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

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.

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

This photo is the earliest in CDOT's Highway 550 gallery.... ...and here's the most recent, co-starring some curious onlookers: 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. 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.

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: 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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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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