Hawaii hikers rescued from Mauna Loa volcano during 'severe winter weather'

Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on the planet, rising to more than 13,600 feet above sea level, according to the NPS.

HAWAII NATIONAL PARK, Hawaii – A man and woman were airlifted from Mauna Loa in Hawaii National Park on Monday morning after an earlier attempt to help them reach safety.

The first attempt to assist the couple happened after they called 911 on Sunday morning, according to the National Park Service. They reported that they had run out of food and water in the windy, freezing weather, and that their phones were running out of power.

A search-and-rescue ranger with the park and a helicopter pilot were sent out and found the couple at around 11,000 feet on Mauna Loa, park officials said. The couple had no injuries, but they were unable to be airlifted off the mountain due to the risks associated with their elevation and the powerful gusting winds.

Instead, the NPS said the couple were given food, water and a satellite communication device, plus instructions on how to reach the nearest shelter and hike out on their own.

However, several hours later, after sunset, the hikers messaged the park ranger to inform him that they had unknowingly veered off the trail near the elevation of 10,300 feet in the inclement weather.


Because of the dangerous weather conditions and darkness at the time, park officials said the pilot and ranger could only fly back to the couple on Monday morning. At that point, the couple was airlifted and brought to safety.

The couple ended up being cited, as they were engaging in activities on the mountain without a permit. According to the NPS, all high-elevation backcountry permits were canceled and the summit of Mauna Loa was closed days earlier due to bad weather.

"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 Jack Corrao, chief ranger at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.


"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," he added. "Their actions put themselves, the pilot and our ranger at great and unnecessary risk."  

According to the NPS, the couple was initially with two other hikers who separated during the hike. The other couple was able to hike off the slopes without incident, but they, too, were cited for being on the mountain without a permit.


Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on the planet, rising to more than 13,600 feet above sea level, according to the NPS. Its summit is expected to remain closed throughout the week due to winter weather and damaging winds.