Whitney Portal Road Damage

Posted by: Bob West

Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/07/17 07:38 AM

This morning the local newspaper, the Register, reported that a "solid closure gate" has been installed downhill from the rock slide. Visitors are being warned by the Inyo Sheriff's Dept. to stay out of the area.

The slide is about 100 feet long 40 feet wide, and 30 feet high. The County is developing a plan to clear the slide and hope to be able to do an assessment in about four to six weeks as weather and circumstances allow. Clearing the rocks and rebuilding the road surface will require permits for blasting. This will be a "substantial undertaking."

This morning,Inyo Board of Supervisors will consider passing a resolution to ratify an emergency declaration as mandated by State law. This would help the County get State and Federal funding for the necessary repair work, which is currently estimated at about $500,000.

The slow way government moves, it might be quite some time before the road is reopened. Plans for climbing Whitney might need to be reconsidered.

More information to follow as it become available.




Picture below from 2-23-17:
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/07/17 07:53 AM

Pictures of the slide here and here.

Inyo Register link: http://www.inyoregister.com/content/whitney-portal-road-rock-slide
Posted by: josee menard

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/07/17 08:17 AM

Hi Bob, I'm from Canada and I'm planning an ascent of Whitney via the MR first week of april. I have 2 questions: Is this rockslide below the usual winter closure? Will it be possible/allowed to walk past the rockslide to get to Portal?
Thanks in advance, Josee
Posted by: RenoFrank

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/07/17 08:32 AM

On a related topic - can we expect no parking restrictions at the Portal this year?
Posted by: Bob West

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/07/17 09:42 AM

The rock slide is at about the 7,800 elevation. I don't know the elevation of the usual winter closure. Apparently, it is possible to walk around the slide and go on up to the portal, but parking on the road downhill from the slide will probably not be possible except at a few locations. Even then overnight cars in some locations end up being cited by the S.O. or CHP.

The way this winter is going, there will still be considerable snow in April, according to DWP and SCE. Snow surveys have begun and will provide more accurate data when they have been completed.

Try for June or July.
Posted by: Bob West

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/07/17 09:43 AM

This depends on how soon the road can be repaired. Stay tuned.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/07/17 11:36 AM

Originally Posted By: josee menard
Hi Bob, I'm from Canada and I'm planning an ascent of Whitney via the MR first week of april. I have 2 questions: Is this rockslide below the usual winter closure? Will it be possible/allowed to walk past the rockslide to get to Portal?
Thanks in advance, Josee
Josee, Inyo County Road dept has locked the gate at the winter closure point. The slide is well above that point. As for being allowed to walk past: There won't be anyone posted there to stop you, but as always, if you do proceed, you do so at your own risk.

Originally Posted By: RenoFrank
On a related topic - can we expect no parking restrictions at the Portal this year?
Frank, I emailed and asked. It sounds like there will be no restrictions for parking.
Posted by: Vavylon

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/07/17 07:13 PM

500,000?! I bet I know some military folk who would love to practice doing demolition training for cheap. There may not be a road at all after, but there sure won't be any boulders smile

Does anyone have a map that shows where the winter season road closure gate generally is for reference? I understand not parking on the road and leaving enough room for emergency vehicles to pass etc, but if going past the gate is at your own risk anyway what is the purpose in citing people who go past it? I don't know quite where the slide is, but the large switchback

3636'19.4"N 11812'57.7"W
36.605403, -118.216037
Or most northern part of Whitney Portal Road

seemed to have a large enough flat area for parking if one had a deep-snow capable vehicle or snowmachine/snowmobile. During the construction it was a staging area for medium and heavy equipment. Just gotta hope another slide doesn't come down and take your vehicle with it.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/07/17 09:35 PM

Vavylon, here's a Gmap4 map with pointers (link)

The four markers (heading down, west-to-east)
1. ~7,800'
2. My best guess location based on pictures and terrain
3. Your switchback location
4. The winter-closure gate (elev. 6600') You can zoom in with the satellite view and actually see the gates beside the roadway.

   
Posted by: RenoFrank

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/07/17 09:50 PM

Originally Posted By: Steve C
Frank, I emailed and asked. It sounds like there will be no restrictions for parking.


