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WA SR-20 North Cascades Highway Snow Removal

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WA SR-20 North Cascades Highway Snow Removal

Old 03-18-19, 10:33 AM
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WA SR-20 North Cascades Highway Snow Removal

Hi,

Has anyone ridden up there yet this spring? I haven't seen any recent updates on WS DOT's Twitter and with the sunny springlike weather, I'm starting to wonder about how far up past the closure the road is passable by road bike?

Thanks,

James
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Old 03-18-19, 07:39 PM
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I heard today there was snow on the ground in Darrington yesterday, which is about 400 feet above sea level. They didn't say how much, probably not a lot. I skied yesterday in Plain and the day before in Leavenworth, at 1,200 feet. Based on that and the early season rides I've done up there, I don't think you'll make it far beyond Ross Lake coming from the west. (They're still skiing in Mazama so you won't have much luck from that direction.)
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Old 03-20-19, 08:33 PM
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Thanks for the info! Perhaps that's why the WSDOT updates have been so scarce.
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Old 03-21-19, 01:16 PM
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The DOT just sent out an update email yesterday:

You are subscribed to North Cascades Highway Newsletter for Washington State Department of Transportation. This information has recently been updated, and is now available.

Hi all,

It’s that time of year again – a couple of days of sunshine and everybody wants to know if the North Cascades is going to be open this weekend – NOT.

However Mike and Don and about 8 other folks headed up to the North Cascades and did the annual assessment. In beautiful sunshine the 4 snow cats and 8 snowmobiles delivered the largest assessment crew ever in time for lunch at Washington Pass where they found only 6 feet of snow (last year it was 10). Can’t say yet whether that will translate into a faster opening than the last couple years (6 and 8 weeks), but the word for the day was “low snow”. Liberty Bell chutes that delivered 35 to 70 feet of snow on the road the last few years delivered 20 to 30 feet this year.

Winter isn’t quite over at a mile high in the mountains and there’s still snow in the chutes, but the calendar is on our side – historical data says we ought to be getting some spring and we can stop listening to the groundhog and start taking cues from our newest crewmember – Mazama, the Avalanche Rescue Goat (ARG) who is allowing Pink Floyd to retire!

Here’s the link to some pictures from the trip (yes, they’re similar to the last 19 years worth of assessment photos) which is exactly what you want. https://www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/albums/72157706072425041

In a few days when the avalanche, maintenance and weather wizards finish their analysis, I’ll be back with the actual (tentative) start of clearing date. Watch for it.

Happy spring.

Jeff

(# note, Andrea’s name is missing – she became a mom again this past weekend and there are some wonderful people on the west side of Rainy who are going to try to fill in for her (impossible), but we’re testing that theory on this side of Washington Pass, too. Floyd isn’t the only one retiring this year – I’m gone shortly after the opening and Lauren is taking my place and watching me write this as I write this!)
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Old 03-21-19, 01:48 PM
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Cool, thanks for the info! Looks better for skiing for now.

Cheers,
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Old 03-21-19, 02:05 PM
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I was in Leavenworth over the weekend all the roads around town and the Chumstick highway were open. Though everything not travelled by car wasn't. Stevens, Blewett, Snoqualmie all open, clear & dry. But there is still walls of melting snow over Blewett & Stevens that make travel by bicycle unwise.

The time I spent in Granite Falls/Mountain Loop highway the week before was a real let down. The highway was open, but anything "not highway" was still under about a foot of snow. So no grinding along forest service roads. Maybe 2 weeks made a dent in the snow totals & I can go for a real gravel ride this year.

It may be worth parking in Burlington or Marblemount & seeing just how far you can get on 2 wheels. The road closed sign is only for cars anyway...Right? I'm tempted.
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Old 03-22-19, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by woodway View Post
...
Thanks for the informative post!!
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Old 03-22-19, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by base2 View Post
I was in Leavenworth over the weekend all the roads around town and the Chumstick highway were open. Though everything not travelled by car wasn't. Stevens, Blewett, Snoqualmie all open, clear & dry. But there is still walls of melting snow over Blewett & Stevens that make travel by bicycle unwise.

The time I spent in Granite Falls/Mountain Loop highway the week before was a real let down. The highway was open, but anything "not highway" was still under about a foot of snow. So no grinding along forest service roads. Maybe 2 weeks made a dent in the snow totals & I can go for a real gravel ride this year.

It may be worth parking in Burlington or Marblemount & seeing just how far you can get on 2 wheels. The road closed sign is only for cars anyway...Right? I'm tempted.
​​​​​​You seem to have good taste.

