2-14-11 Puu Oo Hike


Spent Valentines day where I like to be most. Puu Oo vent is rapidly filling with lava and the east spillway area is degrading at a quick pace. First and foremost, do not attempt this hike!! I’ve hiked there regularly since 1992 and I’m well a where of the changes during the past 19+ years. I’m know the area extremely well and the ever-present dangers. It’s a hostile area of Kilauea’s current volcanic activity. The east spillway is very unstable and I avoided that area entirely. My pack weighs in access of 60 lbs as I carry any and all the necessary safety equipment. This is no place for a novice lava hiker. It’s too late to try and learn the Puu Oo area. Too many changes going on there now. A few years of walking to the Kalapana flows doesn’t make anyone a lava flow expert. The upper pali area is an entirely different world. I hiked all of this area well before many eruption episodes and always knew what I was getting into. Stay safe.

Okay, now to my hike. The weather was perfect and that’s just what you always hope for up there. Light winds and a bit of a chill. I have limited photos due to the extreme heat waves from the large lava lake and the constant thick fumes. The most northern vent was going off with some nice spatter and a continuous large stream of lava flowing towards the east wall vents. There were rhythmic jetting and roaring sounds coming from the vents. They could be heard from 4 miles away at times. The ground constantly shook so long exposures were hit or miss. My stay was shorter than usual as my feet were killing me from my heavy pack and I wanted to save energy for the long hike back. After sunrise and after my gear was pack away for my descent, a very large funnel cloud dropped from the sky out towards the upper Kalapana area. It was a classic funnel cloud. Can’t call it a tornado as I couldn’t see if it touched ground due to the extreme heat waves from the east wall vents. No photos either. Camera packed safely away as rain was moving in.  It seemed to have formed near the new shields that started growing in the past week. Great views of the string of shields from the TEB vent on down. This area has been forever ruined for hiking. Shields like these are very unstable and mostly surrounded by shelly Pahoehoe lava. This type of Pahoehoe is thin and collapses easily. One of the images from Puu Oo vents floor next to the erupting north vent shows what looks like a profile of an alien. Anyone else see this? The north vent had characteristics of some Hornitos I’ve hiked to in years past. It was shooting lava out from its base horizontally too periodically. Hopefully I’ve remembered everything I wanted to put in this post. If you have any questions, ask away.

I did set up a cheap video camera and let it run until the battery went dead but, I didn’t notice that it had tilted down and was missing the main flow and spattering. Oh well. Might post a short clip with the sounds from the vents on my YouTube page later this week.

Heres the link to the 2-14-11 Puu Oo Vent gallery.


Bryan Lowry

All text and images are copyright protected ©Bryan Lowry/lavapix.com. Use without my permission is prohibited.
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4 thoughts on “2-14-11 Puu Oo Hike

  1. How many hours did it take you to hike back and what were some of your experiences on the way back besides the ones in your blog?

  2. It always takes longer on the way back as I’m tired and in no hurry. Took me 6.5 hrs. Nothing exciting other than it was very hot in the forest. Needed every drop of hydration I brought. 9.5 liters.
    It rained a bit before I got to the forest. That’s always nice as it cools me down. For me its a destination hike/adventure rather than a scenic walk.

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