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Photos: Red Mountain Pass closure to continue through weekend, maybe longer

Photos: Red Mountain Pass closure to continue through weekend, maybe longer
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation/Dan Bender, La Plata County Sheriff's Office

Earlier this week, we shared photos and videos of the efforts to reopen U.S. Highway 550 over Red Mountain Pass after a rock slab the size of a football field tumbled from a nearby cliff; see our previous coverage below. It's been nearly two weeks since the closure was put in place, and the Colorado Department of Transportation reveals that it'll remain off-limits at least through the weekend, and perhaps longer. Here are the latest details, including new photos.

According to CDOT, personnel made progress yesterday scaling more loose rock from an entire field of the stuff and drilling rock anchors to hold netting in place that's intended to restrain more stones from falling.

As we noted in our previous coverage, at least 46 nets are expected to be installed, with helicopters used to hoist them and workers on the cliffs to secure them in place. Not only will crew members be located high above the roadway, but they're have to do their jobs at severe angles, convincing us that whatever they're paid, it's not nearly enough.

No date for the closure's end has been announced, but CDOT staffers expect the work to continue through the weekend.

Here are the most recent pics from the scene, featuring CDOT captions. They're followed by our earlier report.

"A helicopter from Silverton Mountain drops safety provisions and supplies to crews on the mountain."
"A helicopter from Silverton Mountain drops safety provisions and supplies to crews on the mountain."
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation/Dan Bender, La Plata County Sheriff's Office
"Silverton Mtn. helicopter is helping transport rockfall netting to the site; weather dependent, the netting work could begin Thursday; please watch for an update to be sent to local communities and media statewide later this evening."
"Silverton Mtn. helicopter is helping transport rockfall netting to the site; weather dependent, the netting work could begin Thursday; please watch for an update to be sent to local communities and media statewide later this evening."
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation/Dan Bender, La Plata County Sheriff's Office
"Red denotes areas where netting is expected to be placed; yellow indicates other areas that are likely to require scaling."
"Red denotes areas where netting is expected to be placed; yellow indicates other areas that are likely to require scaling."
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation/Dan Bender, La Plata County Sheriff's Office

Continue to see our previous coverage of efforts to reopen Red Mountain Pass, including additional photos and videos.  

Photos: Red Mountain Pass closure to continue through weekend, maybe longer
Courtesy Silverton Mountain

Original post, 8:50 a.m. January 22: Beginning on January 12 (and likely due to unseasonably warm temperatures), rocks began falling on U.S. Highway 550 south of Ouray -- and ongoing slides, or the risk of them, has kept the roadway shut down over Red Mountain Pass since then. It's one of the longest closures of the highway in recent memory, and the folks at Silverton Mountain admit that it's having a serious effect on the ski area and its home community. That's why resort personnel are assisting the Colorado Department of Transportation in an attempt to secure the hillside. Look below to see photos, videos and details about this Herculean effort.

Here's a Transportation Department photo of the area, complete with graphics showing the slide zone and the spots from which personnel are toiling to make it safe. The caption on the image below, along with the other pics shared here, features text from CDOT.

"US 550 Red Mtn. Pass MM 90 (an area known as 'Ruby Walls')."
"US 550 Red Mtn. Pass MM 90 (an area known as 'Ruby Walls')."
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation/Dan Bender, La Plata County Sheriff's Office

This photo is the earliest in CDOT's Highway 550 gallery....

"Night photo, showing rubble on roadway, 1-12-14."
"Night photo, showing rubble on roadway, 1-12-14."
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation/Dan Bender, La Plata County Sheriff's Office

...and here's the most recent, co-starring some curious onlookers:

Photos: Red Mountain Pass closure to continue through weekend, maybe longer
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation/Dan Bender, La Plata County Sheriff's Office

Accompanying this image on CDOT's Facebook page is this update from Monday:

US 550 over Red Mountain Pass remains closed and there is currently no ETA for reopening. Technical climbers helped crews rig a ropes path from the top of the slope down to the highway. Crews will continue removing loose rocks and if all goes well, a helicopter will drop netting, possibly tomorrow, and crews can begin to bring down larger boulders below the field. We got a visit today from these guys, who don't seem to care that the road is closed!

Additionally, Silverton Mountain personnel have been enlisted by CDOT to help place an estimated 46 nets over unstable portions of the hillside, on a cliff face approximately 600 feet over the roadway. A helicopter is doing much of the heavy lifting, but assisting on the ground is a crew that has to rappel off 300-foot cliffs in order to get in place.

A helicopter taking part in the mission.
A helicopter taking part in the mission.
Courtesy Silverton Mountain

The angle's estimated at 40 degrees -- and to add more difficulty, blasting work must be done at the site as well.

Continue to see more photos and two videos of the rock slide area and the efforts to get U.S. Highway 550 over Red Mountain Pass reopened.   Here are more photos of the area, presented in chronological order. The captions feature text from CDOT.

"Rockfall zone denoted on this 1-13-14 photo gives size perspective."
"Rockfall zone denoted on this 1-13-14 photo gives size perspective."
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation/Dan Bender, La Plata County Sheriff's Office
"Rocks began cascading onto road at 10 a.m., 1-15-14."
"Rocks began cascading onto road at 10 a.m., 1-15-14."
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation/Dan Bender, La Plata County Sheriff's Office
"San Miguel Power addresses downed pole, 1-15-14."
"San Miguel Power addresses downed pole, 1-15-14."
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation/Dan Bender, La Plata County Sheriff's Office
"Yenter Companies rockfall crews rappel down to rockfall site with a spotter up above, 1-16-14."
"Yenter Companies rockfall crews rappel down to rockfall site with a spotter up above, 1-16-14."
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation/Dan Bender, La Plata County Sheriff's Office

Continue to see more photos and two videos of the rock slide area and the efforts to get U.S. Highway 550 over Red Mountain Pass reopened.   See two more CDOT photos:

"Rock debris on roadway brought down by rockfall crews on 1/17/14."
"Rock debris on roadway brought down by rockfall crews on 1/17/14."
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation/Dan Bender, La Plata County Sheriff's Office
"Crews prepare a 12-foot by 72-foot rockfall mesh panel, one of 47 to be transported by helicopter to the rockfall site above US 550; arrows denote the location of the crews today, securing anchors above the debris field (or talus slope) from which to hang the top row of wire mesh."
"Crews prepare a 12-foot by 72-foot rockfall mesh panel, one of 47 to be transported by helicopter to the rockfall site above US 550; arrows denote the location of the crews today, securing anchors above the debris field (or talus slope) from which to hang the top row of wire mesh."
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation/Dan Bender, La Plata County Sheriff's Office

And here are two videos, courtesy of Silverton Mountain.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our News archive circa January 8: "Photos: Tony Seibert, Vail Mountain founder's grandson, dies in avalanche near ski area."


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