Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Going Where You Can't, Part 2

NEWS FLASH: As of September 4th, Highway 40 will re-open from the winter closure gate to the Lost Lemon Lookout which is just north of Storm Creek, mentioned below. And it appears they are ALLOWING cycle and foot traffic past this point.

Back in this post, I described how I occasionally have the opportunity through my volunteer work to go places the Public is not allowed. Today, it took me south of the winter closure gate on Highway 40 through Peter Lougheed Provincial Park down to the Mist Creek area. Sadly, there was virtually no hiking involved, so I cannot report on the trails.

No, this post will explain to you why you're not getting too far down that road any time soon. Pull out your GemTrek maps and play "follow the bouncing UTM".

There's lots of signs at the closure gate saying you can't go in, and it's a $257 fine per person if you do.
Not cars. Not pedestrians. Not bicycles.
So imagine our surprise when about 3.2 km past the gate at Grid Reference 344168, we found a group of 15 or so hikers on the shoulder. At first we thought it was a research team, but no. We asked what they were doing there. "Climbing a mountain," they replied. Then they pointed to Mt. Wintour and asked: "Is that Ha Ling Peak?". Um, no. We noted that Ha Ling is about 60 km north as the car drives. They had apparently started in Canmore and missed the Ha Ling trailhead. They made it down 742 to the Pocaterra Day Use area and had headed up the Pocaterra trail -- then came up to the highway to avoid a bear they had seen. Perhaps unsurprisingly, all they had collectively was one day pack, one visible bottle of water and a pole with a hunting knife duct-taped to it "for protection from bears".

We sent them back the way they came, and to William Watson Lodge for directions.

Back to the road conditions:

There is evidence that at least 3 slides came down between Elbow Pass Day Use and the Highwood Pass. Water is running across the road in 2 places. The road has been cleared of debris from these slides, mostly. 
Note the water on the road. GR 380120
Blurry but you get the point. GR 403100
Some, like the one above at GR 403100, have no shoulder, no ditch and still have some stuff on or blocking part of the road. 

The Highwood Pass parking area itself is fine, as are Little Highwood Pass and Elbow Pass parking lots. The word I'm hearing (unofficial and all) is that there's a possibility Highway 40 could open to the Highwood Pass/Ptarmigan Cirque "soon", and probably 3 days worth of backhoe and dump truck work could make that happen.

South of the Highwood Pass is a different story.

Problem 1: The creek coming out of Arethusa Cirque (GR 432060) is occupying a part of the road and there's water running on the road.
Looking south 
Looking north
Problem #2: Storm Creek became "Storm Raging Torrent" during the flood and took out half the road at GR451030
Looking South. Blurry, but... 
Not blurry. Looking north. 
Looking south again
Down by GR 450010, there's some debris on the road, though not major. Storm Creek looks like it went amok on both sides of the highway for 2 km or so.

Then the fun really begins. Problem #3: Running Rain Creek merged with Storm Creek and ate away 90% of the road at GR 471988.
That's gonna take some time to fix
The pavement's down there if you need it 
Looking north
It's JUST possible to sneak a truck by this without rolling in the ditch.
Just. Barely.
And finally, Problem #5: The unnamed little creek just east of the Mt. Lipsett trail head (GR 495989) has the road totally blocked with debris. The creek is flowing across the road.
The end of the road for traffic. Nameless Ridge in the background 
The creek. Yes, that's algae on the road. 
Catch the visible culverts
We could not drive past this point, but rather, rode the road on bikes. We didn't go much further than Mist Creek, which didn't bust the road, but did do a number on the culvert.
We also passed a spot just off both GemTrek maps around GR 450020 where a creek took out a picnic area.
Ah, good. No camping here.
That's just the 5 major problems. There are lots of other places where debris hit the road in smaller quantities, but paths have been ploughed through.
Only half the road buried here.
We have a work area around the Picklejar area that is inaccessible even to us. We did not get to it because somewhere south of Mist Creek Recreation Area, the road's missing with major rivers running through it (looking at a map but not having seen it, I'm guessing both Picklejar Creek and Lantern Creek ate the road).

So I'll lay money that they'll open the road to the Highwood Pass -- and only the Highwood Pass -- this summer. But that's just an educated guess on my part.

Here's a hint, however: Ha Ling is up by Canmore. You don't need Highway 40 to access it.


H-woman said...

Oh. My. God. Seriously?! Some people....*shakes head*

Thanks for sharing this--I don't think people realize how much damage still exists. And it's going to take time to fix it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the update. I guess that means Ptarmigan Cirque is out for this year then. I thought things must still be bad after viewing the "twin waterfalls along the road" videos of the flood back in June.

RyderDA said...

Update as of August 29: I was down past the gate a little ways today. The info I'm hearing is that Volker Stevin has almost finished repairing the damage done by Storm Creek, and has started working on Running Rain Creek's damage. No word as to when it will open to the Highwood Pass.