You may be interested to know that we found a path or sorts right from North Creek Pass (rather than the one you describe). Like you, we lost it in the snowdrifts. Also, what is the significance of parking at 8,500 feet? I don't remember the road being rough all the way to the pass. Has this changed?
No, the road is in good condition. I started there only because I wanted to climb the mountain from the bottom, not drive halfway up.