Valle Cochamó, Chile · Index · Goat Lake, June 2014

Trip Report: Washington Pass, 6 Apr 2014

On Monday, March 31st, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) started clearing the North Cascades Highway. This is a very mountainous highway. It is closed over the winter due to copious quantities of snow and a high avalanche danger. They reopen it in the spring once the avalanches return to manageable levels.

By the weekend they had cleared about 8 miles of the road. It was closed to traffic at the Silver Star gate. Since the closure only applies to licencsed vehicles, people are welcome to hike, bike, snowmobile, ski, snowshoe, fly, skateboard, crabwalk, or unicycle past it. However, the WSDOT asks that you only do so on weekends, as they don't want anyone interfering with the plowing efforts.

Lower plowed section of North Cascades Highway in the afternoon.

On Sunday I hiked to the end of the plowed section and then snowshoed on to Washington pass. Both to check out the status of the road and to enjoy the snowed in pass before they plow it.

Snowed in road headed up to Washington Pass.

One of the larger avalanche chutes, of which regularly dumps snow & rocks on the road. Take a picture as you cruise by - don't stand around at the bottom. And avoid this area during, and for awhile after, any blizzard.

Avalanche chute on North Cascades Hightway.

One of the larger piles of snow from the avalanches.

This is where the above chute dumps its snow on top the road. The tracks on the left are a mix of snowmobile and the WSDOT snow cat.

Snow piled on road by avalanches.

The road makes a giant S-curve in the area below Liberty Bell Mountain. Most avalanches stop on the upper level, but a few make it lower down.

S curve on North Cascades Highway.
Almost burried S-curve sign

At the top of the pass is a turnoff to the viewpoint and rest area. Well worth a look if you have the time.

Viewpoint turnoff.

An outhouse at the rest area. If we estimate a snow water equivalent of 3ft, and a roof size of 5ft x 8ft, that gives us 120ft3 of water. Which weighs about 7,500lbs. Quite the roof load for an outhouse.

I assume they also have picnic tables, but I was unable to find them.

Outhouse buried in snow.

The overlook itself is on top of a large cliff, providing a scary view of the road below.

Washington pass overlook.

The overlook also provides an excellent view of Liberty Bell Mountain and Early Winters Spires.

Liberty Bell Mountain and Early Winters Spires.

Clearing the road in the Spring takes a lot of equipment, such as excavators and giant snowblowers.

Giant snowblower.

No, you may not use the snowblower to plow your driveway. Or to scare your neighbors goats. Or for whatever other crazy use you might come up with.

Sign on snowblower.

Danger: Confined spaces. Entry by authorized personnel only.

Snow blower blade

I took a few more pictures of the giant snow blower following the reopening of highway 20. However, it took me a depressingly long time to get around to posting them. At least they do a good job of demonstrating why my VW gets better gas millage than the snow blower does, why I need to be thankful that it can also go faster than the snow blower. And why it would be very bad if the snow blower ever caught the VW...

Looking inside the snow blower front/blade
The huge snow blower and small VW.

Valle Cochamó, Chile · Index · Goat Lake, June 2014

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