KELSO, Wash. — The Cowlitz and Skamania sheriff’s offices are asking for help in locating a Japanese man who may have gone hiking on Mt. St Helens on Nov. 27.
Yosuke Onishi, 26, from Saga Prefecture set out that day with hopes to climb Mt. Saint Helens, probably from Climber’s Bivouac. No one has heard from or seen him since that point. Skamania County search and rescue efforts on and around the mountain have been unsuccessful, and the search has been suspended.
Now listed in the Washington state and national missing-persons databases, Onishi is described as 5-foot-9, 150 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair. He was last seen wearing a black coat and dark-colored pants.
Cowlitz Sheriff’s Deputy Lorenzo Gladson located a woman at a hostel in Portland who had hitchhiked with Onishi to Cougar on Nov. 26. She reported that on Nov. 27 she left the area and believed Onishi was intent on locating a ride up to Mt. St. Helens.
Gladson contacted the owner of the Lakeshore Store and Deli, Ronald Jackman, who reported that he saw Onishi enter a grey or light-brown passenger car on the morning of Nov. 27 with a male and female occupant. The male had dark hair and the female appeared to be of Asian descent. They had a small white dog in the car that may have been a poodle.
On Dec. 1, Gladson contacted Skamania County Sheriff’s Deputy George Barker in Cougar.
Barker subsequently reported that his department heavily searched the south side of the mountain and checked the area where most disoriented hikers are usually found. He said numerous climbers have been up and down the mountain since Nov. 27, with no reports of a stranded, injured or ill-equipped climber, and there was no indication that Onishi was on the mountain.
Barker found that Onishi borrowed snowshoes from an employee at the Lone Fir Motel and apparently left a sleeping bag at the climber’s registration desk. On Nov. 30, that sleeping bag was gone. It is unknown who picked it up.
On Dec. 3, Jackman recalled that the car that had picked up Onishi returned to the Lakeshore Store and Deli at around 10:45 a.m. on Nov. 27. According to Jackman, the couple said Onishi “was still up there” and wanted to let someone know because they were a little concerned about him. Jackman was not sure what “still up there” meant but believed they were at Climber’s Bivouac.
The Skamania County Sheriff’s Office is overseeing the search efforts on the mountain. The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office is taking the lead on the missing-person aspect of the case because Onishi was last seen in that county.
Deputies are focusing their efforts at this point on trying to identify and interview the couple who gave Onishi a ride up to the mountain. Video footage from stores in the Cougar area has been reviewed, but the license plate of the vehicle was unreadable. Anyone who knows the identity of the couple or has any information on the case is asked to call (360) 577-3092. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call Cowlitz Crime Stoppers at (360) 577-1206.
Deputies have been in touch with the Japanese Consulate in Portland, which in turn contacted Onishi’s family.