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Hiker caught in Mauna Loa snowstorm rescued

  • COURTESY DAVID OKITAMauna Loa and the cinder cone Pohaku o Hanalei, foreground, where hiker Alex Sverdlov was recused today. Mauna Kea can be seen in the distance.
    COURTESY DAVID OKITA
    Mauna Loa and the cinder cone Pohaku o Hanalei, foreground, where hiker Alex Sverdlov was recused today. Mauna Kea can be seen in the distance.

A hiker stranded on Mauna Loa after a snowstorm struck on Tuesday was rescued by park rangers this morning.

According to a press release issued by Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, rangers conducting a helicopter search found Alex Sverdlov, 36, sunburned and wind-whipped, at 9 a.m. The New York resident, is an experienced hiker who successfully hiked the 18-mile trek to Mauna Loa’s 13,677-foot summit last winter.

Sverdlov began the ascent on Sunday, starting at an elevation of about 6,660 feet at the top of Mauna Loa Road. He reached the summit on Tuesday, after dropping his gear at a lower elevation, according to a press release. The storm struck as he was on his late-afternoon descent. 

Unable to find his pack, Sverdlov hunkered down in the snow until daylight — protected from the elements only by the clothes he was wearing.   

The park’s management closed the mountain to visitors on Tuesday due to the dangerous weather. Sverdlov was the only registered hiker, and park rangers were unable to reach him by phone and found his car still parked on Mauna Loa Road Wednesday afternoon. 

The hiker found his pack on Wednesday morning, but deep snow made it impossible for him to gain much ground in his descent, and he spent a second night on the mountain. 

Park Ranger John Broward, who spotted Sverdlov during this morning’s helicopter search, said in the release: “Even the most experienced and prepared hikers can get into trouble in the park.” He continued, “What saved Alex is that he had a backcountry permit so we knew he was up there, he is extremely fit, and he stayed calm. We’re all fortunate this had a happy ending.”

Sverdlov, who told park officials today that he we was worried that he would die on Mauna Loa and was astonished when he heard the helicopter, said in the release: “I’ve done many crazy hikes, but this one pretty much tops the bill.” 

This afternoon, Sverdlov applied for another backcountry permit, for the park’s remote coastal area. “This time I’m going to the sunny part of the park,” he said.

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