There’s good news for drivers of Washington’s northern-most Cascade mountain pass – crews are beginning efforts to reopen the North Cascades Highway.
Work from the west started Thursday, March 17; east side work begins Monday, March 21. Based on the start date and conditions, crews are optimistic that State Route 20 could be open in six weeks. Progress on the annual reopening effort remains weather dependent.
On Thursday, the total snow at the Washington Pass summit was 120 inches, or 10 feet, deep.
The North Cascades have had a more “normal” snowpack than last year. However, in some spots debris on the road is deeper than seen in years. In addition, the usual spring avalanche cycle has not yet taken place. When that snow does slide, it can affect the clearing effort, especially below Liberty Bell Mountain where the avalanche chute starting zones are at 7,000 feet (2,000 feet above the roadway).
Photo: Wash. DOT photo taken March 17, 2016. Tom Forker, a commenter on Facebook says, "The snowcat is approaching the hairpin. The low pass in the right background leads to the Twisp River drainage. I have heard it referred to as Kangaroo Pass. The ridge to the left is the Kangaroo Ridge. The camera's vantage seems to be the last pullout from the uphill lane before Washington Pass."