Ray vs the Volcano: Gearing Up in Hawaii

Ray vs the Volcano: Gearing Up in Hawaii

by Ray Hill, Chair of Row New York’s Board of Directors

Note, this blog is documenting, Sunday, March 5th.

Follow Ray Hill as he takes on what is billed as the toughest bicycle climb on earth – a volcano called Mauna Kea – to raise money for our programs. Ray plans to match the first $20,000 raised on his CrowdRise account! (link to donate here: https://www.crowdrise.com/ray-vs-the-volcano)

Today is close to picture perfect in Hilo – partly cloudy, temperatures in the 70s, and a light breeze. After recovering from the 14-hour trip yesterday, we spent some time today going over the course. First though was re-assembling the bikes, which went off without any major hitches.

Rowing

We mapped out the total ride at about 42 miles. The first 28 miles gets you to the turn off the highway, gaining 6,500 feet in elevation. The ride from there to the visitor’s center is another 6 miles, ending at 9,000 feet. Finally there is the last section to the summit, which is 4.5 miles of unpaved and then 3.5 miles of paved road to the summit. I plan to walk the unpaved section with my bike, otherwise I would have had to bring two bikes.

Picture3

I tested out how bad the climb would be by doing almost half of the last 3.5 miles of the ascent, the paved portion to the summit. The grade, while up to 20%, was really not that bad with the new gearing on the bike. The big problem was the lack of oxygen. I could go for a few minutes on my bike, and my heart would rapidly beat up to about 180 beats per minute. Each time I’d continue on until I felt light-headed, then pull over and catch my breath. So that was what it was like for 1.7 miles – pedal, pull over, recover, and pedal some more. Over this stretch, because of the lack of oxygen, you are only making 3.5 miles per hour or so. It gave me a good feel for what it would be like tomorrow when we try the first attempt to make the summit.

Rowing

The summit has probably a dozen observatories. Mauna Kea, which means “mountain in the sky”, has some of the clearest stargazing of anywhere in the world.

Rowing

There were a number of people driving up to the summit (I was the only cyclist we saw, except for someone much lower on the course). We saw people climbing the snow-packed volcanoes, snowboarding, and one guy who was filling the back of his pickup truck with snow, to bring back to Hilo to make a snowman!

It’s a surreal scene. You are well above the clouds, with nothing in sight but the remnants of the last volcanic eruption in 2460 BC, covered in snow, while you look out over the water and trees in the distance.

Rowing

Anyway, tomorrow is the big day, and we will see what the sky father, Mauna Kea, has in store for us!