Hikers rescued from Mauna Loa cited for not having backcountry permit

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Two hikers were rescued and airlifted off Mauna Loa Monday morning after running out of food and water and getting lost during severe winter weather that closed the mountain above 10,000 feet.

The hikers, a male and female, were not injured. They first called 911 Sunday morning to report that they were out of food and water in the windy, freezing weather and that their phones were running out of power, according to a press release from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on Tuesday.

A search-and-rescue ranger from the park and a helicopter pilot responded to the call and quickly found the uninjured couple around 11,000 feet on the remote slopes of Mauna Loa. The pilot landed and the ranger checked on the hikers. He gave them food, water and a satellite communication device, along with instructions to return to the nearest shelter and continue to hike out on their own.

Mauna Loa Summit Cabin. Photo Courtesy: NPS Photo/A.LaValle

Their elevation and dangerous gusting winds made it too risky to transport the pair by air.


Shortly after sunset on Sunday, the hikers texted the park ranger that they had lost the trail near 10,300 feet in the foul weather. The pilot, unable to operate safely in darkness and hazardous conditions, flew the ranger up again Monday morning. The couple was safely extracted one at a time.

“The search-and-rescue mission could have been prevented if the hikers had followed explicit directions to check in and pick up their permit from the park’s backcountry office,” said Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Chief Ranger Jack Corrao. “The park closed the summit of Mauna Loa and canceled all high-elevation backcountry permits on January 9 due to severe winter weather, and we immediately posted a closure alert on our website and social media outlets. Their actions put themselves, the pilot and our ranger at great and unnecessary risk.”

The couple were with two other hikers from Oʻahu but the pairs separated on the arduous hike to the closed summit area. The other couple hiked out on their own without incident. All four hikers were cited for engaging in activities without a permit.


All areas on Mauna Loa in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park remain closed above Red Hill Cabin.

Information on how to acquire a backcountry permit and prepare for a safe backcountry trip in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is available on the park website.

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