Posts tagged: North Cascades
WINTER SPORTS — Massive avalanches have been triggered at Crystal Mountain Resort near Mount Rainier as ski patrollers try to mitigate the huge unstable snowpack and make the area safe. The slides are damaging facilities at the mountain.
OUTDOOR TRAVEL — After finding a 12-foot deep avalanche along a 150-foot stretch of highway below Liberty Bell Mountain this morning, the state Department of Transportation has decided to keep the North Cascades Highway closed for the winter, according to the Associated Press.
The state temporarily closed the mountain pass between Mazama and Newhalem on Sunday afternoon due to heavy snow and high winds. Road crews went back to assess whether the road could be safely reopened today, and determined it could not, said DOT spokesman Jeff Adamson.
He said other avalanche chutes along the highway were filled with snow and unstable.
The highway closes every winter due to avalanche danger. Most years, the highway closes sometime in November, although it remained open into early December several years in its 40-year history. Last year, it closed for the season on Nov. 19.
This year the highway — a gateway to North Cascades National Park — reopened April 16, weeks earlier than last year because of a thinner snow pack.
HIKING — Watch the sky if your heading for camping or hiking in the North Cascades near Leavenworth. The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning with a forecast for storms and heavy rain today.
OUTDOORS ACCESS — The Washington Department of Transportation says the North Cascades Highway is reopening at 10 a.m. this morning.
It was closed last week by severe mudslides near Rainy Pass.
Several businesses along the scenic route winding its way through the North Cascades National Park reported slower business as a result of the closure last week. Road workers using heavy equipment worked last week to remove about 30,000 cubic feet of rocks and trees in the roadway moved by mountain slides caused by heavy rain.
During the height of tourist season, generally falling in August and September, roughly 2,000 vehicles travel along the highway daily.
NATIONAL PARKS — While more than 30 million visitors flock to America’s 10 most popular national parks, Country magazine took the road less traveled to visit the “Hidden Gems” for a special photo section in the June-July issue on what the editors call “the 10 most beautiful, least crowded parks in the national park system.
North Cascades National Park in northcentral Washington is on the list.
Despite the breathtaking alpine terrain, Washington’s North Cascades National Park remains virtually deserted compared with America’s marquee national parks. Why?
Location plays a part. The park’s most famous feature, Mount Shuksan, isn’t its most impressive peak; it’s just the most impressive peak visible from Mount Baker Highway. Countless mountains of equal caliber remain unknown except among hikers and climbers willing to blaze their own trails.
Precipitation matters, too. Heavy snow mantles the higher elevations in radiant white, while rains nourish the dense forest that cloaks the lower slopes, making them impenetrable to the hesitant hiker.
Other parks on the list include:
PARKS — Suddenly it seems as though summer will happen.
Washington's North Cascades Highway, a gateway to North Cascades National Park, opened Tuesday, weeks earlier than last year because of a thinner snow pack. The route gives easier East-West access across the northern region of the state.
The April 16 opening compares with the May 10 opening in 2012, when the photo with this post was snapped near Liberty Bell.
Washington Department of Transportation crews began the process of clearing State Route 20, the North Cascades Highway, on March 25, a day earlier than last year. On average, it takes four to six weeks for crews to clear the highway, but this year they accomplished it in three weeks. Crews cleared snow as deep as 35 feet over the roadway; last year, it was double the amount.
The highway was closed Nov. 20, 2012, from milepost 134, seven miles east of Diablo Dam on the west side of Rainy Pass, to milepost 171, nine miles west of Mazama.
For more information, including a history of opening and closing dates, maps, photos and progress reports on the 2013 opening, visit the North Cascades web page.
CLIMBING — Northwest climber/photographer Alan Kearney has an ongoing project to photograph Cascades glaciers from the same spot he photographed them on climbing trips decades ago.
As you might expect, having read anything about climate change in the past few decades, the glaciers show considerable shrinkage. See one of his stories and photo comparisons here.
Also check out his blog for other stories and photos.
