National Parks Service
Alex Sverdlov, center, was trapped near the summit of Mauna Loa in Hawaii.
A New York hiker was trapped near the peak of one of Hawaii’s volcanoes for two days as a fast-moving winter storm pummeled the island summit this week with blizzard-like conditions, according to the National Park Service.
Alex Sverdlov, 36, of Queens, set out on the 18-mile trek to the top of Mauna Loa at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Sunday, park rangers say. He reached the 13,677-foot summit Tuesday afternoon after dropping off his heavy gear at a lower elevation and was beginning his descent when the snowstorm hit, blasting the volcano with heavy snow and whipping winds.
Sverdlov tried unsuccessfully to find his pack in blinding white-out conditions and, when night fell, decided to hunker down until the next day, according to the park service. All he had were the clothes on his back and a frozen bottle of water.
Sverdlov found his pack the next morning, but deep snow made the trail impassable, so he spent another night in the frozen wilderness.
Thursday morning, he was rescued by search crews after hearing their helicopter.
“I’ve done many crazy hikes, but this one pretty much tops the bill,” Sverdlov said, according to a statement released by the park service.
Park rangers knew Sverdlov was on the mountain because he got a backcountry permit before taking the hike.
The volcano was closed Tuesday when the snow hit, and park rangers went up to the base of the trail Wednesday morning to check on Sverdlov's car. When it was still there that afternoon, park rangers decided to send a helicopter to look for the hiker the following morning.
“What saved Alex is that he had a backcountry permit so we knew he was up there,” said park ranger John Broward. “He is extremely fit and he stayed calm. We’re all fortunate this had a happy ending.”
The ordeal apparently hasn't diminished Sverdlov’s passion for hiking. He applied for another backcountry permit for the park’s coast.
“This time I’m going to the sunny part of the park,” he said.
Tim Wright / AP file
Snow can be seen on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013.
NBC New York