(BIVN) – Two hikers were rescued after getting lost above 10,000 feet in a closed area of Mauna Loa this weekend. The National Park Service had shut down the mountain as severe weather conditions were in effect.
The male and female hiker were airlifted off the mountain on Monday morning, January 15th, and were not injured. The hikers first called 911 Sunday morning, officials say, 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 Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park:
A search-and-rescue ranger from Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and a helicopter pilot deployed and quickly located 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. 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.
A High Wind Warning remains in effect for the summits of Hawaiʻi island as of Tuesday evening.