North Cascades Highway Snow-Clearing Underway

From the WSDOT blog:

The snow depths over the pavement ranged from 4 feet to more than 9 feet from Early Winters to Washington and Rainy Passes. Below the avalanche chutes in the Cutthroat Ridge zone, snow slides were as deep as 20 feet. Through the Liberty Bell Mountain zone, the slides were 40 to 50 feet deep over the roadway. Contrary to the norm, there was more snow at Rainy Pass and to the west than at Washington Pass and to the east. Heavy snows caused avalanches that twice forced the west closure point to be moved to Newhalem, 13 miles west of the usual Diablo closure point.

I found it hard to believe that the state could just leave a highway closed for the winter when I first moved out here from the east coast, then I heard about the 20-40 foot snowdrifts and miles of continuous avalanche chutes and began to understand. The clearing of the snow on Highway 20 through North Cascades National Park is a month-long process that, if not done, probably wouldn't ever be completely snow-free before the next winter's storm starts to hit.

You can track the progress here or just head to the WSDOT's Flick'r site to see the pretty pictures here.

The Native Planet Classic bicycle ride I'm doing on June 21st will head up and over Rainy and Washington Passes once in each direction. It's going to be a couple of tough climbs, but I will at least be able to take comfort in the fact that I'm not pushing through miles of snow.


Anonymous said...

It would be cool if they only allowed bikes on that road for a few days prior to opening it up to cars....


Anonymous said...

Hey Doug, I'll probably do the Native Planet Classic too. I've ridden the N. Cascades both directions a few times through the years and it's a blast. However, I've never done both sides in one day before. Should be fun. I need to do more serious training. You're ahead of me by leaps and bounds.