A team of students from the University of Hawaii at Manoa summited Mauna Loa, the world’s largest mountain, on Aug. 20. The eight-person, seven-day, 45-mile Sea to Summit Expedition followed the historic Ainapo Trail.
The trail was built by ancient Hawaiians and is the steepest and most difficult path to the summit, some 13,680 feet above sea level.
This trail is the same path English naturalist Archibald Menzies followed in 1794, to become the first Western scientist to successfully scale and record the height of the largest mountain on Earth. More than 215 years later, the group was the largest UH student-led expedition to summit Mauna Loa.
The students are members of the Ethnobiology Society at UH-Manoa, and part of a new Hawaii Xplorers program. The program’s mission promotes the adventurous scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space by supporting research and education in the physical, natural and biological sciences through active pursuit of physical fitness, health and wellbeing. The expedition has been funded in part by the UH Student Athletic Fee Committee, go! Airlines and numerous individual donors.
In preparation for the wilderness climbing experience, students trained since June for the physical challenge. Michael Thomas, expedition mentor and manager of the University Herbarium, said, “The event was both a team and individual pursuit and challenged the students to confront the search for identity using limited resources and to pursue personal emotional, physical and spiritual boundaries.”