Mauna Kea climb

The Goliath of the Pacific has been ascended by unicycle. From ocean to summit it is 13,780’, (4,200 meters) of vertical gain. It is the only place in the world that you can gain that massive amount of vertical in such a short distance. Based on the FIETS INDEX found in the Dutch FIETS magazine :
FIETS-index = [H^2 / D*10] + (T - 1000):1000

H = difference in height; D = distance in metres; T = top of mountain in metres
[The second part of the formula does only apply to mountains above 1000 meters]

this puts this climb as the WORLDS HARDEST HILLCLIMB by almost double over the next climb. Mauna Kea rating is 29.7
I knew this going into the climb, had seen the elevation profile, and prepared as good as a working man can. I was still very intimidated and gave this one the utmost respect.
I will not bore you will all the details of the ride, as it was epic, but I will say it was the most amazing day I have ever had on the unicycle.
Some Facts about Mauna Kea:
-40% less air pressure on top a story was told to me about a woman who upon reaching the summit in her car was covered in orange. The ranger asked if she was ok, and she told him that her bag of Cheetos exploded inside the car.
-45%-50% less oxygen on top this crushes most unhealthy people, and will dramatically slow you down during exercise

  • 10 of the earths climate zones are found on this climb, from desert to plains to artic tundra
  • it is found to be the most remote place on earth, it is farthest from any continent
  • the worlds most powerful telescopes are found on the summit
  • they say it is the tallest mountain in the world, from the base to the summit is over 33,000’, (10,058 meters), most of it is under water
    The climb for me was 44 miles, the first 30 miles only gains 6,000’, (1,829 meters) and then the real fun begins. The next 14 miles gains 7,800’ , (2,408 meters), and includes sustained sections of 17% grade with a max grade of 22% grade. Oh, and there are 5 miles of loose volcanic dust/dirt which include 4 major switchbacks, between the elevations of 9,000’ and 11,300’, (2,743 & 3,444 meters). Then the road turns back to pavement for the final push to the summit. When I climbed Haleakala in 08’ I thought I was on the moon, Mauna Kea is like being on Mars! I planned not to ride down, and was very glad to stay on top, and watch the most surreal sunset and simultaneously full moon rise from 13,780’. I was blessed with nice weather, and only one tube blow out. I am grateful to my wife and nephew, who flew over from Oahu to help support me, who both gave me words of encouragment when I needed it most. Hail to Poliahu, Goddess of Mauna Kea !!

1st pic is starting point Hilo Bay with my wife Annie
2nd pic is first view of Mauna Kea, it was covered first thing, I am at elevation of 3,000’ , (914 meters). Still over 10,000’ vertical to climb
3rd pic is mauna kea from Saddle Road-the only road that connects the east tropical side to the west dry side
4th pic is on volcanic dust/dirt switchbacks, starting to get taken over by the marine layer
5th pic is from the 13,000’ , (3,963 meters) sign, very happy to be here totally missed the 12,000’ sign
6th pic is from bottom of final face looking up to summit, that includes 3 switchbacks, only 700’, (214 meters) to climb
7th pic is summit pic- what an amazing feeling to ride up the worlds hardest hillclimb on a unicycle- LIFE IS GOOD:)
8th pic a google earth view of Mauna Kea climb and includes the other islands of Hawaii

Wow! Congratulations on another epic climb in an epic location! Now I want to go there. And drive up. :smiley:

Incredible! When scientists are going to the telescopes on Mauna Kea, they’re required to stay a day at 9000’ to avoid altitude sickness. After my jaunt at 12K, I can’t imagine doing a ride like this ending at nearly 14K. You remain a monster!

Very cool Mike. That is a long climb, the 29er looked to be a wise choice! Are those last 14 miles pretty much twice as steep as the last 14 miles of the Mt. Evans climb?

Top effort mike! Sounds like a great challenge. I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii for 3 months in my year after high school. I was volunteering at a circus school at Seaview in Puna. I never made it to the top of Mauna Kea unfortunately, but i remember hearing about a guy who pushed his way to the top in a wheelchair while i was working there! :astonished:

Nice pictures as always, I look forward to reading about your next adventure,

As an avid hillclimber, and a one time resident of Kauai, I commend You. I am very impressed. Congratulation.

Mike, you went to Hawaii and you didn’t invite me?

As always, you are a beast!!

Got any more pics?

Just adding my voice to the chorus of congratulations, Mike.

This speaks volumes from a guy like you!


Awesome performance and your skill with a pen allows us to sense a little bit of the experience. Thanks!


EPIC! Quite envious myself. I know there’s a ultramarathon run that races almost the same route. I always thought that that would be an awesome event to do sometime. But unicycling up, up, UP sounds like much more of a challenge. Awesome! You continue to inspire! :slight_smile:

A very impressive feat. It is inspiring to those of us just starting out on big rides. I live in the foothills outside of Boulder and find it hard to even imagine riding the 1000’ of pavement and dirt from town to my house. Great job and great pictures, keep it up.


Now you have to do that winding road on Haleakala on Maui… my childhood home.

Live on the mainland now…sure miss it. :frowning:

The word is often overused, but not in this case: Awesome!

Actually he doesn’t; he mentioned that briefly in the first post. In other words, He’s a monster squared. :slight_smile:

You’re right!!!

I missed that… he’s done both… :astonished: :astonished: :astonished: :astonished: :astonished:


That’s absolutely fantastic.
Awesome effort and congratulations.

You are an inspiration! Keep ticking off those “firsts”.

Po’okela. (regarded the best, supreme)

Mahalo to you all for the kind words. Keep pushing your limits, personal bests are always around the corner. If a guy my age can do it, you can to :slight_smile:
Mauna Kea from the sea is probably the most unique and variegated ride on the planet, I was in “WOW” mode the whole ride. My mind/body connection was synced, and physically I was firing on all cyclinders. I was connected both emotionally and spiritually all day. This was a serious endurance test, and my whole being amazed me, and I achieved success.
Elation, Accomplishment, Struggle, Excitement, Awe, Aloha, High Spiritual, Extreme Beauty, Sublime, Gratitude, and Total Sensory Pleasure, just a few of the thoughts/feelings that ran through me, as I reached the summit. I was in a state of Nirvana, and this Mauna Kea was my sanctuary. Peace.

Enjoy some more pics of this amazing place.

last dirt section looking down on marine layer2011-09-12.jpg

me with sweaty happy  face2011-09-12.jpg

mike riding with clouds 3.jpg

uni on 1881 lava field 2011-09-12.jpg


so great!