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Hawaii hikers rescued, cited after running out of food and water on Mauna Loa volcano amid winter weather


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A couple was rescued from the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii on Monday during severe winter weather, parks officials said Tuesday.

The two hikers were around 11,000 feet up on the remote slopes of Mauna Loa in the windy, freezing weather when they called 911 on Sunday morning to report that they had no food or water left and their phone batteries were almost out of power, the National Park Service (NPS) said.

A Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park ranger was able to reach the uninjured hikers via helicopter and dropped off food, water and a satellite communications device. 

The ranger gave the hikers directions to the nearest shelter on the mountain so that they could hike out on their own due to the elevation and gusting winds that made a helicopter extraction too dangerous, according to NPS.

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By nightfall, however, the couple texted the ranger that they had lost the trail near 10,300 feet in the poor weather. Darkness prevented the helicopter team from reaching the hikers that night, and the crew instead flew the ranger up the next morning.

The ranger located the hikers, and the helicopter flew the couple off the mountain one at a time.

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Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Chief Ranger Jack Corrao said that the dangerous search and rescue mission could have been avoided had the hikers followed directions and obtained a permit to hike.

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

The couple was cited, along with two other hikers who had separated from them before the distress call, for engaging in activities without a permit. The other pair was able to hike down the mountain on their own.

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