Mt. Baker’s Ice Cave trails, which closed down due to a fatality, plan to reopen this upcoming spring. The 1.1 mile long trail will be equipped with a telephone service as well as a major increase of warning signs to inform hikers of the possible dangers.
Due to the injury and death of a California native, Annalisa Santana, the trail closed on July 6th, 2015. On July 9th, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner discovered her death was caused by “blunt-force injuries to her head and body.” Her brother, David Santana passed away from his injuries caused by the collapse in Oct. 2015. Five others were injured as well.
18-year-old Seattle resident Chloe Jakubowski, who was in the ice caves during the collapse, spoke to the Seattle Times about her experience. After hearing a loud crack, Jakubowski covered her head and waited for the snow to stop falling. “As soon as it stopped, I looked up and looked around me and it was extremely gruesome, honestly.” Jakubowski only suffered minor injuries with few scratches.
Due to the rescue time being postponed by 45 minutes because of an absence of service and the inability to contact help from park rangers by the ice caves, telephones are being installed for faster reaction times.
The icy caves lay within a dense pacific silver fir forest, where the remnants of trees that were broken off by avalanches remain. The trail remains one of the most popular trailheads in the State of Washington, despite last year’s incident.
UWT Business Marketing major Randy Nguyen, whose favorite hiking destination is Blanca Lake, plans to hike the trail when it opens. His favorite thing about hiking is “the view and the adrenaline once you reach the top.” Nguyen says, “Exploring nature is one of the best things you can do.” Nguyen is not excited about “inclines and switchbacks going up the hill.”
Although hiking to the caves is permitted, entrance into the caves is not, due to the high likelihood of an avalanche. “The caves and area below the cliffs are extremely dangerous,” the Forest Service site highlights. “Rock and ice fall is a hazard all year round. Avalanches are a constant hazard through winter and spring. The caves are exceptionally dangerous to enter or climb on.”
The Big Four Ice Caves hiking attraction can be entered with a recreation pass that can be purchased online at fs.usda.gov. According to the site, the best seasons to hike the trail are spring and summer due to the wildlife that appears during those times. Hiking is a popular attraction here in Washington, yet the Ice Caves opening will bring a unique experience to the hikers of Washington.