy and very cold. Haleakala ("House of the Sun" in Hawaiian) isn't a crater. It's the top of a massive outpouring, over vast amounts of time, of broad sheets of lava which eventually rose out of the sea. The "crater" was apparently formed when two valleys, created by erosion, merged at the top of the mountain. Along with a few hundred other people, the two of us shivered near the top of the mountain as the sun rose above the clouds and a native Hawaiian offered a chant to greet the new day. In a while we could see into the "crater." I hoped to have a similar, if not as dramatic, experience when reaching the mountaintop the next day.



Our rented house in Upcountry.





We had rented a beautiful home near the small community of Ulupalakua, on the slopes of the mountain, in a part of Maui called Up Country. From our balcony we looked out over a surrounding lush forest and beyond that over the Pacific Ocean, where we could see a couple other islands in the Hawaiian chain. While driving back from the top of the mountain that first morning we spotted a half dozen or so riders making their way up the first of two sets of hairpin turns. It was about 11 a.m.


Clarinetist Marion Meadows

Stopping for coffee in the little community of Kula, we met a well-known musician, Marion Meadows. He was in his bike clothes. I didn't realize he's a bike racer as well as a clarinetist and until I checked out his website that evening. We spoke for a couple of minutes and I mentioned my upcoming ride. Mr. Meadows mentioned that a couple friends of his had become hypothermic in rain on their ride down from the top of the Haleakala and needed help to get off the mountain. The forecast for my ride, the next day, was for afternoon rain.


That night at our house we could see bright stars and we heard the sound of birds and horses and occasional dog barks. It did seem like paradise. I set two alarms and drifted easily off to a night of good sleep.

The next morning I pulled on my good luck jersey, the one I'd purchased after riding up Stelvio Pass (which I posted about here) in Italy the year before. I put the bike I'd rented into the back of our car. I'd rented the bike, a Scott, outfitted with Ultregra components, from Maui Cyclery in the town of Paia, at sea level, where I planned to start my ride. Now I drove about an hour from our house back down the mountain to Paia, with dawn light visible to the east. Originally I'd thought I'd leave Paia at 6 a.m. Instead, I followed the advice of one of the employees at the shop to either push off around 6:30 a.m. or after 8 a.m. to avoid heavy traffic, principally from people taking kids to school.



Feeling good at the start of the ride.

Because we were so far from the start of the ride, I opted for the later hour. It would have been better to have made an earlier start. Because by 7:50 a.m., when I started riding, the day was already warm and humid. It was like visiting my daughter in Brooklyn in the summer, instead of the more temperate climate of Los Angeles where I live. Would I need my base layer, leg and arm warmers, and light rain coat I carried with me? I also carried enough energy bars and a couple of hard boiled eggs to see me through the entirety of the ride. And I had a couple of bottles of water.

Once out of Paia, the scenery early on was dominated by sugarcane fields, with Haleakala a rising bulge to the west. Although it wasn't obvious, I was on that bulge. I pedaled past several beautiful churches dating to the mid-1800s. I stopped in the shade of a church to add more sunblock to my arms and neck. I felt like I was in a warm shower as my sweat poured off me.

My plan was to take my time, spinning in a 34x21 or 24 gear on a route described as averaging a 5% grade. If it grade dipped a bit I'd shift up. I'd still have a gear or two to go down if the road pitched up. There was a short, steep section at the end of the little town of Makawao. The grade wouldn't come close again for a long time.


Community of Makawao


About 8 miles past Paia, make a right turn at this sign to stay on the route.
__________________
This post is a natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual character and beauty and are in no way to be considered flaws or defects.

Last edited by icyclist; 04-09-15 at 10:05 PM.
icyclist is offline  
Old 04-09-15, 04:44 PM
  #2  
icyclist 
Spin Meister
Thread Starter
 
icyclist's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: California, USA
Posts: 2,651

Bikes: Trek Émonda, 1961 Follis (French) road bike (I'm the original owner), a fixie, a mountain bike, etc.

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 54 Post(s)
Liked 41 Times in 16 Posts
Gaining some elevation, I had a fine few out to the ismthmus between Haleakala and the West Maui Mountains, as well as some of the island's more populated areas.



Looking out to the West Maui Mountains.

About of third of the way into the ride, in the heat and humidity, still easily turning the pedals, I noticed I wasn't particularly comfortable. My ass hurt a little bit and my body in general ached a bit. "I wonder," I said to myself, "if the pain will stay at this level or increase." Unfortunately it was the latter. The longer I rode, the more I felt real pain. Even so, I'd trained on extremely steep hills and made several rides on my fixed gear bike, which meant no coasting. So I could still keep turning circles with my feet.


