MOUNT RAINIER – Early last week, Washington State Department of Transportation maintenance crews revved up more than 26 tons of heavy duty machinery and began their annual quest to open Cayuse Pass by Memorial Day weekend.
The clearing process is no simple task. It can take up to as six weeks to make the trek up to State Route 123 Cayuse Pass. Crews will face snow and debris up to 12 feet deep as they climb to the 4,675-foot-high summit. After clearing Cayuse Pass, maintenance crews from Greenwater will clear SR 123 from the summit down to the Lewis County line.
SR 410 Chinook Pass
Crews from the east side of the state will begin clearing SR 410 Chinook Pass in mid-April. This process happens a few weeks later than Cayuse due to Chinook’s increased snowfall from its higher elevation of 5,430 feet.
Every year, WSDOT closes Cayuse and Chinook passes due to high avalanche risk and hazardous conditions. Numerous slide areas on both passes pose significant danger to WSDOT maintenance crews, Mount Rainier National Park staff and backcountry adventure seekers.