Stop 10: Summit of Mauna Loa
Mauna Loa is a totally different volcano to climb than Mauna Kea. On Mauna Kea, you can drive to the summit on a well-maintained road. On Mauna Loa, it's a strenuous climb that can take 10 hours to 2 days to reach the summit depending on your route -- all done at high altitude and in very cold, windy conditions!
At the 3,400 meter (~11,000 ft) level on Mauna Loa, there is the NOAA weather station (see stop #9, image #2 ). Here they have been collecting daily values of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since the 1950's, providing scientists around the world with the longest continuous record of this gas which has great importance for the global climate due to its ability to trap heat within the Earth's atmosphere. In the background we can see the "bumpy" profile of Mauna Kea ( stop #8 ).
Heading off towards the summit from the Weather Station with several days' food and camping gear, one really wonders what the attraction of climbing Mauna Loa really is. However, the landscape is really fascinating, with hundreds of individual lava flows covering the flanks.
Right at the summit, there is a series of collapse craters that form the summit caldera of Mauna Loa. This caldera is called Mokuaweoweo. Here we see the pit crater called Lua Poholo, which has a large tilted block of the old crater wall stuck in the middle of the floor. Maps made by the Wilkes Expedition in 1840 show that this crater existed at the summit, but that considerable changes have taken place within the main caldera since that time.
Yes folks, the Principal Investigator for Virtually Hawaii really has climbed this volcano! Here we see Pete Mouginis-Mark on the rim of Mokuaweoweo Caldera feeling terrible due to a mixture of altitude sickness, dehydration and a very cold night sleeping in the summit cabin.
The summit of Mauna Loa is within the Hawaii Volcanoes National park, and the Park Service maintains a climbing hut for the benefit of people who can make it to the top. Conditions in the hut are somewhat spartan, but it is still a very welcome sight at any time of the year, particularly if the weather is turning nasty during the winter and the snow is falling at the summit.
From here you can continue on to Stop 11 on the ground, or you can pick another point from the Big Island Virtual Field Trip page.
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Authors: Peter Mouginis-Mark & Lori Glaze
Copyright by P. Mouginis-Mark
Curator: Lori Glaze
Page Design: Laurence Laforga
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