Stevens said they'll have peeler skiing in June, maybe July. Not arguing, I'm trying to share the info I have. On that note:

* Park in Leavenworth, the P&R is fine. Ride up the Chumstick, go left on 203 (?), make a detour into Lake Wenatchee, then back to the road, and descend 15 miles through Tumwater Canyon. Fantastic spring ride, snow on the peaks adds a lot to the scenery.

* Do Icicle and 8mile roads out of Heavenworth too.

* Take Cascade River Road up to its end from Marblemount. Tough ride but oh my god the scenery! That road probably won't open to the end until June.

* Too many great rides from the MLH to list, but if you haven't already you need to explore North Mountain outside Darrington.

* Also the Teanaway and the area between Blewett and Mission Peak.

To your final question, yeah the road closed sign is only for cars. It's a fun ride up there while it's closed, not there's no telling how far you'll make it. If you start further back, like in Newhalem or M'mount you'll still enjoy a fantastic ride. If you go, we'd all love to hear what you find. Just be aware they close the road for avalanche danger not because it can't be plowed, and there's still avy potential; don't linger below chutes and gullies.

Last edited by Seattle Forrest; 03-22-19 at 11:19 AM.
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Old 03-26-19, 10:48 AM
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Saw on Twitter today that WSDOT has moved the closure back up to Milepost 134 - there must still be lots of snow up there. They also suggested to bookmark the following: https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/travel/high...s-highway/home for updates.
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Old 03-26-19, 07:40 PM
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This dropped into my email box today:

Washington State Department of Transportation NEWS Northwest Region – 15700 Dayton Ave. N. – Shoreline, WA 98133 – 206-440-4000

North Central Region – 2830 Euclid Avenue, Wenatchee, WA 98801-5916 - 509-667-3000

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 26, 2019



Contacts: fedorif@wsdot.wa.gov, communications, 206-440-4690

Jeff Adamson, communications, 509-667-2815

North Cascades Highway spring clearing has begun

Lower snowpack, favorable weather could speed this year’s SR 20 opening

DIABLO – Forget about that groundhog. A sure sign of spring in the Pacific Northwest is the announcement that the clearing of 37 miles of State Route 20 connecting the Skagit and Methow valleys began yesterday, Monday, March 25.

Washington State Department of Transportation’s west side maintenance crew began https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes/northcascades]clearing the scenic highway[/url] from Colonial Creek to the Ross Lake Overlook at Diablo Gate on Monday. From the east side, crews cleared from Early Winters up 7 miles to Silver Star Gate – and kept going. By mid-morning Tuesday, March 26, crews cleared one lane for an additional 7 miles to Lone Fir (campground).

The barricades will remain in place at Early Winters because crews will need to remove some trees that pose a danger to travelers before it’s safe to allow people beyond the gate.

The crews expect to meet between Rainy and Washington passes within four to six weeks. The work can take longer if there is late spring snow or move more quickly if warmer temperatures accelerate snowmelt.

Once crews clear the snow, they will make necessary repairs to the highway, including guardrails, signs, stripes and pavement patches. Only then can the gates open to travelers. The reopening will provide:During an assessment trip on Monday, March 18, WSDOT avalanche and maintenance staff found 6 feet of snow at Rainy and Washington passes; that’s 4 feet less than last year.

Public access between the closure gates is allowed during the winter months but during the Monday through Thursday clearing process, that space is a legal work zone closed to the public due to the heavy equipment used in the clearing.

In spring 2018, crews needed seven weeks to http://www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157693009046381]clear the highway[/url]. Clearing started on March 26, and the highway reopened on May 11. The https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/Passes/NorthCascades/closurehistory.htm]latest opening[/url] was in 1974 when the highway reopened on June 14. During the winter of 1976 to 1977, there wasn’t enough snow to ever close the highway.

Follow the 2019 reopening effort on the http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/travel/highways-bridges/passes/north-cascades-highway/home]North Cascades Highway webpage,[/url] on the https://www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/albums/72157693009046381]WSDOT Flickr[/url] account or through the https://twitter.com/wsdot_north]WSDOT North[/url] andhttps://twitter.com/WSDOT_East]WSDOT East[/url] Twitter pages.

