Colin Mitchell relaxing after three weeks of babysitting RMP
a tune… a haiku… an infrared loop
Various writings about the San Juan Mountains
Colin Mitchell relaxing after three weeks of babysitting RMP
March 11, 2019
― SOUTHWEST COLORADO TRAVEL UPDATE ―
Saturday Avalanche Control Work
Produces Incredible and Daunting Results
US 550 Red Mountain Pass to Remain Closed Indefinitely
SOUTHWEST COLORADO ― CDOT avalanche control crews performed helicopter operations Friday morning, March 10th, to address more than 20 avalanche paths on three mountain passes that had the potential of snow reaching the roadway. As a result of this mitigation, incredible amounts of snow and debris have hit the road and require the continued and indefinite closure of US Highway 550 Red Mountain Pass.
Nine out of 13 slide paths had significant amounts of snow hit the highway. The aircrew reported that the half mile of snow and debris deposit, which already existed on the highway from mitigation of the Brooklyns earlier this week, has now doubled. The depth of the snow slide is now estimated to be 60 feet deep on the highway.
“Today’s mitigation results are daunting. It will mean a lot of work and hundreds of man hours to clear this road. We will need to acquire more bulldozers and look to other CDOT regions to help us out with equipment and personnel.” said CDOT Deputy Superintendent of Maintenance, John Palmer, who oversaw the operations.
Also of great concern to CDOT officials is the West Riverside slide which brought down 40 to 60 feet of new snow over a 300 foot stretch of highway. The snow slide also filled the Riverside snow shed and likely took out several of the lights within the shed.
Palmer added, “These significant runs only reinforce the high avalanche danger warnings issued this week by our partnering agency the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, along with our decision to close this pass for safety. What’s more, slides that have never hit the roadway before, crushed both lanes with tens of feet of snow.”
In addition to Red Mountain Pass being mitigated yesterday, crews also performed avalanche control work on US 550 Molas Pass and CO 145 Lizard Head Pass. Both passes were safely opened to the traveling public by mid-morning. Crews continue to perform shoulder work and snow removal to widen the highways.
Dave Carmen and Frigley enjoy an afternoon at el rancho
CLEAR LAKE-Jack Frederick Miller, 82, of Clear Lake, Florida died Saturday, December 25, 2021… oops, wrong story ..
Wednesday, March 9, 2022
E. Jack Miller, a man who loved high mountains and deep fjords, passed away on March 1 in a hospital in Montrose, Colorado, of injuries suffered in an auto accident the week before. He was 83.
Miller taught climbing in Yosemite, led wilderness trips for Mountain Travel in Berkeley, California, and ran an adventure travel company, Andean Outfitters. He made numerous first ascents in South America but held a special love for the icy terrain of southern Chile. He first visited Patagonia in 1974 and climbed many of the region’s wildest ranges.
Miller was born on September 2, 1938, in Spokane, Washington, where he grew up. He took to rock climbing with great enthusiasm but little money. “When we climbed in Mexico, we would buy cheap rope in the markets, he said, “and were very careful not to fall.”
Having honed his climbing skills in the Cascades and the California Sierra, he joined the Yosemite Mountaineering School under Wayne Merry of the first El Cap climbing team. Miller proved a popular teacher, combining concern for his students with a wry sense of humor. He nearly convinced one client that in case of starvation, the man could eat the large buttons on his parka.
Miller’s published a number of articles about his trips, including “Sea-going Climbers in Southern Chile” and “Towers of Wind and Ice: The Cordillera de Sarmiento of Southern Chile” in the American Alpine Journal, and “Chile’s Uncharted Cordillera de Sarmiento,” National Geographic, 1994.
Over the years, Miller’s climbing partners included Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, and many others. Not all of them shared his enthusiasm for the windswept wilds of southern Chile. “We were rained on every day for forty days,” said journalist William Rodarmor, who joined Miller and his friend Peter Bruchhausen on an expedition out of Punta Arenas in 1974. “It was biblical.”
In 1979 Miller moved to a cabin he built on Hasting Mesa near Telluride. He continued to roam the local mountains with his dog Klondike, still planning one last trip to Patagonia.
A celebration of Jack Miller’s life will take place this spring on Hastings Mesa.