Here's from another forum: "Road and parking , Road repair when weather permits. Parking would be nice if keep the same as last year , but increase the limit to 5 days not 3. This would allow the local hikes to start or end at the Portal ,HST, Horseshoe, Onion Valley and still enough parking for the Whitney day /overnight hikers. One parking space per permit seems like a fair request."

Thoughts?
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/08/17 12:44 AM

Originally Posted By: RenoFrank
Originally Posted By: Steve C
Frank, I emailed and asked. It sounds like there will be no restrictions for parking.


Here's from another forum: "Road and parking , Road repair when weather permits. Parking would be nice if keep the same as last year , but increase the limit to 5 days not 3. This would allow the local hikes to start or end at the Portal ,HST, Horseshoe, Onion Valley and still enough parking for the Whitney day /overnight hikers. One parking space per permit seems like a fair request."

Thoughts?

In the past, when the hiker parking lots filled, people parked along the road. That should be the case this summer. Granted, people may park farther down the road, making it inconvenient to get their hike started. On the other hand, it makes sense that anyone parking for more than a week should park their car in Lone Pine, since it is so easy to hitch hike there.
Posted by: Bob West

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/08/17 07:27 AM

Walkers, skiers, snow-shoers don't get cited for going around the closed gate. On foot, you're on your own.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/09/17 11:44 AM

Two months!!! This is going to impact the Whitney hiking season.

Inyo National Forest has published a news release. FB Link
Quote:
Attention Whitney hikers: please read the following information regarding the rockslide along the Whitney Portal Road. #epicwinter.

Inyo National Forest
Inyo County Sheriff's Office
Major Rockfall on Whitney Portal Road

Spring Re-opening May be Delayed
Substantial snowfall from an atmospheric river event in mid-January has led to a major rock fall on Whitney Portal Road, causing significant damage to an approximately 100-foot stretch of road. This damage may delay the re-opening of the road this spring.

Initial assessments by Inyo County, Cal Trans, and Inyo National Forest indicate that there will be approximately two months of work that include blasting and clearing the rock, and stabilizing and re-building the road bed. Road construction will not begin until after the permitting process is complete.

The road is currently gated just above Hogback Road on Whitney Portal Road to prevent vehicle entrance; however, foot traffic past the gate is not recommended due to the hazardous and potentially unstable conditions surrounding the rock fall.

For now, the area remains under snow and there is no clear estimate of when the removal operations will begin. Continued winter storms as well as the concerns for the stability of the slide area during the spring freeze/thaw cycle make it difficult to predict when this work can safely begin.

The Whitney Portal Road often opens by May 1st, conditions permitting, and that is also the beginning of the Mt. Whitney quota season(applied for by lottery) for day and overnight hikes. Every effort will be made by all parties involved to have the road open by this date.

While the road is under construction, access to Mt. Whitney is via the Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail (NRT) or from other trailheads such as Kearsarge Pass or Cottonwood Pass. The NRT will close for public safety when blasting is underway.

This winter has brought substantial snow to the Sierra Nevada. Snow should be expected along the trail through early summer and hikers will be required to have technical skill and equipment to access Mt. Whitney in the early season.
Posted by: KevinR

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/09/17 11:48 AM

"The Whitney Portal Road often opens by May 1st, conditions permitting, and that is also the beginning of the Mt. Whitney quota season(applied for by lottery) for day and overnight hikes. Every effort will be made by all parties involved to have the road open by this date."

That's good news. (Emphasis mine)
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/09/17 11:55 AM

Opening by May 1 means slide removal needs to begin March 1!!
Posted by: Bob West

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/09/17 07:24 PM

Latest:

http://www.sierrawave.net/whitney-portal-road-spring-re-opening-may-delayed/

It is doubtful that any work will begin on March 1st. Weather is trending toward more snow. And then there is the permit process...

Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/09/17 10:53 PM

Sierra Wave copied the news release almost word-for-word.

Here's a picture posted on Facebook.  Maybe they have cleared the road up to the slide so crews can go up and start planning what to do.

Posted by: Snacking Bear

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/13/17 02:20 PM

Bishop CHP posted a drone video to their FB page showing the breadth of the rockslide. Quite prodigious.

Posted by: Karl

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/14/17 06:34 AM

Yes, that video makes the slide look rather intimidating.

