Cycling Haleakala said to be the 2nd hardest climb in America. It’s synonymous with pain. And with good reason.
A coupe of day earlier Mark had emailed me saying he’d met a guy called Wayne whilst cycling around Maui. He’d mentioned about cycling with him up Haleakala.
I landed in Maui sometime after lunch on Thursday 28th September, grabbed some lunch and walked to local bike shop, after the TSA confiscated my gas canisters. And walk I did, 4 km with jandles on, my soon to be blistering feet.
Mark arrived at the hotel after a journey that would see ride 160km, on what should have been 95km. He soon discovered the road around the top of Maui was closed, just 20km from Kahului. He was bushed. We caught up, had a beer, and then arranged to be up at the crack of dawn, 5am, something I’m used to cycling with GLcc, but Mark wasn’t.
We set off at 5, only to have a puncture within 2km.
After the repair, we headed to the official Strava/ race to the sun start line, in Paia. The car park at the beginning of town was where we’d arrange to meet Wayne.
After a brief introduction we headed off on my first foray in climbing more than 3,000 metres.
The first part of the climb is surprisingly steep. Riding up Baldwin street, guided by Wayne. I can’t speak high enough of him. He talked me through the history, the gradients, what to expect, and when to dig deep. Wayne was, and is, a true ambassador of Haleakala.
We passed through the quaint town of Makawao, through onto Kula, where we stopped for breakfast. I’m glad Wayne was with us, otherwise we’d have cycled past one of the only places open at such a ridiculous time for Maui.
Some Snickers bars and coffee consumed, and off we went again. From Kula you climb through countryside similar to Australia. Through gum and eucalyptus groves and open fields with goats and sheep. Very similar to many pacific islands.
It’s not until you get further up the climb that the landscape turns volcanic. Switchback after switchback on beautiful hot mix makes for great riding. The gradient is kind too.
The nice thing about this climb is being able to countdown how many feet you have left to climb. This is aided by signs every thousand feet. It’s not long before you reach the park gates. At this point be prepared, with credit card, to pay US$12. A pretty great price for such a climb.
It’s only really from the park gates that the true majesty of Haleakala is revealed. Along a fine looking straight you get to see the white buildings, housing telescopes, like the whiteheads of zits.
Climbing from 9-10,000 feet passed very quickly. And there we were. The three of us standing on one of the most intimidating mountains where bikes can go. The weather was perfect. The company perfect. Our timing was perfect.
The descent is about as much fun you can have on a bike. It’s fast and furious. On seal as good as this it’s hard not to enjoy it. The camber is perfect, and you can really throw yourself into the corners, but just slow down and take some photos, it’s truly worth it.
At this stage I’d like to personally thank Wayne and Mark. It was Wayne’s second time up that week. A legend.
For Mark and I it was our first. Such an awe inspiring moment of what was to come. Next up, Mauna Kea!