A picture from our tour showing an unsuitable car at the summit – 4wd only, people!
Here are some links to posts and news articles about what happened to some probably unsuspecting tourists visiting the summit at Mauna Kea.
Now, once this driver passed the visitor information centre at 9,000 feet, he had gone up there to the summit without the coverage of his rental car insurance and he also broke his car rental contract which stopped covering him where the paved road stops just past the visitors centre.
So, he had to pay out of pocket –
– to buy a brand new rental car to replace this one
– to have this rental car towed off Mauna Kea
– for loss of income which the rental car company suffered from not being able to hire out this rental car to others
All in all, a very expensive exercise which could have easily been avoided. Not to mention if his wife had not been quick thinking and noticed the car was moving, she could have remained in the vehicle as it rolled down the hill. She could have been very seriously injured, maybe even killed.
While at the summit, I also saw some nutter who had driven a rental convertible sports car up there. Seriously? On what planet were their brains? Not one that can be seen from this planet, no matter how clear the skies. 😦
If you absolutely MUST visit Mauna Kea, I strongly, and highly, recommend you take one of the tour companies rather than try to go on your own. It is expensive ($200 or so per person) but there are many reasons why this is a better plan than doing it yourself.
The tour guides do this on a regular basis, they know what they are doing, they are equipped with oxygen in case it is required. Altitude sickness can happen to you – hypoxia, lack of oxygen at the higher elevation can affect you and if it does, you do *not* want to be driving a vehicle. If you absolutely must do this, it is worth spending the money on the tour.
Do not, whatever you do, think you can drive to the summit in your rental car. You will be voiding your rental contract and your insurance once you go past the Information Centre around 9,000 feet. If anything goes wrong, you will be paying for a new car, and other fees. Pay the money and take the tour if you want to visit the summit. 🙂