All too often, though, the road went up to 7 or 8% and I went down to 34x28, which meant I was taking ever more time to make my way up the mountain. I thought I had plenty of time to reach the summit. Even so, I began to wonder what would happen to me physiologically that might not have happened to me before.





Several times I saw riders who had been driven to near the top of the mountain in a van. For them, it was a one-way trip, with gravity pulling them down mountain. I saw probably saw more than 100 cyclists, decked out in massive helmets, riding sturdy bikes and held to somewhat slow speeds by their group leaders. I'm sure that's a wonderful way to experience Haleakala. And I began to think I should have taken the the other riders' route.








I med and spoke briefly to Maui artist Jim Lynch.

At some point I noticed clouds rolling in over the mountain. I wondered if predicted rain was falling above me somewhere. Eventually I reached the first of the two series of hairpin curves. It was 11 a.m., the same time I'd seen the group of cyclists the other day on the same turns. Soon I was inside the clouds.





Humidity turned into a misting rain. I was somewhere around the halfway point, 5,000 feet above sea level. I pulled to the side of the road at one of the sharp turns, and sat down next to my bike to eat an energy bar and add my base layer and leg and arm warmers. For several seconds I felt like throwing up. The feeling passed. I thought perhaps I should coast back down the mountain, to a fork in the road that would take me back to the house in Ulupalakua. That thought passed. So I climbed back on my bike and continued upward. I pulled on my jacket, designed for light rain. I was almost too warm in the jacket, but it was keeping me dry.





Less than a year before I'd biked up Stelvio Pass, in Italy (which I posted about here). That ride took me 6,000 feet and 15 miles up to the Italian-Swiss Alps. I'd had some trepidation about finishing that ride, too, although I'd prepared better with more miles under my belt. As I crossed the 16 mile mark on Haleakala, I knew I had just climbed the equivalent of my Stelvio Pass ride. And I knew I had almost another Stelvio Pass to go.

There weren't many cars. There weren't many cyclists. Most of the downhill riders were finished. Occasionally I'd ask someone stopped along the side of the road, a motorist or cyclist, if it was sunny on top of Haleakala. I always received a yes answer. Continuing on, I passed no one on a bike and no one on a bike passed me.

Past the switchbacks I reached the entrance station to Haleakala National Park. That meant I had 11 miles to go, most of them up the second series of switchbacks. I refilled my water bottles at the visitor center, used the restroom, and got back on my bike. Turn after turn I just kept going, almost always in my lowest gear. It was easy.

The rain, which had been light and intermittent, was now steady and heavier. I felt myself becoming soaked from perspiration within, despite my low speed, and rain without. Before long, I felt pain in my right calf. Later I felt pain in my left calf. Not much later a cramp made me stop pedaling for a minute or so. And later still I would be hit by cramps in both legs at the same time. Sometimes, as more cramps arrived, I'd say out loud, "Leg, you're not helping the situation. Keep going." And I'd pedal through the cramp. Sometimes, though, I had to stop, despite my verbal commands to either leg. They just wouldn't listen to me.





Eventually the cramps were less frequent. I began to stop more often to rest, though. I was getting a good lesson on what it meant no to put in enough miles. I could still turn the pedals easily enough, but my body ached, particularly my ass. The pain counteracted my brain's directive to stop making so many illegal stops. At 7,000 feet I made a legal stop for a photo. A car appeared out of the fog from below me and stopped, too. The passenger wanted my photograph next to the sign. After a while I was at 8,000 feet and then 9,000 feet. The sky was uniformly gray and the passage of time went, in a way, unnoticed by me, except for the increase in riding discomfort.

I could still turn the cranks but my ass was on fire. I saw the little sign that told me the summit was just two miles farther. By now, though, it seemed that I was riding for just a few minutes before taking a one minute break. If I'd had any thoughts that I might not make the top, they ended when I saw that sign.

https://www.pbase.com/davewyman/image...5919larage.jpg

Maybe a half mile from the top six rode riders came down out of the fog, moving slowly on the slick road. The last cyclist in line looked at me – I was stopped again at this point – and she shouted, "Hurry!"

Off again, I rounded a bend. I could make out the summit observation building and the buildings of the Haleakala Observatories. I pedaled past the parking lot next to the little visitor center/gift shop that's a few hundred yards below the top of the mountain.




More photos below!
__________________
This post is a natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual character and beauty and are in no way to be considered flaws or defects.

Last edited by icyclist; 04-14-15 at 09:34 AM.
icyclist is offline  
Old 04-09-15, 04:47 PM
  #3  
icyclist 
Spin Meister
Thread Starter
 
icyclist's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: California, USA
Posts: 2,651

Bikes: Trek Émonda, 1961 Follis (French) road bike (I'm the original owner), a fixie, a mountain bike, etc.

