Remains of missing climber discovered on Mount St. Helens

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Searchers found male human remains Saturday afternoon on Mount St. Helens, said Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox.

The remains are believed to be Yosuke Onishi, 27, who was reported missing in late November 2013 after not returning to the Lone Fir Resort in Cougar. Onishi left the resort the morning of Nov. 27 and had planned to summit Mount St. Helens by way of the Climbers Bivouac.

One of the search teams discovered the remains near the 7,100-foot level on the south slope, west of the normal south climbing route, and just below the crater rim, Cox said. Personal effects found with them were consistent with what Onishi had been reported to have with him. The remains were removed from the mountain by helicopter and will be taken to the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The remains were discovered at approximately 2 p.m. by a team comprising members of the North Country EMS Volcano Rescue Team, Olympic Mountain Rescue, Hood River Crag Rats and Seattle Mountain Rescue.

The search effort was a concerted effort by 13 different agencies from Washington and Oregon.

“We chose this weekend to do a final search because of the excellent weather forecast and the receding snow levels,” Cox said. “The area where the remains were found was an area that was flown several times during the initial searches. It is an assumption that snow had kept him from view until the warm weather had set in, finally revealing his location.”

The Saturday search focused on approximately 9 square miles of difficult terrain on the south slope.

“We are extremely grateful to all of those that participated with this successful recovery today,” Cox said. “They are all true professionals.”

Onishi traveled to the U.S. from Saga Prefecture on the island of Kyushu in Japan. It was his first trip to Mount St. Helens, but not his first time mountaineering. His family came to Cougar and posted fliers after he went missing.