It's wintertime in Hawaii, as these photos from the top of Big Island's dormant volcano testify.
- Mauna Kea at 6:35 a.m. on Nov. 2, 2011, courtesy of the webcam of the University of Hawaii Hilo Physics and Astronomy Department..
Mauna Kea: The defining peak of Hawaii's Big Island is a great place for many unique activities, from studying the habits of antifreeze-blooded Wekiu bugs to taking in star shows that will spin your brains like an electric egg beater. During these colder months it's also a prime place to make snow angels, thanks to wintry storms that coat the dormant volcano's bald head with white fluff.
The above scene was captured early on the morning of Nov. 2 by the webcam of the University of Hawaii's Hilo Physics and Astronomy Department (and posted by the great blog Pacific Island National Parks) It looks like much of the snow has since disappeared. While most of Hawaii's residents are basking in 70-degrees weather, up on the forlorn peak of Mauna Kea (elevation: nearly 14,000 feet above sea level) is a miniature north pole. As mentioned earlier, a little snow cap on the volcano is not an uncommon sight. A few adventurers even take to snowboarding its crumbling slopes.
Visitors who want to sample this tropical powder should be aware that nobody just cruises up to the top of Mauna Kea. There's typically an adjustment period to account for altitude sickness. Here's what the University of Hawaii has to say about the summit's dangers:
Mauna Kea is one of the only places in the world where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in about 2 hours, so altitude sickness is a high possibility. At 14,000 feet, there is 40% less oxygen than at sea level, so visitors should acclimatize to the altitude before proceeding further up the mountain. Anyone in poor health should consult their physician before planning a visit to Mauna Kea. We do not recommend anyone who is pregnant to go further than the VIS. People under the age of 16 should not go any further because their bodies are still developing and they are affected more rapidly when going to a high altitude. If you plan to scuba dive, do not plan to go up to the summit within 24 hours after your dive.