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Snow on Maunakea with observatories
Thick ice and snow blanket Maunakea Access Road

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Center for Maunakea Stewardship (CMS) anticipates the road to the summit to remain closed for at least the next couple of days. The recent storm, with winds of more than 100 mph, sleet, freezing rain and heavy snow created a very hard covering of ice and icy snow along with snow drifts on Maunakea Access Road. This makes it exceptionally difficult for CMS staff to clear.

Snowplows going working on roads
CMS crews operating snow plows

The center is working as quickly as possible to reopen the road above the Visitor Station. Once CMS crews are able to clear one lane they will limit access to essential personnel until the road can fully be reopened.

“Our top priority is keeping the public and our employees safe while on Maunakea,” said Greg Chun executive director at CMS. “We understand many are eager to head up to enjoy the wintry weather, however until conditions are safe and full access of the road is restored we humbly ask for everyone’s kōkua and patience.”

The public is asked to remember that the summit of Maunakea can be extremely dangerous. The weather can change rapidly, resulting in severe conditions including freezing temperatures, blizzards and high winds.

Emergency services may be two hours away because of its remote location. Cell phone coverage is unreliable, and there is one public emergency phone on the summit. For everyone’s safety, please heed all directions and precautions from Maunakea Rangers.

Hazardous conditions

Shoes on ice
Solid ice coats the road to the summit

In 2021, at least two car crashes were reported after heavy snowfall on the mauna, including an overturned vehicle, as there is normally an increase in summit traffic after winter storms. The summit access road is approximately 8 miles long, and the first 5 miles are unpaved with steep inclines, poor traction, narrow sections where two way traffic is not possible, blind curves and rocks on the road.

Be safe and respectful

Everyone is encouraged to act in a safe and responsible manner while on Maunakea and look out and care for others because of the dangerous conditions. Please be respectful of the fact that Maunakea is one the most revered places in Hawaiʻi, and many visit the mauna for cultural and religious practices.

Snow on Maunakea and Maunaloa
Maunaloa in foreground. The severe storm dumped more than 6 inches of snow atop Maunakea
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