WINTER SPORTS — Be careful out there winter snow goers. The warm front with heavy wet snow is creating high avalanche danger in the region's mountains, as you'll see in this National Weather Service warning for the North Cascades issued Wednesday evening.
The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center posts its weekly advisories on Fridays.
WINTER SPORTS — Stevens Pass ski area is celebrating its 75th Anniversary by being the first to open in Washington for the 2012/13 season. With more than 24 inches of snow in the past 24 hours, resort officials say the lifts will open at noon on TUESDAY (Nov. 20)!
Stevens Pass operating hours will be noon to 4 p.m. tomorrow and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets will be $20 for guests on opening day and free for visitors who show their season pass from any other Washington resort.
Up to three lifts will be available accessing an assortment of beginner to intermediate terrain and the resort will start with a 28 to 31 inch base. Terrain park staff is working hard as well and expects to have several terrain features in place by tomorrow with up to 10 features by Wednesday.
Resort amenities will be limited but by Wednesday Stevens Pass expects to have lessons, rentals, retail, and expanded food & beverage facilities operating. Tickets will then be offered at the discounted rate of $39 through the weekend.
PUBLIC LANDS — North Cascades National Park is the second-least visited of the 58 major national parks in the United States, according to Ranger Charles Beall, acting superintendent for the park. Only Isle Royale, an island in Lake Superior, draws fewer visitors per year, he said.
In 2011, North Cascades National Park had 19,208 visitors, according to National Park statistics. The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, one of the most visited parks, had more than 15 million. Olympic National Park had nearly 3 million.
Supporters of the American Alps Legacy project want to would enlarge North Cascades Park by roughly one-third, adding 237,702 acres to the total.
They say it would add more protection and stature to the park on both sides of U.S. Highway 2.
But many people are skeptical, noting that there's little money in the federal budget for developing the park, it could restrict hunting and even hiking with dogs.
WILDLIFE RESEARCH — After six years of effort, Methow Valley-based researchers have documented that wolverines have produced kits this spring in the North Cascades south of Highway 20.
A remote camera had photographed a GPD-collared female carrying a kit from one den to another. That's an exciting development for the Forest Service researchers.
Read the Wenatchee World story.
OUTDOOR TRAVEL — The Washington Transportation Department reopened the North Cascades Highway at noon today after seven weeks of blowing and bulldozing snow and avalanche debris off the roadway.
Bicyclists have been riding open portions of the route for weeks.
The highway closed for the winter in November along a 37-mile stretch between Diablo Dam and Mazama.
The northernmost route through the North Cascades includes the 4,855-foot Rainy Pass and 5,477-foot-Washington Pass in North Cascades National Park, where recreationists are likely to flock for spring snowshoeing and skiing.
Last year the highway reopened on May 25.
MOUNTAIN PASSES — Crews are working on Highway 20 to clear the North Cascades Highway — the great recreational road between Mazama and Marblemount, through North Cascades National Park.
Snow removal began March 26, with crews working on both the east and west sides of Washington Pass.
CONSERVATION — The Irate Birdwatcher, a film celebrating the witty words of the late Washington conservationist, wilderness advocate and hiking guidebook author Harvey Manning, is coming to Spokane on Monday evening (Jan. 23).
A $3 donation is requested to benefit Spokane Mountaineers Foundation.
The film reminds us that wilderness, such as that found in the North Cascades, needed thoughtful committed advocates to remain wild and undeveloped. The words are beautifully illustrated with mountain and wildlife video photographed by Robert Chrestensen and others.
WILDLIFE — While some photographs snapped in the region marked wildlfie milestones in 2011, some were simply one of a kind.
Click “Continue reading” at the bottom of this post to see a sampling of photos to get a sense for what I mean. Click on photos for captions.
A helicopter's speedy pursuit and net capture of pronghorns in Nevada for transport and REINTRODUCTION IN WASHINGTON was captured on amateur video last winter and posted on YouTube. If you think helicopter net gunning is child's play, you need to watch this.
