Mauna Kea is a special place.
As winter approaches, the Office of Mauna Kea Management would like to share a few safety measures when planning to travel to the mountain.
Exposure to Altitude
Everyone is encouraged to stop at the Onizuka Visitor Information Station (VIS) at the 9,200 ft level to allow your body to acclimate to the change in elevation. Please remember most of us are coming from sea level ascending to the summit which is nearly 14,000 feet high. The VIS is open from 9 am to 10 pm every day of the year. There are staff members, Mauna Kea Rangers and volunteers on hand to answer any questions and provide up-to-the-minute information on road and weather conditions, maps and hiking information.
Before traveling to Mauna Kea, please note that individuals in the following categories are advised not to travel above the VIS:
- No children under the age of 16 should travel beyond the Onizuka Visitor Information Station (VIS).
- Pregnant women
- Persons with high blood pressure, heart or respiratory conditions
- Scuba divers with less than 24 hours rest after their last dive
- Anyone who has been drinking alcohol (consumption of alcohol is strongly discouraged on Mauna Kea)
At least 30 minutes are recommended at the 9,200 ft level to properly acclimate to the higher altitude.
Protective clothing, sunscreen and sunglasses are recommended. Drink lots of water to help fend off the effects of altitude sickness and dehydration.
Hikers should also register at the Visitor Information Station and do not hike alone.
The unimproved 8-mile road features a 5,000 foot climb to the summit.
Sections of the road can be extremely rough with steep grades of up to 15
percent and ice and snow can add to the danger. There are limited number of guard rails.
Four-wheel drive vehicles are a must when driving past the Onizuka Visitor Information Station (VIS) at the 9,200 ft level to the summit. Use 4-wheel drive low range and a low gear when descending from the summit to prevent brakes from overheating and failure.
Use caution and beware of heavy equipment operating on the road.
Please remember that Mauna Kea is a very remote location. Everyone is
responsible for their own safety and travel is at your own risk. Cellular
telephone coverage is unreliable and the only public telephone above the
Visitor Information Center is located in the entrance of the University of
Hawaii's 88-inch Telescope.
To check on the weather conditions before traveling to Mauna Kea, call 935-6268 for recorded information.