Altitude Sickness Mauna Kea: Ultimate Guide & 6 Prevention Tips
Are you planning to visit or climb Mauna Kea Hawaii? Altitude sickness can be quite a setback. We've got you covered with this comprehensive guide to the altitude of Mauna Kea and avoiding altitude sickness Mauna Kea.
Mauna Kea Altitude
Mauna Kea altitude sits at 13,803 feet above sea level on The Big Island of Hawaii. From base to peak, Mauna Kea is actually considered by some authorities as the tallest mountain in the world with much of it submerged under the Pacific Ocean.
- Mauna Kea altitude - 13,803 ft (4,207 m)
- Mauna Kea Observatory altitude - 13,796 ft (4,205 m)
- Mauna Kea Visitor Center altitude - 9,200 ft (2,804 m)
- Mauna Kea Summit altitude - 13,803 ft (4,207 m)
When measured from the base of Mauna Kea beneath the deep waters as a dormant volcano, it actually is at height around 33,000 feet (10,000 m). However, this does not play a factor in altitude sickness as it's related to feet above sea level.
The mean elevation of Hawaii is 3,030 feet, ranking 10th highest out of the United Staes.¹⁰ While Mauna Kea is the highest mountain on Hawaii's Big Island, there are numerous other mountains of high altitudes on other the other islands including Maui, Kauai, and Moloka‘i.
Hawaii's other high-altitude mountains:
- Mauna Loa altitude - 13,680 ft (4,170 m)
- Haleakalā altitude - 10,023 ft (3,055 m)
- Hualālai altitude - 8,271 ft (2521 m)
- Puʻu Kukui altitude - 5,788 ft (1764 m)
- Kaunu o Kaleihoohie - 5,500 ft (1676 m)
- Kawaikini - 5,243 ft (1598 m)
- Kamakou altitude - 4,961 ft (1512 m)
Even compared to the mainland of the United States, or Colorado where we're based out of, these mountain altitudes are very high. Altitude sickness can be a real threat at these heights.
About Mauna Kea Hawaii
Mauna Kea is a popular destination for both tourists, climbers, and scientists.
The mountain is known for its exceptional astronomical observing conditions, and as a result, it is home to some of the world's largest and most advanced telescopes, including the Keck Observatory, the Subaru Telescope, and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope.
Tourists visit Mauna Kea to experience the unique landscape, witness breathtaking sunsets and stargazing, and enjoy the Hawaiian culture. Many visitors also make the scenic drive up to the summit to see the telescopes and learn about the cutting-edge scientific research that is being conducted there.
In addition to its scientific and cultural significance, Mauna Kea is also a place of natural beauty, with its summit plateau surrounded by cinder cones, volcanic craters, and other geological features. Hiking, climbing and backcountry skiing are popular activities on the mountain, as are scenic drives and picnicking.
Do People Get Altitude Sickness On Mauna Kea?
Yes, people get altitude sickness on Mauna Kea.
The Tripler Army Medical Center
in Honolulu found that 30% of tourists and 69% of astronomy staff of Mauna Kea got altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness.⁶
Do You Get Altitude Sickness In Hawaii?
Yes, you can get altitude sickness in Hawaii if visiting or climbing any its many mountains.
In addition, if you're wonder if Hawaii is considered high altitude, yes it is. Mountain Medicine considers any altitude above 4,900 feet to be high altitude with risks of developing altitude sickness.⁷
Hawaii has eight mountains that exceed this altitude sickness threshold, making many parts of Hawaii high altitude. The top three Hawaiian mountains include Mauna Kea (13,803 ft) and Mauna Loa (13,680 ft) on the Island Of Hawaii and Haleakalā 10,023 ft on the island Maui.
If visiting, hiking or climbing any of these high-altitude mountains in Hawaii, you should be well prepared for the effects of altitude sickness.
Is Mauna Kea Altitude Even Higher Than Denver?
Yes, Mauna Kea is higher than Denver's altitude, by more than twice.
The elevation of Mauna Kea sit as 13,803 feet high, while Denver only at 5,280 feet. However, nearly 10% of visitors of Denver can get altitude sickness,¹⁶ so the risk at Mauna Kea goes up dramatically.
Altitude Sickness Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea altitude sickness, or acute mountain sickness, is the cause of lower oxygen levels from decreased air pressure.
Lower oxygen levels cause hypoxia in the body, and physiological stress including oxidative stress. Leading to altitude sickness — symptoms can range from headache and nausea to fatigue and trouble breathing — similar to what you may even experience if you get jet lag flying to Hawaii.