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 54 Post(s)
Liked 41 Times in 16 Posts
The route pitched up to about 11% and now the pedaling wasn't easy at all. As I zig-zagged my way up the curving pavement a couple of cars came down the road. I stopped to let them go by. There was perhaps 100 yards to go, if that. Yet I stayed put for another minute. Then I was at the little parking lot almost at the very top of the mountain. I was suddenly aware that I was breathing hard. I stopped next to a sign that warned visitors to move slowly in the high altitude. I picked up my bike, put it on my shoulder and took two steps at a time to reach the observation building.





The view, of course, was of nothing but the fog. I took a selfie. A busload of disappointed Japanese tourists walked up the steps after me and I agreed to pose with one of them. And then I started down the mountain. It took me about a minute to realize I was going to have a difficult time with the descent. With sodden clothes, I was instantly cold and the wet road slowed me down. I thought of the story from Marion Meadows about the two men who'd needed to be pulled off the mountain. So I made an executive decision. I turned around, pedaled uphill a little bit, and biked to the visitor center. I called my girlfriend and asked for a rescue. I was already shivering. I purchased a hoodie and put it on after stripping off my wet jersey. I stayed inside the visitor center until it closed. Not long after that my girlfriend pulled into the parking lot and soon I was sitting in a warm car, headed down the mountain to our house in Ulupalakua.



I was disappointed not to have my ride down the mountain. I'd certainly earned it. I'd come to ride up the mountain, though. And I had a consolation ride, zip lining at 60 mph or so out of the West Maui Mountains. The summit of Haleakala was still in the clouds. I gotten my high, though.
__________________
This post is a natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual character and beauty and are in no way to be considered flaws or defects.

Last edited by icyclist; 04-09-15 at 05:12 PM.
icyclist is offline  
Old 04-09-15, 04:59 PM
  #4  
Bostic
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,744
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 9 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 3 Times in 2 Posts
Congrats on completing the climb up. I still remember every detail of my trip up in November of 2012. Haleakala is a very special place. I can't wait to get back there again.
Bostic is offline  
Old 04-09-15, 06:35 PM
  #5  
rjones28 
Mostly Harmless
 
rjones28's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Chittenango, NY
Posts: 53,668

Bikes: Have two wheels

Mentioned: 168 Post(s)
Tagged: 2 Thread(s)
Quoted: 11546 Post(s)
Liked 2,904 Times in 1,704 Posts
Well done!
__________________
Originally Posted by patentcad View Post
If this thread doesn't go 10 pages I'm quitting BF.
rjones28 is online now  
Old 04-09-15, 07:19 PM
  #6  
TrojanHorse
SuperGimp
 
TrojanHorse's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Whittier, CA
Posts: 13,347

Bikes: Specialized Roubaix

Mentioned: 147 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1106 Post(s)
Liked 63 Times in 46 Posts
That's on my bucket list... frankly, I told my wife if we went to Maui I'd have to attempt it. What do you wish you'd done differently? Was the compact sufficient?

Well done!
TrojanHorse is offline  
Old 04-09-15, 09:34 PM
  #7  
icyclist 
Spin Meister
Thread Starter
 
icyclist's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: California, USA
Posts: 2,651

Bikes: Trek Émonda, 1961 Follis (French) road bike (I'm the original owner), a fixie, a mountain bike, etc.

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 54 Post(s)
Liked 41 Times in 16 Posts
Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
That's on my bucket list... frankly, I told my wife if we went to Maui I'd have to attempt it. What do you wish you'd done differently? Was the compact sufficient?

Well done!
Thanks! The compact was more than sufficient. And I trained on a lot of extremely steep hills. I never ran out of lung or leg power.

Without enough miles, though, my body began to hurt and then hurt more the farther I rode. I knew I was going to hurt, though, from the start. I just didn't know how much. More miles would have made the difference.

My ride came at the end of several days of good weather and the start of significant rain in the islands. There wasn't anything I could do about that. From what I could see, the mountain was socked in for several days thereafter. The rain was annoying, not worrying.

I don't know if dehydration contributes to cramping. However, I think I should have had more water. Four bottles wasn't enough.

I've done several epic rides over the years, at altitude. So I had the experience to know I'd probably reach the summit.
__________________
This post is a natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual character and beauty and are in no way to be considered flaws or defects.
icyclist is offline  
Old 04-09-15, 09:52 PM
  #8  
PhotoJoe 
Just Plain Slow
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Santa Clarita, CA
Posts: 6,038

Bikes: Lynskey R230

Mentioned: 40 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 297 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 5 Times in 5 Posts
Agreed. It's on my bucket list. I'm very envious. Very nice write up, and good job!
PhotoJoe is offline  
Old 04-10-15, 02:28 PM
  #9  
c0lnago
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 1,076
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
Great write up...I did that climb a few years ago and remember asking a local what to expect for weather...answer: "Everything...heat, cold, wind, rain, sleet, fog..."

