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20-foot walls of snow block some Sierra roads

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20-foot walls of snow block some Sierra roads

Postby copeg » Wed May 24, 2006 6:53 am

20-foot walls of snow block some Sierra roads
- Tom Stienstra
Sunday, May 21, 2006

Road crews are punching holes through walls of snow as high as 20 feet on the crest of the Sierra Nevada in the mission to open trans-Sierra highways for Memorial Day weekend.

Chances are good that Highway 108 at Sonora Pass will open by Friday, according to Caltrans, with decent prospects that Highway 4 will open through Ebbetts Pass.

"We're pretty encouraged about Sonora Pass by the weekend," said Troy Bowers of Caltrans. "Ebbetts Pass has some challenges yet. We're not sure yet we'll have it open. I was up there and there's still a lot of snow, especially from the 8,000-foot level and up. Banks can be 20 feet high. It's an awesome sight."

In Yosemite National Park, snow-clearing crews reached Glacier Point on Thursday and are removing boulders and small trees, filling potholes and clearing parking lots. The park service hopes to open the road to this spectacular lookout by mid-week, well in time for the holiday weekend.

Several other roads have no chance of opening by Memorial Day.

In the Yosemite high country, crews have cleared 23 miles from Crane Flat toward Tioga Pass on Highway 120. That's halfway to the crest. According to Calvin Liu in Yosemite, trees buried in eight feet of snow have occasionally slowed progress.

In addition, Highway 140 into the park remains closed east of Mariposa because of multiple rock slides. Barring any new slides, the road is scheduled to be reopened before Friday.

At Lassen Volcanic National Park, the Main Park Road/Highway 89 is still buried deep for miles. The road will not be opened until mid-July, according to one park staff projection.

"That's a possibility," said Karen Haner at the park. "They won't even get to the Bumpass Hell parking lot until June."

As of Friday, the snow depth near Lake Helen below the Lassen Peak trailhead was still 16 feet, despite 2 1/2 feet of snow melting off in the past two weeks from high temperatures in the mid-70s.

Watching the snow-clearing operations in the high country is an awesome spectacle. Snow-throwers resembling giant rototillers propel snow through a chute high over a road-side berm, leaving a vertical snow wall along the roadway. After several miles of this, a highway resembles a luge run.

....


E-mail Tom Stienstra at tstienstra@sfchronicle.com.

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URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f ... IVF071.DTL



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Postby SteveB » Wed May 24, 2006 11:57 am

Ah! I was just wondering about Ebbett's Pass and Sonora Pass! CalTrans still has them closed, and I'm dying to get away this weekend! :) I drove out towards Blue Lakes (south of Tahoe), but the road is still closed at the second gate, unfortunately. I can't wait to get back out into the Mokelumne area again! :D
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Postby Randonnee » Wed May 24, 2006 12:13 pm

I have been hearing that Sonora Pass opened earlier this week.

Ebbett's is a little too far north for my current sources. Going south from Sonora to Tioga Pass the common belief is early to mid June. My current guess would be for the last half of June.
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Postby Snow Nymph » Wed May 24, 2006 1:00 pm

Going to Mammoth this weekend, and might try Sonora Pass one of the days. :D
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison


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Postby ifernau » Wed May 24, 2006 1:18 pm

I am trying to take some day drives over the weekend. Have been watching the CalTrans site for 108 and 4. Thank you for posting the update, hopefully 108 will be open by Saturday.
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Postby SteveB » Wed May 24, 2006 2:16 pm

Snow Nymph wrote:Going to Mammoth this weekend, and might try Sonora Pass one of the days. :D


I've wondered where in the area of the pass folks are allowed to ski and snowshoe, given the proximity to the Warfare Training Center out there. In mid-winter the area out there (Leavitt Meadows) looks hella fun to snowshoe!
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Postby SSSdave » Wed May 24, 2006 6:35 pm

SteveB wrote:
Snow Nymph wrote:Going to Mammoth this weekend, and might try Sonora Pass one of the days. :D


I've wondered where in the area of the pass folks are allowed to ski and snowshoe, given the proximity to the Warfare Training Center out there. In mid-winter the area out there (Leavitt Meadows) looks hella fun to snowshoe!


There are not any limitations for backcountry skiing anywhere in the Sierra except where activity might cause avalanches down on roads below. As far as where people do ski at Sonora, just about everywhere the pitch allows. Best to be carrying a 7.5M topo. I've done a modest amount of skinning up slopes. Certainly a considerable mix of easy to steep steeps. And if it isn't skied there are likely snowmobile tracks. The latter are rather controversial and have forced some policy changes. In some cases they encroached across wilderness boundaries so are reaping rewards of not following regs. Not sure on the latest so check with Toyabe. ...David
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Postby copeg » Thu May 25, 2006 12:08 pm

According to the caltrans site, Hwy 108 is now open :D
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Postby SteveB » Thu May 25, 2006 4:16 pm

trailblazer wrote:According to the caltrans site, Hwy 108 is now open :D


Looks like Hwy 4 over Ebbetts Pass is open now, too! :) Woo-hoo! I know where I'll be playing this weekend!!
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Postby ifernau » Fri May 26, 2006 11:19 am

SteveB wrote:
trailblazer wrote:According to the caltrans site, Hwy 108 is now open :D


Looks like Hwy 4 over Ebbetts Pass is open now, too! :) Woo-hoo! I know where I'll be playing this weekend!!


Beware that they have the Frog Jumping thing in Angels Camp along Hwy 4 this weekend. A ton of Motorcycles are going to be on 4. Maybe not early in the morning, but I got stuck in traffic in Angels Camp last year and it was no fun.
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