Missing hiker found dead at base of Table Mountain

Beaverton man fell about 700 vertical feet from the summit, deputies said

An undated photo of Melvin Burtch from his Facebook page.
An undated photo of Melvin Burtch from his Facebook page.

SKAMANIA COUNTY, Wash. (KOIN) — After hours of searching, missing hiker Melvin Burtch was found dead Tuesday at the base of Table Mountain.

His body was found around 5 p.m. north of the Bonneville Dam. Burtch fell about 700 vertical feet from the summit, according to Skamania County Sheriff’s Office.

“This is extremely sad because we’re not going to have any idea what happened up there or why it happened,” Sheriff Dave Brown said.

Skamania County search and rescue crews are looking for overdue hiker Melvin Burtch on Table Mountain. (KOIN)
Skamania County search and rescue crews were looking for overdue hiker Melvin Burtch on Table Mountain. (KOIN)

The 31-year-old Beaverton man had been hiking in the Columbia River Gorge with 2 dogs that belong to a friend.

On Wednesday morning, a Bonneville Hot Springs employee found the dogs near Burtch’s car.

“It really kind of clued us in that we were dealing with something more than just a lost person,” Brown said.

Search and rescue crews set out to find Burtch Wednesday morning after the dogs’ owner told deputies she last heard from him around 2 p.m. Tuesday when he sent her a photo from the top of the mountain.

Burtch was said to be an experienced hiker. The hike to the summit of Table Mountain is about 15 miles round trip and difficult, especially in current conditions.

Search crews were able to locate Burtch’s body using transmissions from his phone, which was found just about 50 feet away from his body.

“Sometimes unfortunate things happen and then they happen very fast,” Brown said.

Search and rescue crews from the surrounding areas recovered Burtch’s body on Thursday.