Maui College Pranksters Build 30-Foot Snowman Atop Haleakala


Daily morning rounds by the rangers at Haleakala National Park are most often ordinary, with nothing much to worry about except keeping your ears warm and not dropping your hot coffee.

Not on Tuesday, however.

"I turned the corner around the observatory and WHAM there he was. We estimate the sucker is at least 30 feet tall, and where they got the accessories, who knows?" said Edward Kuikawa, assistant to the park's regional ranger manager who works atop the 10,023-foot elevation mountain that dominates the island of Maui.

"I spilled coffee down my shirt in the truck," Kuikawa said. "At first I thought it was a yeti."

It took most of the day, but Kuikawa and his crew eventually figured out what it was, and who left it there.

It seems a mischievous group of students from the University of Hawaii Maui College snuck up there the evening before and took advantage of the relatively rare snowfall brought by the big storm last week.

One of the students left behind his associated students card.

"My bad," said Jed Popopo, 19, of Haiku, a sophomore at the college majoring in gender studies. "It was so frickin' freezing that I had my hands in my pants pockets, and it must have fallen out while standing on the ladder packing snow."

Popopo said the group of five students have been dreaming about what's atop Haleakala all year, ever since learning in a geology class some details about the only active volcano on Maui.

At least 10 eruptions have occurred the past 1,000 years on the volcano estimated to be 750,000 years old. The last eruption was in 1790, pretty much creating the coast of the southwest part of the island around La Perouse Bay.

This type of historic information mingled with something still on the students' minds from the holidays, said Kyle Picadilly of Wailea, 19, who is studying geology and hopes one day to become a volcanist.

"We just saw the Abominable Snowman in that cool old 'Rudolph' special they show every year," Picadilly said. "Then it rained really hard and before we knew it, the top of Haleakala was white. We were stoked!

"Plus we were pretty baked, and we all looked at each other and pretty much had the same idea."

The group knew they had to build the huge snowman in darkness, to ensure the surprise they wanted for the rangers. They left the college in late afternoon Monday, gathering up items along the way to decorate.

Popopo said it took the group until just before sunrise to complete the task, mainly because it was super dark.

"We'll never do that again," he said. "I still can't feel my hands."

Kuikawa of the National Park advises everyone on Maui, locals and visitors alike, to not sneak into the park, especially in darkness. Doing so presents quite the number of dangers, he said.

Still, Kuikawa and his co-workers remained amazed at the sight of a 30-foot mound of snow on a summit that sees the white stuff infrequently.

"I can't figure out how they got a ladder on top of a 2002 Honda Civic," said Chester Paige, assistant to Popopo in the rangers' office. "We also really don't know how they didn't freeze to death."

"We had a secret weapon," Picadilly said. "A case of White Claw."

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