Forest Service issues warning after sections of Big Four Ice Caves collapse

(Photo: Jason Fortenbacher)

MOUNT BAKER-SNOQUALMIE NATIONAL FOREST -- Sections of the Big Four Ice Caves have recently collapsed, and visitors are urged to stay out of the cave and be cautious on the trail outside, the U.S. Forest Service said Wednesday.

“As we head into the busiest and warmest part of the season, the cave is in its most dangerous state,” Forest Service Ranger Matthew Riggen said. “The cave is in a condition that we would normally not see until at least September – large, inviting and collapsing.”

Visitors are urged to stay on the trail, not to enter the cave and to take extreme caution in the area outside the other caves below Big Four Mountain as well, which is prone to falling rocks and ice, the Forest Service said.

“I would ask that in addition to looking at that beautiful mountain, visitors should stop and look at that beautiful marker for a beautiful little girl,” said Search and Rescue Sgt. Danny Wikstrom, referring to 11-year-old Grace Tam who died in 2010 when a chunk of ice broke free and struck her in the head.

Tam’s family worked with the Forest Service to install a message at the trail viewpoint to connect visitors with the Tam family’s tragedy and warn them of the dangers.

“I wouldn’t want anyone else to experience that horrible loss," Wikstrom said.

Summer-like weather the past few weekends have resulted in an increase in visitors to the Big Four Ice Caves Trail.  The Forest Service said that last Sunday, rangers counted at least 442 visitors to the trail.