MAZAMA – Work to clear the North Cascades Highway is going swiftly because of low snowpack.
Crews began clearing the state’s northernmost route through the Cascade Mountains on March 26. By Friday, April 5, the east side crew had cleared through Cutthroat Ridge to the Liberty Bell avalanche chutes.
On the west side, crews had cleared past the Granite Creek bridge. That put the crews less than 15 miles apart.
Above the gates on the west side, the crew worked through almost two feet of snow on the pavement to clear shoulder to shoulder for about seven miles with the centerline cut almost to the Easy Pass trailhead.
“You never know what you’ll find in the snow – this week, (a crew member) found a broken-down snowmobile that was left on the highway,” said a state Department of Transportation announcement. “He carefully removed the snow from around it and moved the snowmobile to a safe place on the shoulder.”
The eastside crew made it to the largest slide chutes – Liberty Bell 1, 2 and 3 - just short of the summit of Washington Pass. It also continued to address danger trees and boulders encountered during clearing work.
Closure gates will remain in place until the reopening work is complete. The highway behind the gates will remain closed Monday through Thursday while crews are actively working; snowmobilers, skiers, snowshoers and bicyclists can use the highway from Friday through Sunday.
Officials urge people to check avalanche conditions before going in.
No opening date has been set.