Jack out for his morning walk.
white board wisdom from Phoebe
crédito total de la foto, Mark Rawstoned
BY PETER SHELTON
MARCH 8, 2005
SPECIAL TO THE LOS ANGLES TIMES
IT IS A LOVELY SUNDAY for a ski tour. A bright midwinter sun counters a chilly north wind as the five of us — old friends, new friends, one pretty girl — round the southwest shoulder of Red Mountain No. 3 and prepare to ski the face below.
Jerry Roberts drops in first, but I can see him for only a couple of turns before he disappears — skis, then hips, then head — behind the convex shape. Then suddenly, from below, the screaming starts. It is a woman’s voice, and the shrieks are repetitive and insistent, like the cry of a displaced bird. Something is wrong, and then I see the powder cloud billowing into the basin, far below us.
This is not a test, I think; this is it. This is the nightmare we never wanted to experience. A large avalanche has swallowed my friend and carried him down the mountain — I don’t know where — somewhere in that mass of fallen snow, with its television-sized blocks of soft-slab tossed together like cottage cheese into a funnel narrowing between trees.
We are not thrill-seekers. We deride the moniker “extreme.” On the other hand, as mountaineers, we regularly climb up and ski down, carefully down big, steep mountains. The rewards approach the ecstatic and the risks are, for the most part, manageable.
The first thing we do is check our rescue beacons. We do this every time we head out into the winter backcountry. One of us will switch his transceiver to “receive” and listen, as the rest of the group files by one-by-one, each beacon transmitting its steady, electric pings.
Jerry is historically the most cautious among us. He refers to himself, smiling, as a Republican skier because at 56, a lifetime studying Colorado’s fragile snowpack has made him conservative. Every time a foot or more of new snow lands in these mountains, hundreds of natural avalanches pour down the slopes. And every winter an average of five Colorado skiers and snowmobilers die in slides they trigger.
There was reason for caution this day. Six inches of new snow lay unruffled in the trees, but above timberline where we were headed, overnight winds had moved it around, like cake frosting layered on top of older, weaker snow. We talked about it, poked it with our poles, dug hasty pits to gauge its stability. We chose our route accordingly. It was a beautiful day, clear and cold with long, blue shadows defining the pure-white shapes. There would be soft-snow turns for sure.
Then, the nightmare.
Now we’ve got to organize our group — and the other group below, the one with the woman who watched the hillside explode — and turn our beacons to receive mode and ski down and find him, without endangering anyone else. You’ve never done this before, incredibly, although you’ve danced around the possibility for 30 years in the wild snow with these same people, brothers and sisters of the graceful arc, the turn in the deep snow. You’ve taken all the snow-science courses; planned for this, in theory anyway; dreamed about it; written unpublished short stories about it, about being the victim, entombed, reminiscing about a life slipping away “Snows of Kilimanjaro”-style; but now it’s not you who is buried — it’s your ski buddy Jerry Roberts, and yes this is really happening, and yes it’s up to you — up to all of us — to find him, find him quickly or find him dead.
The middle part of the ordeal is mostly a blank — the part where you are out on the debris, beacon in one hand, poles in the other, moving at the edge of control, zigzagging, listening, fighting for balance on the lumpy surface. What I remember is Matt’s voice — Matt Wylie, our friend visiting from British Columbia — shouting, “I’ve got a weak signal!” And then there’s a stronger signal, and everybody’s careening down as fast as they can, homing in, hearing it too, the pings of Jerry’s electronic heartbeat, and Matt is already into a fine search and yelling for probes and shovels, and we’re flinging down packs and staggering forward, ramming together shovel handles and blades, and someone is shouting, with his probe in the ground like a golden aluminum thread, “I’ve got something!” Dig! Dig! Come on! And sure enough, a couple of feet down there is Jerry’s backpack. Now which end is up? This end, Jesus, yes, come on. Dig!
His face is blue. And a cut on his forehead drips red blood onto his brow. In a flash, the screaming woman has arrived and jumped into the hole. She is a doctor. The cyanotic face looks grave to her, and she thinks aloud that we may need a helicopter. But she can feel Jerry’s blood moving, feel his heart pumping, and she thrusts her hand down underneath his chest to push some snow aside and open up space for his lungs to expand.
