Wet winter brings spring hazards for hikers

SEATTLE – Officials are warning outdoor enthusiasts about dangerous rock conditions after a 21-year-old man died near Index while hiking.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said a rescue mission was launched around 1:30 p.m. Friday after it was reported that a rock had fallen on a man.

Snohomish County Fire District 7 said later that the victim was among a group of four hikers. He was climbing on a steep rock field when the boulder gave way, pinning him underneath. The other hikers were able to call 911 while on the trail. The man died while rescuers were enroute.

“It’s kind of like ball bearings is the way it works,” explained Frank Kingman, a sales associate at Ascent Outdoors in Ballard. “You’ll either get snow melt, massive snow melt or just of a lot of rain falling in general and that’s why things aren’t as stable in the summer,” he said.

Unlike last summer, where the danger was on top of trails and rocks, this spring, extra water is hidden underneath rocks. “It creates a lubricating layer underneath rocks, especially like large boulders,” said Kingman.

“You just need to be careful and being conservative in the backcountry is I think never a bad thing,” he said.

Kingman said part of his job is warning customers about the hazards every season. With two rescues already this year involving pinned hikers, rock slides he said are part of the need to know for hikers.

“If you venture far from an established trail there can be unknown terrain out there that isn’t commonly watched by authorities,” said Kingman.

Authorites are urging all hikers to stay on marked trails this spring, hike in groups, pack extra food and water and dress for the trip.