North Cascades Countdown
This spring several of the Recycle Shop riders are planning to ride hwy 20 right before it reopens to auto traffic. What is your prediction for when it will be open?
We will be going east to west, any ideas where a good place to park would be?
My prediction is May 17......
I understand that they try to get it open for fishing season - which I believe starts the 4th Saturday in April for high country in the Skagit drainage.
Here's the log of opening dates since the highway opened in 1972: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/Pass...urehistory.htm
I'd guess somewhere between April 15 and May 1 this year.
I think I'm going to revise my guess to April 21.
I'd park in Mazama if possible, but I don't know where. Probably some turnout on Lost River Road (I think that's what it's called, it goes up to Harts Pass and is paved at the bottom). The ride from Winthrop to Mazama isn't as scenic as stuff to the east of there.
I was in Leavenworth all weekend, it's mostly warming up out there, the snow is starting to melt. There were avalanches everywhere (one closed a lane of I-90 Friday afternoon, many many more in Tumwater canyon but across the river from the road) and the snowpack should continue to be unstable for a while. New percip was falling as rain, not snow.
When you add it all up I'd say late April, but that's based more on gut feeling and hunch than anything else.
N. Cascades Highway clearing to begin Mar. 31
If the weather cooperates, the roadway could be open in 6 weeks
TWISP – The effort to reopen the North Cascades Highway will begin the last day of March. But despite the heavy late season snowfall, those responsible for the annual reopening effort are optimistic that State Route 20 could be open by early May.
Last year the clearing began Mar. 25 and was complete in less than 4 weeks. “There’s twice as much snow at the summit than last year and it’s likely to take closer to the usual 6 weeks to reopen this year,” said Avalanche Control Supervisor Mike Stanford.
On Tuesday, Washington State Department of Transportation avalanche-control specialists and maintenance technicians ventured up the North Cascades from the Early Winters information center near Mazama to Washington Pass. Along the way they stopped to measure snow depths in two dozen avalanche chutes and other sites. Snow at the summit of Washington Pass measured almost 10 feet compared to 5 feet last year. Snow on the highway below the Liberty Bell avalanche chutes averaged 35 feet deep.
WSDOT closed the highway for the winter last on Dec. 3. The earliest recorded opening was Mar.10, 2005. During the drought of 1976, it remained open all winter. Due to avalanches in 2011, WSDOT couldn’t begin clearing the road until Apr. 11 and didn’t reopen it until May 25.
Stanford suggested the conditions this year are similar to the 2011 reopening. “This is a weird year all over the region as far as the snowpack goes. Washington pass is no exception. Right now we have debris in places we normally do not see it and no debris in places we normally expect to. Some chutes have wet slide debris in them, others have none”.
Hyperlinks within the release:
• North Cascades Highway website WSDOT - SR 20 - North Cascades Highway
• Opening/closure history WSDOT - North Cascades Highway - Opening and Closing History
• Flickr photo album Assessing the Snow Conditions up to Washington Pass - a set on Flickr
You all know there's more to it - now that they've got a handle on what's up there and what it's going to take to move it, they can start arranging for the contractor caterpillars we'll have to put out the bids for as well as transferring (as we can) the snow blowers on Stevens down to the shop in Wenatchee for servicing before they can move them to start work up north.
Expect to hear more in about 2-1/2 weeks!
Thanks Forrest. I signed up for the emails yesterday. Looks like my first estimate will be fairly close. I hope it is not that late because if it is I'll miss it this year due to a conflict with the Spokane Tour de Cure.
WSDOT is saying they will open the gates on Thursday 5-8. I'll have to wait until next year.... or ride it this summer when it has traffic.
So the pass is opening Thursday. Do I remember correctly that in the past they offered a window of time where they let bikes up before it was open to vehicle traffic? If so, when would that be? I'd love to get up there without the cars.
I found my own answer. The pass is open year round to bikes, so we are free to ride up there any time. Only cars are prohibited right now. The trick is finding a time when the roads have been cleared of snow but before the pass is opened to cars. This year it looks like that window will be Thursday before noon.
I'm planning to ride from Colonial Creek campground to Mazama and back on Thursday, starting around 9:00am. It should be fun!
Photos? Please? :)
Originally Posted by Issaquatch
SF do you recommend riding it with traffic on a summer weekend?
I rode the pass yesterday. A buddy and I started out from Colonial Creek campground at 9:00. After a few miles we reached the gate and found about 10 cars queued up, waiting for noon when the gates would open to motorized traffic. We happily rode past them and after a short descent started the climb in earnest, with my buddy dropping back to ride at his own tempo. I've driven the pass before but I hadn't realized until I rode it yesterday just how long of a climb it really is. It is 32 miles from Colonial Creek to the Washington pass summit, and probably 30 of those are uphill. The grades aren't very steep, but I was still pretty tired after riding uphill for two and a half hours. It was a pretty zen experience though to be riding in what felt like complete isolation for that long. Except for one or two WDOT vehicles, I didn't see a person or vehicle the entire time. The views were spectacular as usual. Lots of gushing waterfalls. Snow covered mountains in every direction. And once I was above 4,000 feet there were walls of snow on each side. The snow was about 7 feet deep on each side along the top of Rainy Pass. It wasn't quite as deep at the top of Washington Pass, but on the big switchback just below the pass the snow was 60+ feet high on one side where they had to cut through the avalanches chutes.
The 18-mile descent into Mazama was easy. We had lunch at the deli in Mazama, which had truly excellent food. Then it was back the way we came. I had tired legs so the climb back up to Washington Pass was slow. The last three miles in particular were deceptively difficult because you can see the switchbacks and the top of the pass but it felt like it took forever to get up there. Cars were not an issue; although it was after noon, so the pass was now open to cars, the shoulders were good and there weren't many cars. And everyone gave us plenty of room. It felt safe. The descent from Washington Pass to Colonial Creek was uneventful, though I kept wishing the road was a little steeper so I wouldn't have to pedal. There are a lot of 1% -2% grades that you have to pedal on, or you lose speed.
We arrived back at the car around 4:30pm. And no more than two minutes after we drove away it started pouring rain, so our timing was apparently perfect because we didn't get rained on at all during the ride.
The stats for the day were 100 miles (almost exactly), 9,370 feet of elevation gain, 6:30 riding time, 7:30 total time.
I think now is a great time to ride the pass. The views are great, the traffic is well below summer levels, and the temperatures are cool enough that you won't have to worry about bringing huge amounts of water with you or sterilizing water on the way up.
Here are a few photos:
Descending from Washington Pass:
My bike and I made a jaunt up to Washington pass on May 7, while it was still off limits to people and their cars. Wasn't the only soul up there though. While I was making my ascent, there were a few others enjoying they're speedy descent. Loved the ride to pieces. Took a few pictures.
I rode highway 20 when I did my cross country as it is part of the northern tier. What a beautiful road. I didn't think the traffic was bad when I rode it but it was probably during the week. It was one of the best parts of the entire cross country trip.
I didn't feel like the traffic was too bad the few times I've done it on summer weekends, definitely better than Stevens Pass. Better to go midweek if possible but I wouldn't hesitate to go on a weekend if it has to be.
Originally Posted by Black wallnut