Up on the 5 Mile!

Yesterday was one of those rare perfect days on Mt Washington-no wind, clear skies and comfortable temperatures.  While the lower portion of the road is cleared down to pavement at about the 3 mile mark we were driving through snow and slush with chains on the tires it was still rough going.

Most of the crew was up at 5 Mile hard at work pushing snow and melting ice, while John was blading the edges just below halfway to locate the ditches. If these ditches aren’t cleared the road will suffer severe damage as the snow melts. As we climbed past John above treeline the views to the north were amazing. The Northern Presidentials were spectacular and still had plenty of snow. We parked the van on the S turns just before the 5 mile and walked up to the work zone. The road remains mostly snow covered for traction but just below there is a layer of ice about 5 inches thick!  Nat was working on locating the culverts and Chris U was 1/4 mile above running the Snowcat. I climbed up off the road for a birds eye view of this process. As I watched Chris manuever the Snowcat with precision and concentration I took a moment and looked beyond into the mountains and valleys before me and thought of how lucky I am to live and work in such a peaceful environment.

Heading back down the 5 mile Chris V and Nat found one of the more then 100 culverts along the 7.5 mile road.

They start by pushing the snow away with the backhoe and then check to see if its frozen with ice, most cases it is. That’s when the ice drill is needed. The ice drill is operated by high pressure and hot water. Purchased new from the manufacturer we then take it and redesign it to meet our needs high up on the mountain. Hoses, water barrels, rods and harnesses. Two water tanks sit in the rear of the truck and are rarely used. A few gallons of water from the tanks are used to start the process, and is forced into the frozen culvert. A 5 gallon bucket catches the slowly melted water and with a hose it is pulled back through the heater and reused to melt the ice. The pressure hose is equipped with extending rods so as the ice recedes farther into the culvert under the road the drill can maintain is closeness to the ice. Once steam starts rising from the other end of the 15 foot culvert the process is complete. If all goes well, from locating the culvert to seeing the steam rise takes approx 2 hours.  The process can take longer if the hose gets stuck, if the ice collapses, or if the water is too sandy to be reused. With over 100 culverts finding one clear of ice is cause for celebration.

This morning brought hail, thunder, and lightining so the crew will be back to work tomorrow.

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  • Doug Woodward

    Hi – really interesting blogs. We are looking forward to visiting from Australia this May.

    Doug Woodward.