I laughed and thought "come on"...but sure enough I got everything but sleet. It is a trudge of a climb but worth it...
c0lnago is offline  
Old 04-10-15, 04:07 PM
  #10  
karenashg
Senior Member
 
karenashg's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 223

Bikes: 198? Colnago, 2010 Jamis Quest, 2013 Wabi Classic 46x18

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Congratulations--that's quite an achievement in difficult conditions!

My husband and I rode up at the end of December--we completely lucked out on weather, as it was warm, with barely any wind. Two days later we drove up, and the wind was blowing so hard it was difficult to stand up, much less bicycle into it. Yet there were some people biking up (and some who abandoned biking up...)

You'll have to go back and do it again--the descent is magnificent. (At least on a road bike--I think I would have been miserable on one of those downhill ride tours, with their upright positions, squealing brakes, and tentative descending.)

Some views in sunshine:



karenashg is offline  
Old 04-10-15, 04:22 PM
  #11  
Nachoman
well hello there
 
Nachoman's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Point Loma, CA
Posts: 15,373

Bikes: Bill Holland (Road-Ti), Fuji Roubaix Pro (back-up), Bike Friday (folder), Co-Motion (tandem) & Trek 750 (hybrid)

Mentioned: 6 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 491 Post(s)
Liked 281 Times in 177 Posts
Nice job for an old guy with a bad heart!
__________________
.
.

Two wheels good. Four wheels bad.
Nachoman is offline  
Old 04-11-15, 08:47 AM
  #12  
oujeep1
Full Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: oklahoma
Posts: 484

Bikes: Trek Emonda SLR, Colnago CX1 EVO

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 23 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 4 Times in 4 Posts
Very nicely done. I was lucky on my trip I had some rain on the way up but clear at the top, still cold on the way down. If you haven't already, give the West Maui Loop a try sometime, don't let reports of bad roads scare you off its an awesome ride. Go clockwise it's safer. Be sure and stop for the worlds best banana bread you'll see the sign. And it is very very good. Don't stop when you get to the wall(you'll know when you're there) if you do you'll have to go back downhill to get started. Congrats again on haleakala
oujeep1 is offline  
Old 04-12-15, 11:29 PM
  #13  
icyclist 
Spin Meister
Thread Starter
 
icyclist's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: California, USA
Posts: 2,651

Bikes: Trek Émonda, 1961 Follis (French) road bike (I'm the original owner), a fixie, a mountain bike, etc.

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 54 Post(s)
Liked 41 Times in 16 Posts
Originally Posted by karenashg View Post
Congratulations--that's quite an achievement in difficult conditions!

My husband and I rode up at the end of December--we completely lucked out on weather, as it was warm, with barely any wind. Two days later we drove up, and the wind was blowing so hard it was difficult to stand up, much less bicycle into it. Yet there were some people biking up (and some who abandoned biking up...)

You'll have to go back and do it again--the descent is magnificent. (At least on a road bike--I think I would have been miserable on one of those downhill ride tours, with their upright positions, squealing brakes, and tentative descending.)

Some views in sunshine:



You had great weather and beautiful views. You're right, I need to do it again!
__________________
This post is a natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual character and beauty and are in no way to be considered flaws or defects.
icyclist is offline  
Old 04-13-15, 07:13 PM
  #14  
fureshi
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Bay Area, CA
Posts: 76
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Congratulations on finishing! I tried a few years ago but it rained almost everyday that we were in Maui so I finally gave up. I'll have to try again the next time we go to Maui.
fureshi is offline  
Old 04-13-15, 07:42 PM
  #15  
modelmartin
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: Minneapols, Minnesota
Posts: 538

Bikes: 89 Raleigh Technium PRE, 92 SP 1000 ti, '09 Team Pro, 72 International, 63 Hercules 3-spd, '81 Vitus 979, 2 Kabuki Submariners, 2 C. Itoh Submariners, Gary Fisher Big Sur, Skyway 3-spd, Robin Hood w/ S-A IGH 5 speed.

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 6 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
It is on my list despite my brother in law's experience about 20 years ago. He was nearing the top and some high winds actually picked him up and dropped him off the side of the road. Broken clavicle! He is a smaller guy. He was probably about 140 lbs then.
modelmartin is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Thread Starter
Forum
Replies
Last Post
Biker395
Fifty Plus (50+)
22
03-03-14 01:26 PM
Velo Vol
Road Cycling
12
07-15-11 12:37 PM
7bmwm3gtr
Northern California
18
08-30-10 04:49 PM
CliftonGK1
Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg)
3
08-18-10 08:05 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -

Copyright © 2022 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.