Hyperlinks within the release:###

WSDOT keeps people, businesses and the economy moving by operating and improving the state's transportation systems. To learn more about what we're doing, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/news for pictures, videos, news and blogs. Real time traffic information is available atwsdot.com/traffic or by dialing 511.
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Old 03-26-19, 09:12 PM
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That is seriously good news!
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Old 04-05-19, 10:37 AM
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Looks like they've cleared to MP 150 as of yesterday! https://www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/...7706072425041/

Next weekend or the one after look to be the times to go to maximize mileage...
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Old 04-07-19, 09:58 PM
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So I parked at Goddard Campground at mile post 119, about a half mile before Newhalem. It was an uneventful ride to the road closed gate at mile post 135.

Mile post 135 by Richard Mozzarella, on Flickr

Behind the gate is this sign:

Closed to cars & pedestrians during working hours. by Richard Mozzarella, on Flickr
It's a good thing that Sundays aren't working hours.

At mile post 150 you will find this thing. It eats bicycles.

Mile post 150 by Richard Mozzarella, on Flickr

From then on the road is not bare & dry. It is a single lane right over the yellow center line with broken patches of ice about an inch or so thick.

At mile post 151 the snow is about 18 inches deep where snow clearing operations stopped.

Mile post 151 wide angle by Richard Mozzarella, on Flickr

So I thought I would grab a picture.

Mile marker 151 Washington Hwy 20 by Richard Mozzarella, on Flickr
You will notice my coat on the handlebars. I brought it for the descent. It was a good thing because it was pretty chilly even with the coat coasting miles & miles at 30+ mph.

If you do decide to ride the metric century with 5400 feet elevation gain up to the snow, don't be like me & forget to put a Clif bar in your coat pocket. It sure is a long way to be hungry.

Last edited by base2; 04-07-19 at 10:29 PM.
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Old 04-08-19, 08:06 AM
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Nice pictures and thanks for the update on conditions! Thinking of doing this soon on a weekday when it warms up again.
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Old 04-09-19, 12:40 PM
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Yeah, great pictures! Looks like a fun time. I'm optimistic and have scheduled Friday off work to head up there!

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Old 04-15-19, 04:12 PM
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I returned once again on Friday to ride the North Cascades Highway car free. Usually, this is the time of year that the miles in my legs is increasing with the daylight and sunshine; however, this year’s late winter and spring have been spent on house renovation and moving projects. Prior to the ride, I had been hoping that the hours put in working on the house would translate to some kind of benefit as far as endurance goes, as I haven’t touched the bike in weeks.




The week before the ride, the weather had been snowy, and I could see the snowline above at the start of the road closure.

One of the aspects of riding that I enjoy the most is getting into the rhythm and flow of the ride, which stopping to take photos or even taking them from the saddle seems to interrupt for me.

The ride was also made slightly less enjoyable this year by the WSDOT workers who hassled me to turn around on several occasions, though I did feel as though their admonitions against proceeding somehow entered me into some kind of Campbellian mythical realm. The WSDOT site had said that Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays were non work days and that folks could use the road for recreation at their own risk. WSDOT needs to get their workers and webbies on the same page on this matter. At any rate, the further up the road I headed, the less of them there were.

I did take a few pictures from my turn around point at around mile post 153 where it looked like recent snowfall had filled the tracks. The turn around point came just as I was contemplating how much further I could or should continue given my lack of recent riding. Despite this lack of training, I was purposely not holding back because I was just enjoying going at the limit of what my legs would allow for the grade ahead.




So I turned around and was immediately hit by a cold rain/sleet mix which added with the velocity of winding out my biggest gear descending made me quite cold, but only on the outside. I was glad that I had dressed in almost full winter gear. A couple of miles into the descent, I flatted at the rear wheel, pulled over to the side and tried to keep the process of changing the tube as quick as possible to avoid getting cold. The change actually went really easily, as I was able to spy the piece of flint that had entered the tire casing from the outside and then confirm it with the hiss of air from the hand pump.

I got hassled by WSDOT a couple more times on the way down, but just breezed past them down hill, and the further I descended, the warmer it got.

Just got word via Twitter that they're reopening the highway this Thursday, so it appears this was the last weekend to go car free.
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Old 04-15-19, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by imakecircles View Post





Just got word via Twitter that they're reopening the highway this Thursday, so it appears this was the last weekend to go car free.
Cool pictures.
Much the same in the turn around contemplation department..."How long does this go for? Oh well, I've come all this way, maybe just a bit further. Oh look! A thing!" Followed by: "It keeps going?"

The Twitter news is sad indeed, but at least we both managed to get a good ride in before the inevitable.

The bright side is now 3 day weekend trips to Mazama and point east will soon be possible.
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Old 04-24-19, 10:32 AM
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Just heard there's only 3 feet of snow at Washington Pass.
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Old 05-06-19, 11:45 AM
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