Does anyone know how these things are handled? Is all of the debris (once it's blasted into smaller pieces) carted away in dump trucks, or is some of it simply pushed off the side and into the gulch below? It looks like it might take hundreds of dump-truck loads to clear what is visible--and what is not visible, since, to stabilize the hillside, it may be necessary to remove more than just the current slide.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/14/17 10:41 PM

CHP - Bishop posted a few more pictures.

Here's the best one:     (click on it for a full-screen view)
Posted by: Snacking Bear

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/15/17 08:14 AM

All the futility, all of last year's driving delays, all the hubbub about this slide...

All that said, what a beautiful pic of a beautiful place.

The Mountain Strikes Back.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/15/17 04:12 PM

From Inyo National Forest, today:

Quote:
We are trying to get word to winter Whitney Hikers that they need to stay clear of the rock fall area. They may still be allowed to use the NRT, but need to stay off the road.

Inyo County is actively clearing rock off the Whitney Portal Road. This involves scaling, heavy equipment work, and blasting (as early as next week).


Yay!!!
Posted by: Wiff

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/15/17 06:55 PM

Haul the rocks up to the top. Make it taller.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/16/17 09:12 AM

Feb 16 FB post by Inyo County Sheriff:

Quote:
Inyo County and CalTrans will be performing rock demolition operations on Whitney Portal Road today (7:00am-3:00pm). We are asking the public to please stay clear of this area; the demolition operation cannot be performed if there is a threat to public safety.

Additional demolition days are: Wednesday February 22nd through Saturday February 25th, weather permitting. We will keep you updated!
Posted by: Snacking Bear

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/16/17 09:50 AM

Can we see the rockfall spot on the webcam? I can't tell.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/16/17 11:34 AM

I am pretty sure it is about where the "M" is in the time text of the webcam picture.
Posted by: Bob West

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/16/17 02:53 PM

Sierra Geotechnical Services has been contracted by Inyo County to do the survey work, which began today. They will look at the rock slide, and safety/stability issues. They will also assess the structural concerns of the road itself, once the rocks have been removed, which won't happen until the weather patterns are stabile enough to allow work to begin in safety.

There are still a lot of rocks that haven't come down, as can be seen in the pictures of the slide, and these will have to be removed first by "scaling", which is a mining term. Scaling can be done manually or by spraying with high-pressure water hoses. This is often dangerous work.

Once that work is done, the larger rocks can blasted into smaller pieces and removed by heavy equipment.

Inyo County has received permission from the Army Corps of Engineers, because of the proximity of Lone Pine creek. Permissions also have to be obtained from the USFS before pushing the debris off into the canyon. The rock debris will be spread over a 1,000 foot space at the bottom of the canyon. Wouldn't be a good time to be at the bottom of the canyon!

Foot traffic past the locked gate is not recommended, due to the very unstable conditions around the rock slide.

It's uncertain when the rock removal will begin because of incoming weather (more snow tomorrow).

Posted by: WanderingJim

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/16/17 03:42 PM

Originally Posted By: Wiff
Haul the rocks up to the top. Make it taller.


Are you volunteering to carry it up? smile
Posted by: Wiff

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/17/17 01:49 PM

There are various size rocks. I promise to bring one up!
Posted by: A. Wheeler

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/22/17 06:50 AM

Hi Bob,
I'm planning a trip up Whitney the last week in April. It sounds like my two options for getting to the portal are to park near Lone Pine Campground and hike the road, or take the Whitney National Recreation Trail.

I noticed the trail crosses Maysen Creek just prior to arriving at the Whitney Portal group campgrounds. Does anyone know if there is a bridge or reasonable crossing at that location? I'm worried about snow melt/ high water flow preventing us from crossing. I am trying to avoid hiking 3/4 up the trail to find we can't cross, even if it means hiking the road.

We will be arriving after work hours and I would imagine progress on the road will be pretty far along by then. So hiking the road may be OK by then, but I'm trying to get a feel for what my options will be.

Any info on the creek crossing would be very helpful.

Thanks,
Aaron
Posted by: Bob West

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/22/17 07:08 AM

Hi Aaron. You might consider delaying your trip until after June 1st. Work on the road will probably be going on in April.

As you probably know, we are having a record-breaking amount of snow, which will lead to a lot of high water at most stream crossings when the runoff begins; you'd be right in the middle of runoff season. I don't know if there is a bridge at Meysen Creek. Besides that, you can expect a lot of snow travel regardless.