See video above and then click here for one video showing the intensity of the helicoptering skills required. Listen for the two shots as the gutsy gunner — tethered by a cable out the door of the rocking ship — fires nets down on the speeing pronghorns. The video above shows the netting done closer to the camera in the final frames.
Un January 2011, I ran a package of stories detailing the reintroduction of these unique critters to Washington.
The footage was shot by volunteers in Nevada during the roundup of 100 pronghorns destined for the Jan. 15-16 re-introduction on the Yakama Indian Reservation in central Washington.
After the animals were netted, the volunteers raced out to untangle them and secure them so they wouldn't injure themselves before transport. The project was funded by Safari Club International.
MOUNTAINS — Climbers, and everyone else, can enjoy an eagle-eye view of Glacier Peak west of Lake Chelan in a series of photos shot by John Scurlock, a Bellingham firefighter/paramedic who built his own sport plane and uses it to capture interesting aerial scenic photos.
Scurlock has developed an incredible photo gallery website where he has a large inventory of aerial views detailing winter routes and faces on North Cascades peaks and more.
Last week, Scurlock and Steph Abegg photographed Glacier Peak and Mount Stuart, two prized wilderness destinations for the region's mountaineers.
When you go to his website, be sure to click on “view map,” which locates the mountains and allows you to click a bubble and see the photo.
This photograph of upper Glacier peak looks to the south/southeast.
Here's an interesting view of blowing snow back-lit by the setting sun, taken just as they turned the plane toward home in a steady 40-50 mph wind out of the north at altitude, “a typical clear-weather winter pattern in my experience” Scurlock said.
(Click 'original' below the images to see the largest uploaded sizes.)
MOUNTAIN PASSES — The North Cascades Highway closed in the past hour (Tuesday evening) as Washington highway crews prepare for storms and heavy snow storms in the coming days.
State Department of Transportation officials say they will reassess road conditions, avalanche danger and weather forecasts on Monday to determine whether the Highway 20 pass can be reopened.
The highway betwen Winthrop west to Marblemount closed for the winter on Dec. 1 last year
The National Weather Service predicts up to 22 inches of snow by Thursday morning with more snow to come during the weekend.
It's time to start keeping an eye on the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association cross-country ski trail grooming situation.
Three to five inches of snow have been falling daily since Friday at the higher elevations of the highway near Washington Pass.
Farther south in the Cascades, Chinook and Cayuse passes — mountain gateways to Mount Rainier — already have closed for the season.
HIKING — Wear gaitors for hiking in the high country; sunglasses too. The snow and the autumn colors are dazzling.
West Side hiker Rick Rocheleau said he had a fantastic hike Sunday to see the larches near Rainy Pass on the North Cascades Highway. (See his photo above).
“Perfect weather, spectacular scenery, great company.”
HIKING — The alpine larch are putting on their annual autumn show of golden brilliance in the region's high country, from the North Cascades across the high Selkirks and Purcell Mountains of British Columbia.
The Alpine Lakes Wilderness has reputation for a sensational larch display, but local backpacker Tanner Grant just got back from a spectacle in the North Cascades where no special permits are required.
“We do a trip every year in search of golden alpine larch,” he said. “This year we went to Sunrise Lake high above the Methow River and it was spectacular.”
The snow was patchy around 6,300 feet and consistent above 7,000, he said, noting the hike to Sunrise is 13.5 miles round trip with a serious 3,700 feet of elevation gain
Larch feature branches with needles that look somewhat like those on fir trees except that they turn color and fall off in fall like the leaves of deciduous trees.
The western larch of the lower forests such as the Pend Oreille Valley and even Lookout Pass, are still about two weeks from prime time for yellow color displays.
But Grant says the alpine larch displays at higher elevations are likely to peak around this week.
Other favorite North Cascades spots on Grant's apline larch fall colors list include Cooney Lake, Eagle Lakes, Crater Lakes, Cutthroat Pass, Maple Pass, and Blue Lake for starters.
“Always check the forecast this time of year and plan for winter conditions,” he advised. “Any precipitation will fall as snow.”
Click here to see more of Grant's photos from his recent larch extravaganza.