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The Summits of Hawaii (List)
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The Summits of Hawaii (List)

The Summits of Hawaii (List)

Page Type: List

Location: Hawaii, United States, Oceana

Object Title: The Summits of Hawaii (List)


Page By: Klenke

Created/Edited: Jan 31, 2010 / Apr 27, 2017

Object ID: 593426

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Page Score: 79.78%  - 11 Votes 

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Who Cares About That?

Here is a useless list set for you…perhaps.* Compiled here is a list (in three sorting schemes) of all of the summits in Hawaii, for all main islands and lesser islands, down to a prominence cutoff of 300 feet (plus a few more at even lower prominences).

Why create such a list? Well why not? It was something to be created (or found in this case), like how a novel doesn’t exist until it is written. Actually, the background is a matter of progression from idle curiosity to full-scale map-reading addiction. Fellow peakbagger Don Nelsen and I were emailing about Hawaii’s 5,000-ft prominence peak in western Maui called Puu Kukui. In looking at the peak’s massif on the map I noticed there were four other peaks on the massif that had 1500+ feet of prominence. I conveyed this useless fact to Don. Then I wondered if there were any other high prominence (but less than 2000 ft of prominence since the ones over that threshold are widely known [there are 11 2kP peaks]) summits on the island or other islands? Surely there are. But where are they? So I initially set about only looking for ones with 1000 feet or more of prominence. The next thing I know (after many hours of map drift) is I’ve got before me a list of all the summits in the state with at least 300 ft of prominence.

Qualifying statement: The native Hawaiians have named a great many low-prominence mountain features. Some of these have very little or even zero prominence. I ignored all of these low-prominence points. To create a list that includes them all would have A) taken a long time to compile, and B) would have resulted in a list of even less value than the one I created.

* Dare I say that to complete these peaks (either the 87 or the 132) would be a monumental task, harder even probably than climbing the Seven Summits. Probably half of the peaks have some unimaginable bushwhacking terrain to negotiate, not to mention they might require roadless approaches. And a few others are on remote islands, some of which require a permit just to set foot on. Then there are private property issues on a bunch more. In conclusion, I don’t expect anyone to ever climb all of these peaks. But maybe some hardy islander might one day turn around from his (or her) gaze onto the wondrous Pacific and see a bunch of hills and wonder something about these hills. Maybe he’ll get an itch to climb up a few. Then maybe he’ll become a peakbagger. And maybe he’ll find his way to this website and then make an inquisitive pratfall onto these lists herein. Thus will be borne the “pursuit”—a pursuit that probably his or her buddies will not only find foolhardy but foolish. But the likes of us peakbaggers will understand this pursuit as simultaneously demented and incredible. Well, at least I will think so.

What About That?

Anyway, there are some interesting things about this list I have compiled. The most notably interesting fact is that there aren’t that many peaks in Hawaii with at least 400 feet of clean prominence (there are 87) or even 300 feet of clean prominence (there are 132). The breakdown for the thresholds is as follows:

ThresholdClean ProminenceMean ProminenceMax Prominence Range

To see if a particular summit crosses the nearest threshold above it in the list, check to see if it has a mean prominence or max prominence range value noted in the Notes column.

Clean prominence uses the first closed contour above the key saddle as the starting point for measuring a summit’s prominence. This first closed contour is the lowest contour that completely encircles a summit. For summits that are island highpoints, this closed contour does not exist (the contour is the water itself). See the diagram below for a better explanation of clean prominence.

Mean prominence takes the halfway value between the lowest encircling contour (per the above) and the next contour down in elevation (the highest reaching contour on either side of the saddle in the downhill direction (i.e., non-divide direction) plus the halfway value at the summit if the summit itself is merely a closed contour (e.g., 5880+) with no specific spot value within it (e.g. 5893). The contour interval (usually 40 ft) is important to know for mean prominence. See the diagram below for a better explanation of mean prominence.

Max prominence range takes the above two prominence measures a step further. In this measurement scheme, the key saddle elevation can be as low as just one foot above the highest reaching contour on either side of the saddle in the downhill direction (i.e., non-divide direction). Further, for a closed contour only summit (5880+), the summit’s height can be as high as up to one foot below the next contour up if it existed (e.g., 5880+40-1=5919). Clearly whether a summit has the max prominence value as its actual prominence is remote, not to mention indeterminate. See the diagram below for a better explanation of max prominence range.

