Winter on The Mauna

The warnings sound pretty bad, high winds, high surf, snow for the summit. The county has closed all beach parks, the state has closed most of the parks in anticipation of the bad weather.

Keck 1 dome with a liberal coating of ice from freezing fog
Keck 1 dome with a liberal coating of ice from freezing fog

The summit of Mauna Kea is currently seeing sustained winds of over 80mph, with gusts well over 100mph. Yes, the summit is closed to the public and observing has been cancelled at Keck.

Meanwhile it is eerily still at the house, almost no breeze and quite pleasant. Waiting for the storm to arrive.

I will not be going up anytime soon. Taking a little time off to spend with some family that will be on island, hopefully landing right about now.

I was up a couple days ago… It was impressive then, 40mph winds and everything covered with inches of ice. I braved the biting wind to wander about and take a few photos. Very cold, and very beautiful.

A Moonlit Hike to Lake Waiau

Sublime… One word in the English language that comes close… A frozen world of snow and ice, dark rock, illuminated by ethereal moonlight. A place more of the arctic than a tropical island. Recent storms have again created such a place on the summit of Mauna Kea. Just need to make a point to get out there and enjoy it.

Moonset Over Lake Waiau
A nearly full Moon setting over lake Waiau near the summit of Mauna Kea

The plan? Set the alarm clock for 2am, out of the house before 2:30am, arrive at the trailhead about 3:45am. I would take a walk with a camera, then drive back down to Hale Pōhaku for breakfast, then join the crew for a normal day working on the summit. A good plan, if somewhat exhausting. A plan that was executed exactly as originally envisioned.

It was the timing that was the factor here. A few things to come together to make this work… A good covering of snow, the summit road open to the public, and good weather with clear, starry skies. Clear skies have been in rare supply lately, a succession of winter storms bringing weeks of clouds.

The road being open to the public is also an important bit. While I could drive past the roadblock, the rangers know me, we are forbidden to engage in non-work activities on the summit if the road is closed to the public.

The needed factors came together this particular morning and I set the plan into action.

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