At sunset on May 19, 2010, ultrarunning legend Mike Muench and I will begin our journey across the island of Hawai'i. The Big Island Traverse (BIT) is an approximate – 160 mile, unsupported fastpack traversing the island from sea -level on the southeastern shore, beginning at Holei Sea Arch; ascend Mauna Loa (13,677 feet) and Mauna Kea (13,796 feet); and eventually descend to sea-level on the northwestern shore, ending at Pu'ukohola Heiau and Spencer Beach Park.
The Big Island Traverse begins at ~sea-level and ascends through coastal plain, desert, rainforest, sub-alpine and alpine zones and will cover a wide variety of terrain including: dirt, asphalt, and concrete roads and highways; single-track trail consisting of soil, grass, cinder, sand, and seemingly endless miles of razor sharp `a`a and undulating pahoehoe lava flows.
Multiple environmental hazards exist with extremes of weather and temperature, varying from hot and dry and hot and humid at lower elevations to subfreezing temperatures in the alpine zones. Intense, high-altitude and low-latitude sun, high winds, driving rain, snow, blizzard and whiteout conditions may be encountered.
The most common, possible pathophysiological conditions include: poor air quality and respiratory compromise; soft tissue and orthopedic injuries, such as lacerations, abrasions, strains, sprains and fractures; fluid and electrolyte imbalances, such as dehydration and hyponatremia; heat illness and thermal injury including: burns, photo injury (photo-ophthalmia), heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, frost-nip, frostbite and hypothermia; and the continuum of altitude illnesses including: acute mountain sickness (AMS), high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE).
The ability to travel, pace and daily mileage may be affected by a multitude of conditions; therefore, we have chosen to divide the BIT route by region rather than by travel days and are equipped to bivy anywhere along the route. BIT Regions 1 through 4 are as follows:
BIT Region #1 – Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park:
Start and End Points: Holei Sea Arch to Muana Loa Lookout
Elevation: ~50 feet to 6,662 feet
Route and Features: Chain of Craters Road; Escape Road; Crater Rim Trail; Kilauea Visitor Center; Mauna Loa Road; Kipukapuaulu Campground; Muana Loa Lookout
Total Milage: ~35.7
BIT Region #2 – Mauna Loa:
Start and End Points: Muana Loa Lookout to Saddle Road – Hwy 200 Elevation: 6,662 feet to 13,677 feet to ~6,632
Route and Features: Mauna Loa Trail; Pu'u'ula'ula (Red Hill Cabin 10,035 feet); Mauna Loa Cabin (13,250 feet); Mauna Loa Summit (13,677 feet); Mauna Loa Weather Observatory (11,150 feet); Mauna Loa Observatory Road; Saddle Road (~6,632 feet)
Total Mileage: ~42.4
BIT Region #3 – Mauna Kea
Start and End Points: Saddle Road to Mauna Kea Summit to Saddle Road
Elevation: ~6,632 feet to 13,796 feet to ~6,632 feet
Route and Features: Saddle Road; Mauna Kea Access Road; Onizuka Visitor Center (9,300 feet); Mauna Kea Trail; Pu`u Wekiu (Summit – 13,796 feet); Mauna Kea Trail; Onizuka Visitor Center; Mauna Kea Access Road; Saddle Road
Total Mileage: ~40.4
BIT Region #4 – Upcountry
Start and End Points: Saddle Road to Spencer Beach Park
Elevation: ~6,632 feet to Sea-level
Route and Features: Saddle Road – Hwy 200; Mauna Kea State Park; Saddle Road; Mamalahoa Hwy (Hawai`i Belt Road); Waimea; Amamalahoa Hwy (Kawaihae Road – HI 19); Akoni Pule Hwy (270); Pu'ukohola Heiau and Spencer Beach Park
Total Mileage: ~42.7
BIT Total Mileage: ~161.2
Thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement!