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April 14, 2010
The Plateau Mountain Road is open to the "normal" closure gate. According to the staff at the Highwood House, it has been open "for a while now" and will remain open "till the end of the summer". Note that we saw a grizzly sow and her cub in meadows along side of the road about 600 m before the closure gate. The road doesn't look like it suffered much from the floods. However, Spray Lakes has been cutting alongside the first 500 m, so that could be why it was closed so long. Note, too, that all the wells in the Savanna Creek gas field are shut in, capped and disconnected from their pipelines.
We tried to bike up the road above the gate but we're lousy mountain bikers, so pushed out bikes ~80% of the way, taking 1:15 to get to the top (in contrast to the 25 min it took for us to ride down). That road section had 2 major washouts from the 2013 floods which are now repaired but with large cobble rock so make for awful riding (fortunately, very short sections).
At the top, we followed the road (#70A, Vol 5, 4th Edition) to the 6-32 wellsite. There is no longer an obvious trail running to the communications tower (that's what happens when no one has been up here but overly friendly sheep who licked road dust and salt off my bike).
The road heading north (#70B) at the top is so grassed over it's actually easy to miss (we missed it on the way up). We built a small cairn to help locate it. Once on it, it is hard to miss, but finding it is not so much. Riding it isn't fun; lots of loose gravel to sink into. But going north is fast (see below)
Once at the north end we tried and failed to find the Ice Cave entrance. We got out to the northeast outlier, and thought we were at the correct dip, though found no white rocks (and a lot of spruce trees including solitary ones). We saw no footprints on our descent though orange shale. We found no gully; the whole thing is a gully. We swung around a rock band and traversed underneath it; we found no second rock band. We descended a total of 85 m before giving up as the grade was steepening severely. Perhaps a photo from the top of Plateau across the valley would help locate it.
The total shock to us was that once you're made it to the elevation of the ice cave, you are at the exact same elevation as the gate on the road where you started (just on the opposite side of the mountain). I didn't believe my GPS but I traced contours on my maps and yes, coming back, you get to climb the mountain all over again. So another 1:20 pushing bikes up hill (no wonder getting there was so fast) to get that 25 min ride down.
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