Because there are so few peaks which have the required amount of prominence to be considered on this list, the idea of sorting these peaks to create a “Top 100 in Hawaii by elevation” comes off as a bit silly. That is to say, number 100 on the Top 100 x 300P winds up being 1149-ft Kilohana Crater on Kauai and number 100 on the Top 100 x 400P winds up not existing (but number 87 on the Top 87 x 400P is the 500+ ft highpoint of Kaula Island).

One other interesting fact is the coincidence of two peaks called Kaala (Ka’ala). One is the 4040+ ft highpoint of the island of Oahu. The other is a middle-of-the-road 3985-ft summit on the Big Island. What’s coincidental is if you sort the summit list by elevation, these two peaks rank right next to each other at numbers 35 and 36 on the 300P list. Is there some underlying reason for the conjunction of these two Ka’alas on the list? Does “Ka’ala” mean something in the Hawaiian language that describes their approximate 4000-ft height? The answers are no and no. It’s just a coincidence; but an odd one nonetheless. According to my glossary below, a ka’ala might be a lizard or a widow or widower.

The Summit List (sorted three ways)

The lists themselves are available on this page.

Three versions of the list are available. The first list shows Hawaii’s summits sorted by prominence. The second list shows these summits sorted by elevation. And finally the third list shows these summits arranged by island. Note that I haven’t added the apostrophe marks to separate out syllables. In Hawaiian, consecutive vowels usually get an apostrophe placed between them (for example, Puu is really Pu’u). USGS maps do not use apostrophes to avoid ambiguity with other map symbols and miscellaneous cartographic marks. This is also why you never see possessive names on USGS maps (a map will show Bobs Knob instead of Bob’s Knob). In light of this, it is this standard I had in mind for my list. I suppose if a learned Hawaiian were to help me to get them all right, I would not be opposed to changing them in the future. I just feel like I would make a lot of mistakes and it would be inconsistent with the map—especially since this list is generated from topo maps not some other source.

Google Map of Summits

Google maps are available on this page for locating the summits.
The map’s flags are color coded based on prominence ranges as follows:
Major island highpoints are flagged with a red-orange erupting volcano.
Summits with P > 2000 ft are flagged turquoise.
Summits with 2000 ft > P > 999 ft are flagged yellow.
Summits with 1000 ft > P > 399 ft are flagged blue.
Summits with 400 ft > P > 299 ft are flagged red.
Summits with 300 ft > P are flagged green.


Here is a list of select Hawaiian terms. These were taken from http://www.wehewehe.org/. I don’t vouch for my own accuracy in these glossary terms regarding their applicability to the summit landforms I’ve compiled for this page. Many of these words have multiple translations or are homonyms of other definitions.

hāloa Far-reaching, long or a variety of sweet potato or the name of a star
hoaka Crescent; arch
kaala a lizard? a widow or widower?
kai Sea, sea water; area near the sea, seaside
kamākou castor bean
kaua War, battle; army, war party; to make war, fight
kaunu a place of verdure, especially one frequented by birds
kī lau Bracken or brake, a cosmopolitan, stiff, weedy fern, with creeping underground stems and long-stemme
koa’e The tropic or boatswain bird, particularly the white-tailed tropic bird
kukui Candlenut tree. The kukui was named the official emblem for the State of Hawaii in 1959 because of its many uses and its symbolic value.
la’au Tree, plant, wood, timber, forest, stick, pole, rod, splinter, thicket, club
lanipo Dense, dark, lush, as of plants, rain; said of luxuriant growth
līhau Gentle cool rain that was considered lucky for fishermen…or a variety of sweet potato
lu’a heap, pile (same as nu’a)
makika mosquito
manu Bird; any winged creature
Mauna Kea White Mountain
Mauna Loa Long Mountain
Na Puu Kulua twin peaks?
ōla’i Light porous stone or pumice
olomana Old man
pali Cliff, precipice, steep hill or slope
palikea A sweet potato or a white cliff?
pele Lava flow, volcano, eruption; volcanic
pili A grass known in many warm regions, formerly used for thatching houses in Hawai’i
poepoe Round, rounded, circular
poli’ahu To caress
pu’u Any kind of a protuberance from a pimple to a hill: hill, peak, cone, hump, mound, bulge, heap, pile, portion, bulk, mass, quantity, clot, bunch, knob; heaped, piled, lumped, bulging
uka Inland, upland, towards the mountain
ula’ula red
ulupau To gather together;
wa’a wa’a full of gulches, gullies, grooves; gullied, furrowed, grooved
wai’ale’ale Rippling water, artesian water
wekiu Tip, top, topmost, summit, peak; of the highest rank or station

Revision Log

Because there could be errors.
To do: Remove NMV links (dead)
Add missing peaks per Kirk
Edit text to remove NMV references