Big Lava Flow Search

In September 2013, two friends were exploring the Big Lava Flow south of Goose Lake in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. They were searching for a lave cave amongst the exposed lava flow. The two became separated and the surviving friend was unable to find the missing friend. The search effort was eventually terminated in 2013 with the missing individual presumed to be deceased.

During the week of September 8, 2014, the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office planned a new search of the area and requested Portland Mountain Rescue to assist in the difficult terrain. On the first day PMR lead two teams totaling 37 searchers from many regional search and rescue units. They completed a coarse grid search of a large portion of two search units near where the subject was last seen. On the second day, PMR lead a single team of 21 searchers from three regional search and rescue units. They performed grid searches immediately around the point where the subject was last seen.

During these searches, we were reminded of how difficult navigation can be in rough terrain like an exposed lava flow. We also were reminded how easy it can be to stumble and suffer serious injuries around rough lava rocks. Such areas are beautiful and worth exploring, but only for experienced back country users with excellent navigation skills, and then only if they stay close together.