Aloha! Mauna Kea Summit sits at 13,802 ft above sea level in elevation. That would definitely be considered a tall mountain in any place in the world!
The vast majority of mountains in the world, including Mount Everest, start rising at a certain elevation from a valley floor. The valley floor that the other mountains begin at is usually already pretty high, and that valley sits on a shelf or plate of a continent. Mauna Kea is unusual in that the mountain actually starts at the bottom of the ocean floor, 19,200 ft. below see level, making the mountain itself the tallest “complete” mountain in the world at 33,000 feet tall in it’s totality. Even the northern Base camp on Mt Everest (the lowest base camp) sits at 16,900 ft making it only a mountain that is 12,129 in size! (Actual elevation at the top of Everest is 29,029′ above sea level).
Mauna Kea is a relatively young mountain at an estimated 1,000,000 years old. The mountain is, of course a volcano in the middle of the Pacific. The volcano has not erupted for 4,600 years and is considered a dormant volcano. Mauna Kea is one of five volcanoes that form the island of Hawaii.
With Mauna Kea’s high elevation, exceptionally dry climate, and typically steady prevailing winds, it’s summit is one of the best places in the world for astronomical observation. In 1964 there was an access road cut in to the summit allowing for thirteen telescopes to be built. The telescopes were funded by eleven different countries. These Observatories together comprise the largest facility of its kind in the world!
According to Hawaiian legend, the peaks of the mountains on the island of Hawaii are sacred.
There is an ancient law that only allowed royalty, chiefs, priests and other Aliʻi to go to its peak. Ancient people lived on the slopes leading up to Mauna Kea and they relied on the surrounding extensive forests for food, and basalt tool production. When cattle were introduced to the island they decimated the forests and plant growth and also forced it’s inhabitants to move lower down to more fertile lands.
One of the coolest things about the summit at Mauna Kea is that it is accessible to the public! You can either drive to the top or you can take a guided tour. Make sure your car rental company allows this. On your way to the top you will be traveling over what is called the Saddle Road that goes through the middle of the island between the two giants. There is a park for children on the Kona side of the main access up to the top. There are restrooms at this location. The elevation at this point is already 6,632 feet and can be pretty chilly. Bring warm clothing if you plan to use the park. If you going to keep going to the top, you will head North off of the Saddle Road and eventually come to a lodge at 9000 feet and it is recommended that you acclimatize yourself by staying here for at least 30 minutes. The air is already getting very thin. By the time you get to the top you will be very light headed. If you’ve had any health issues, do not make this trip! A simple sinus problem will bring you to your knees! The view is like nothing you will ever see, literally at the top of the world! I hope you enjoyed our tour of the Summit at Mauna Kea! We invite you to continue to follow our blog about the Big Island by Liking us on Facebook or following our Twitter account. We are have all kinds of fun on our tour of Featured Attractions here on the Big Island! Mahalo!
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