Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thu, Nov 19

Yesterday, on Day 11 of this year's Maui trip, I wrapped up my cycling with a ride up from Paia to the summit of Haleakala Crater. The ride begins at sea level and climbs up to an elevation of 10023 feet, or 3055 meters. Our group of 7 riders started at about 9am from the Maui Cyclery. The route goes up Baldwin Ave at a moderate grade, and not 10 minutes into the ride, we got showered with rain, and not for the only time during the whole ride. Blaming the West Maui ride from two days earlier, I didn't feel strong, and fell about 5 minutes behind before reaching the first stop after about mile 14 at Kula Lodge, at ~3200 ft elevation. Even before reaching Kula, I was certain, that I won't make it again up to the Summit, just like last year. After consuming electrolytes, Fig Newtons, energy bars and gels, and plenty of water, all of us resumed to take on the next two thirds of the climb. Haleakala Hwy / State Hwy 377 soon turns left to become Crater Rd / State Hwy 378. The mile marker starts at 0 miles, and from there it's another 22 miles of climbing. I hooked up with another rider, Sean, who realized that riding the first third up to Kula while red-lining, won't get him up to the Crater. It is always a good distraction from the pain and suffering if you can chat with another rider, so the the ride up to about 6000 feet felt easy and was uneventful, when soon after the wind and drizzle started to really question us about how much longer we would last on the mountain. At the 6500 ft marker, at the planned rest stop, we donned arm and leg warmers, jackets and over-sized gloves, as it had gotten cold, mostly due to the wind-chill. The two ride leaders, Donnie and Mark, as well as the Support Van driver, would turn back from here, as the National Park doesn't allow any tour operations within park boundaries. So in other words, for the remaining 3500 ft of climbing (or 13 miles), we would be on our own. The other three riders, Bill, Steve and Emily, had already taken off, so Sean and I loaded up on water and nutrition, and resumed our ride. The park entrance is not too far from there, at about 7000 ft elevation, and unlike motorists, cyclists only pay $5 park fee. The first Visitor Center appears close after the park entrance, and along with it a flat of the rear tire. In the end, I had to patch the tube after having found the hole in the tube and the thorn in the tire, and realized that the stem of the spare tube was too short for that rim. Long story short, we were soon on our way again. The grade of Crater Rd past the park entrance is fortunately less steep than prior to it, so the ride stretches out because of distance and not because of elevation gain. Between 7000 and 8000 ft, the weather got nasty again, after it was sunny at the Visitor Center. Sean started having cramps and repeated "I'm spent", with just 20% elevation or another few miles to go. I convinced him to keep going, because only with mutual effort, we would make it. If it weren't for him, just riding by myself, I probably would have turned back earlier. The weather cleared up, the grade got less steep (so I felt), and at 9000 ft, it was obvious that now only a volcano outbreak would prevent us from going all the way up. Just before reaching the second Visitor Center below the summit, Bill and Emily, were already on their way down, so maybe just 15-20 minutes ahead of us; Steve had already passed us 30 minutes earlier. The last half mile to the actual Summit parking lot is tough, after having had a rather mellow incline for the last 2000 ft. Now, at 10000 ft, 6 hours of climbing and about 12% grade, the computer just reported a speed of 3.9 mph. Elation then after having reached the parking lot, and having ridden up the short path to the shack at Pu'u'ula'ula Summit and 10023 ft elevation. The obligatory round of pictures were taken, but not much time spent on enjoying the view. By now it was around 3:30pm, and we had another 36 miles back to Paia. Riding down, we hit the same cold and wet weather at 8000 ft and below, and going 30+mph didn't help keeping us warmer. We briefly stopped at the Visitor Center at 7000 ft to rush into the building and warm up for a few minutes before they would close at 4pm. By now, the weather had also gotten worse at lower altitudes, and only at around 4500 ft, it felt like we're coming back into warmer climates and out of the clouds. At the State Hwy 377/378 intersection, I shed the wet gloves, and we continued down through Kula and Makawao before another rain shower welcomed us back to Paia. It was 4:55pm, and it's been a long day in the saddle with 72.3 mile distance, and 10331 ft total elevation gain. I decided then that this would also conclude the cycling for this year in Maui; there's nothing that can top an epic ride like this.

Steve, myself, Emily, Bill, Donnie, Sean at the Kula Lodge rest stop

Happy on Arrival

Team Effort

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