Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nipple to Nipple Ride

I've mountain biked around and TT'd up the paved summit road in the Uncanoonucs many times. The Uncanoonucs are a pair of mountains that overlook Manchester, NH. If you've flown in or out of our airport, you've probably seen them. Supposedly, the name Uncanoonuc was given by the Indians. It translates to "woman's breasts" [1]. Searching around the web for an authoritative reference, I learned mountains all around the world are named after body parts. The Grand Tetons are another similar example. Looking at the Google Earth image, you can see what the Indians were onto.

The Uncanoonucs. Note Summit Rd on the right peak.

I've been kicking around riding ideas for my upcoming Hawaiian trip. It turns out there is another similar geological formation there that resembles the Uncanoonucs. The native Hawaiians have another story for this. On the big island, there are two major volcanic peaks that define the island. From the sea floor, they are the biggest mountains in the world, over 30,000ft tall. Mauna Kea to the north, peaks about 13,800ft above sea level. It is snow capped several months out of the year and has been dormant for a long time. Mauna Loa to the south, peaks about 13,700ft above sea level. It has been active for centuries, often violently. The native Hawaiians believed the god of snow lived on Mauna Kea, the god of fire on Mauna Loa. The saddle between the two was the battle ground between gods of fire and ice. They dared not travel through there. Strangely, to this day, most big island car rental companies prohibit their cars being driven on Saddle Rd. Reasons vary. Some have to do with poor visibility on the wet side of the island. Others are poor road condition (it was originally built as one-lane US military road). But where tourists are not allowed to go makes for great cycling opportunities.

Mauna Loa (left) and Mauna Kea (right). Fire and Ice. These gals are about 14 times bigger than the Unc's.

I've concluded I will not be bringing my own bike to the islands this time. It is very expensive and I would used it for only a couple of the many rides I plan to do. Mountain bikes or tandems will be used for much of the riding. Since I cannot rent a road bike that goes less than 1:1 gearing for climbing Mauna Kea from sea level, I plan to do a "Nipple to Nipple" ride with more unpaved content instead. I don't think this has ever been done. In fact, I cannot find any reports that anyone has ridden to the summit of Mauna Loa. There is an unmaintained 4WD road to the summit, but I read that even 4WD's get stuck in it because it is loose lava rock all the way down. How bikeable it is will remain a mystery until I get there. I've found riding on Mt Saint Helens in loose pumice can by dicy but richly enjoyable.

The plan is to park at the visitor center part way up Mauna Kea, bomb down to the saddle cleavage, then begin the long climb up Mauna Loa. It is 26 miles saddle to summit, all up, gaining over 7000ft. The first 17 miles are marginally paved, the rest TBD rideable. After completing this climb that could take a few hours, it will be bomb down time (once back on pavement), then climb 3000ft back to my car to refuel. From car, it is another 4000+ feet to summit, including 5 miles of loose cinder gravel at 12-14% grade. The day's total will be nearly 15,000ft in 82 miles, all of it above 6500ft. I've summited Mauna Kea before from sea level. The god of fire, Mauna Loa, will be all new. Apparently the massive crater at the top is quite something to see. Just hope the god of ice doesn't curse me with hypothermia coming over from the warm side.

1 comment:

Big Bikes said...

I also wonder how many mountains have been re-named "Bitches". The East Bay of San Francisco has The Three Bitches (Bears) and Mt. Tamalpais has The Seven Bitches (Sisters).

Good luck with your first ascent.