Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Trip to the Summit

First off, I don't want anyone to get too excited by mentioning a trip to the summit. We're still a couple weeks away from being able to open to the public to the summit. I was in a 4WD stage with chains, and it was...well...interesting.

The last trip I'd made up the Road was on Saturday, and I wanted to get pictures of the Crew's progress on Cragway. As I reached the 4 Mile Post, it was immediately clear that a great deal of melting had occurred since then. The surrounding peaks had lost a great deal of snow and much less ice and snow was encroaching upon the sides of the Road. However, the temperatures were much lower than they had been the prior couple days. Dramatically lower. In fact, the summit temperature was in the mid twenties at noon, after climbing from a low of 13 overnight. Due to this temperature change, the Road Crew had decided that the best course of action was to wait for temperatures to rise before taking a look at the culverts. With the sub-freezing temperatures, they were certain that they would need to free up some culverts they had already opened, but it wasn't worth trying to open them up with daytime temperatures at the base hovering in the forties.

With the Road Crew working on projects at the base, I knew I wouldn't be getting any photos of them in action. But, I knew that they had broken through all the snow drifts not only on Cragway but also on the 6 Mile and 7 Mile. I was anxious to get some photos and report on the road conditions. All the snow is gone from the road surface on the 5 Mile. But, that section is very muddy and the water bars are deep. Therefore, it's not exactly a speedy trip, but the Road is holding up very well. Once around Cragway turn, I was amazed at how fast it has melted. Granted, it's still quite tall. The Crew worked straight through the weekend, and I wouldn't be surprised if they noticed a difference in the size of the drift every hour. So, unfortunately, no epic pictures of Cragway this year, but it's still fairly impressive. And, just like the 5 Mile, Cragway is quite muddy. After stopping for the requisite photos, I kept heading up through the 6 Mile. The newer pavement along the 6 Mile was welcome as driving through muddy water bars really slows things down. Of course, a drive on the Road at this time of year is never easy. With temperatures hovering at freezing, the ice on the 6 and 7 Mile was thick and deep in pockets. Traveling upbound with chains was a bit testing, but I really wanted to get images of the entire length of the Road. Plus, there aren't a lot of place to turn around. By contrast, I reached the summit, and it was completely bare. It's obvious that the winds just don't like snow to stay on the summit. I snapped a photo of the top and headed down.

The trip down was a different story. Driving down over the glacial ice was difficult. Not only is the Road narrowed by the ice on the sides, but with the cold temperatures the ice on the Road was solid. Really solid. I took it very slow, and thankfully, I don't have a hair-raising adventure story to recount. Plus, I don't think I could have lived with the embarrassment of having to call the Road Crew to come rescue me. Needless to say, it's clear that we still have a long way to go to get open to the summit.

Here are all the photos from Wednesday.

Speaking of opening, please stay tuned right here to our blog for all the updates. Per usual, we're going to try to get open to above treeline as soon as we can. Still a lot of work to do below treeline to remove sand and debris from the Road. It's a great trip to that point, and we hope you can join us soon.

- Ryan

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