Trail to Big Four Ice Caves to reopen after deadly collapse

GRANITE FALLS, Wash. -- The trail to the Big Four Ice Caves will reopen for the first time since a deadly collapse in July killed two people and injured four others.

They trail has been closed while the U.S Forest Services works on a safety assessment. The agency says the trail will re-open this spring with new warning signs

Last July, chunks of ice softened by warming temperatures came raining down inside the Big Four Ice Caves.

Anna Santana, who was visiting from California, and her brother David Santana from Lynnwood died from their injuries. Three others were crushed but survived.

Chloe Jakubowski was inside the cave standing next to Anna Santana that fatal day.

"She was like 6 inches away form me. It could have been me easily," said Jakubowski.

Now living in California, Jakubowski said she has no issue with the U.S.Forest Services' plan to reopen the ice caves this spring.

"More signs and a call box would be best," she said. "I think it's fine, I just hope no one goes inside."

Additional warning signs about the caves' danger will be posted near the caves and new this year, along the trail. Gary Paull with the Forest Service says the signs will include other languages and stand out more.

"One of the big things we are trying to do is make the safety situation out there much more apparent to people, make them recognize it, make it more in their face, "said Paull, Wilderness and Trail Program Manager for the Mt.Baker-Snoqualmie Forest.

But avid hikers Micah Smith and Jesse Wolfe aren't so sure.

"It's a little nerve racking because signs only do so much and people ignore signs, " said Smith.

Wolfe agreed and said he's a little more sensitIve because he visited the ice caves days before the collapse last July.

"It's dangerous," Wolfe said. "I'd prefer a barrier around the caves."

Last summer there were posted signs warning users to stay out of the caves, but it was hot, and some hikers went in to cool off.

Smith and Wolfe think additional rangers would help. The agency said it will staff the trail and caves with Rangers just like in the past during the summer months.

The hiking couple agreed with that Paull despite any change, hikers are responsible for their own safety.

"Basically the best thing we can do in the short term is try to do a better job of informing people of the hazards out there," said Paull.

The families of those involved in those recent accidents have asked for a call box near the caves. Right now, the closest phone is 30 minutes away.

The U.S. Forest Service says that will likely be addressed when their final safety assessment review is done in a couple weeks.

Paull said the overarching goal is to keep the forest accessible to everyone. Especially a treasure like the ice caves, which are the most popular trail in the forest. In addition to the ice caves, the trail crosses a river, a meadow and leads hikes to a mountain with a 4,000 foot wall face.

"All this stuff is within one mile there are no other places like that out there very much, " said Paull.

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