If there is rock removal work occurring, the Rec Trail might be closed off and on. They're going to be pushing rocks off the road into the canyon.

You might have to bite the bullet and walk up the road when allowed by the rock-slide removal project. A lot is in doubt just now.

Posted by: A. Wheeler

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/22/17 07:53 AM

Ok Thanks.

Yes, I've been tracking the snowfall and am expecting and looking forward to nearly 100% snow travel. I will keep checking the conditions and road work progress as the dates get closer.
Posted by: Bob West

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/23/17 07:16 AM

From the Inyo County Sheriff's Department this morning:

Inyo County and CalTrans will be performing rock demolition operations on Whitney Portal Road today through Saturday (weather permitting). We are asking the public to please stay clear of this area; the demolition operation cannot be performed if there is a threat to public safety. Thank you!
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/23/17 01:50 PM

Posted today 2-23-17:
Quote:
Caltrans District 9, Caltrans District 8, and Inyo County are making significant progress on Whitney Portal Road. Rock demolition operations are expected to continue through Saturday (weather permitting). However, the demolition operation cannot be performed if there is a public safety concern, so it is essential that the public stay clear of this area.

The road is currently gated just above Hogback Road on Whitney Portal Road to prevent both vehicle and foot traffic. This closure is in place for your safety.
We will keep you updated!

*Picture of this morning's blasting



Inyo County Sheriff's office posted a short video of the blast:
https://www.facebook.com/InyoCountySheriffsOffice/videos/730518917130678/
Posted by: Bob West

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 02/28/17 07:13 AM

Progress!

According to local media, the rock removal might be completed by the end of next week. The work is being done by Inyo County, Caltrans, a scaling company, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the USFS. They are focusing on drilling, blasting and clearing the road by pushing the rock over the edge of the road.

The rock pile is about 100 feet long, 30 feet wide and up to 50 feet in height. This is of the rock that has come down so far; estimated volume is 5,000 cubic yards.

After the rock has been removed, road damage will be evaluated. Until then it will be difficult to estimate a time for road repairs to be complete.

The initial cost to the County is about $1 million.

The slope above the initial rock slide is still unstable; hopefully we will not have another. This is very promising, but don't get too excited. More news as it develops.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 03/01/17 09:13 AM

From FB, Sierra Elevation store in Lone Pine:

Quote:
Whitney Portal Rd Update:
The road is closed. They are currently prepping for more blasting on Thursday. There is big Equipment moving big piles around. The Recreation Trail will be closed through their work due to potential landslide and rock fall.

The crews have been very nice and have verbalized a goal to have their equipment out of the way by end of day on Friday. "Goal" is to let folks walk the road or trail for access.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN THE ROAD WILL BE OPEN OR THE DEBRIS FIELD WILL BE GONE.


Posted by: RenoFrank

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 03/01/17 11:31 AM

Good news! I'm guessing (hoping) the road will be open sooner than most expected.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 03/02/17 04:14 PM

CalTrans District 9 posted this on YouTube:

It appears (starting at 1:30) that they have already blasted through the mess and have a single lane open.

Enjoy the blasting!
Posted by: Whitney Fan

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 03/03/17 01:15 AM

Dang! That's more exciting than my one and only day hike summit of Whitney!

Well . . . maybe not.
Posted by: SierraNevada

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 03/04/17 05:09 PM

One of the funnest parts of civil engineering.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 03/04/17 09:38 PM

Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
One of the funnest parts of civil engineering.

I have a feeling that every worker who could was offering to go work on that job. They blasted through all those rocks in a surprisingly short time! laugh
Posted by: SierraNevada

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 03/07/17 07:03 AM

Originally Posted By: Steve C
Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
One of the funnest parts of civil engineering.

I have a feeling that every worker who could was offering to go work on that job. They blasted through all those rocks in a surprisingly short time! laugh

They might be back for more fun if the extra snowmelt runoff this spring destabilizes more rocks.
Posted by: + @ti2d

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 03/09/17 07:10 AM

If you go to the 1:03 of the video, you will see a black crow at the lower left of the screen flying away just before the blast.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Whitney Portal Road Damage - 03/09/17 08:50 AM

Thanks for noticing that, + @ti2d. That's hilarious. I'll bet it flew away a little lighter. laugh

The video is on the previous page, here.