Mauna Kea altitude sickness symptoms may include:
- fatigue or tiredness
- insomnia or sleeping problems
- trouble breathing
- feeling ill or malaise
Symptoms usually develop within 6-24 hours. If hiking or visiting Mauna Kea, make sure to be prepared for altitude sickness that we cover below and pay attention for any altitude sickness signs developing.
7 Tips To Avoid Mauna Kea Altitude Sickness
Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano on the Big Island. As the tallest mountain and one of the most sacred spots in Hawaii — its extreme altitudes can easily lead to altitude sickness if you're not careful.
As a company based in Colorado with years of high-altitude experience, we'll share with you our top tips to help you avoid Mauna Kea altitude sickness.
Here's seven tips on how to avoid altitude sickness Mauna Kea:
1. Minimize Strenuous Activity
Minimize strenuous activity during at least he first 24 hours at high elevation. Avoid overexertion during this period of adjustment.
Strenuous activity can make altitude sickness worse as well as increase your heart rate and blood pressure. While climbing up Mauna Kea is strenuous by nature, try to avoid doing anything too strenuous during your hike up or down from the summit.
2. Drink Plenty Of Water
Higher altitudes can cause increased respiration and fluid loss, leading to dehydration. You can lose water twice as fast in high elevations compared to sea level according to the Wilderness Medical Society.⁹
Drink plenty of water before and during your Mauna Kea trip, experts say drinking half your body weight in water is healthy.
To maximize hydration, add sea salt to your water or foods, and try Zaca hydration chewables
to assist water absorption.
3. Ascend Slowly
A good way to avoid altitude sickness is to ascend slowly. The faster you go, the more intense of an altitude adjustment your body needs to make.
If driving to the summit, it's best to make a stop at the Mauna Kea Visitor Center at 9,200 feet for at least an hour or a few before proceeding to the peak. If you're hiking or climbing, you'll naturally take longer to reach the summit, so take your time ascending.
4. Get Optimal Sleep
Don't underestimate the importance of sleep when traveling to the high altitudes of Hawaii. You'll feel more alert and less likely to suffer from altitude symptoms if you've had enough rest before tackling Mauna Kea's summit road.
Sleep is known as a key ingredient for recovery, and has been shown to increase blood flow and oxygen.¹¹ Get plenty of sunlight during the day and darkness when sleeping to help your circadian rhythm, and shoot for at least 7-9 hours of sleep.
5. Avoid Alcohol
Avoid alcohol when traveling to high altitudes since alcohol is a diuretic that can dehydrate you more easily when combined with higher elevation fluid loss.
Alcohol also has a tendency to cause lower quality sleep and can lower blood oxygen saturation.¹² Avoid or limit alcohol until after you've conquered Mauna Kea.
6. Take Breaks
Take frequent rest breaks when hiking or climbing to help prevent fatigue caused by low oxygen levels at the high elevations of Mauna Kea.
Consistently monitor yourself when on Mauna Kea for any signs of altitude sickness. If you feel any symptoms like fatigue, headache, or trouble breathing, immediately take a 15-20 minute break.
7. Take Antioxidants
Free radical damage has been shown to be caused by high altitudes.¹³ Taking antioxidants is noted as a promising solution, as it can help fight oxidative damage.¹⁵
One study in India show high altitudes to lower glutathione in the body by 45%.¹⁴ Glutathione, which is the body's master antioxidant, can be supplemented to increase and replenish your levels.
To conclude, follow these top tips to help avoid Mauna Kea avoid altitude sickness — which includes minimizing strenuous activity, drinking plenty of water, ascending slowly, getting optimal sleep, avoiding alcohol, taking breaks, and taking antioxidants like glutathione.
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1. Mauna Kea Elevation
2. Maunakea Visitor Information Station and Elevation
3. Mauna Kea Observatories And Elevation
4. How high is Mauna Loa?
5. Haleakal Elevation
6. High Altitude Illnesses in Hawai‘i
7. Effects of high altitude on humans
8. Mountain Peaks Of Hawaii (highest elevations)
9. Why Do You Need to Drink a Lot of Water at a High Altitude?
10. Hawai`i Base and Elevation Maps
11. Sleep: The Secret Ingredient of Injury Recovery
12. Effects of Alcohol
13. High altitude and oxidative stress
14. Effect of high altitude (7,620 m) exposure on glutathione
15. Oxidative Stress and Diseases Associated with High-Altitude Exposure
16. Don’t let altitude sickness ruin your trip to Colorado