Meanwhile, everyone is pleading with the blue face. Jerry’s girlfriend is crying and talking: “Come on, Jerry. Breathe! Jerry. Jerry!” Breathe, dammit. And, in a matter of a few excruciating seconds, he does, and the eyes blink, and the fingers on his right hand twitch, and the pink flush of oxygenated blood works across his cheeks and mouth.
Thirty minutes later, I’m lugging Jerry’s backpack out the logging road toward the pass and the cars. There are no straps left on the pack; we cut it off him to ease his breathing while digging the rest of him out. It’s awkward dragging the heavy thing along, and I’ve fallen behind the rest of the party, which includes Jerry — wearing someone else’s hat and extra down parka, skiing out on his own, insisting that he is fine. I don’t mind the effort. In fact, the work seems to be flushing some of the spent adrenaline from my system, pushing the nightmare back into its corner.
It refuses to stay put, of course. It pops in and out of focus, fracturing, tumbling out of sequence, receding into the past but still capable of scaring holes in what has become a cherished, full-body sense of relief. Everybody’s OK. The uncaring, beautiful mountain came close to taking a life but did not.
I picture the gash on Jerry’s head. I had thought he’d clocked one of the tough little trees he’d passed through in the avalanche’s run-out zone. Or maybe the ski he lost cut him as he hurtled along. Matt has a different story, and I like his best. He thinks he bashed Jerry in the forehead with his shovel in those frantic first seconds of digging. If it scars, I think, shuttling the extra pack through what has become a completely still afternoon, what a fine, permanent reminder that this was not a dream.
crédito total Lisa Issenberg
COBS instructors Paul Sibley with Slick, Mateo Wells, Dan Manning, Tom Fox, and Walter Walker in midst of an early ‘What’s my pronoun workshop’ during a solo break in Redcloud Base Camp, San Juans. Maybe May 1975.
Dan Manning Collection
by jerry roberts, posted in mountain ~ desert ~ ocean ~ news & stories ~, photos, tall tales & stories of the san juans
Tim Lane, CDOT/CAIC Intern of the Year 2004.
There was tension in the voices heard over the crackle of the radio – between forecasters and the highway’s regional CDOT teams. Then, Jerry’s succinct words: “We’re in full conditions here,” the first hint that we might be witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime storm. But of course, at the time, none of us really knew. It was 11:00 pm, January 8, 2005, and it would be an understatement to say it was a stormy night. Forecaster Mark Rikkers was in one truck racing south towards Molas Pass, while lead forecaster Jerry Roberts and his visiting side-kick Tim Lane were headed the opposite direction up Red Mountain, checking on the rapidly deteriorating road conditions and increasing avalanche hazard threatening Highway 550, from the Uncompaghre Gorge above Ouray all the way to Coal Bank Pass – the north/south life-line of southwestern Colorado.
That night, after an already long day of shooting, I was allowed to stay behind and supposedly catch up on much-needed sleep. A night that was sleepless nonetheless, especially since around here we make a habit of snuggling with our Motorolas; no avalanche forecaster worth their Pisco Sours would be sleeping when it’s dumping nearly 4″ per hour on a severely burdened continental snowpack. So there I lay, wide awake, eavesdropping.
Using radio call names, Jerry Roberts is anxiously trying to reach Mark Rikkers: “3 Mary 5-1, this is 3 Mary 5-0; what’s your 20? Mark Rikkers: “Hey Jer, it’s 3 Mary 5-1, I finally made it to Molas Pass – really bad visibility; what’s happening your direction?“ Jerry: “Mark, I’m with a crazy woman stuck in a snowbank near the Muleshoe turn (below a particularly nasty avalanche path) – will need help getting her out so we can shut this highway down. Can’t reach the Red Mountain plow driver – can you try radioing from your location and send him our way?” Mark: “10-4, I’ll give it a try.”
So, trolling for something to do, I ventured an earnest call to Jerry (knowing it was probably a mistake). “Uhh, 3 Mary 5-0, this is 3 Mary 5-2; is there anything I can do from here?” Pause. Jerry, with the whole world listening and a storm puking 4″ an hour, replied, “Thanks 5-2, uhh yea…when we get this lady out we’ll be escorting her back to Silverton for the night, but she might not be able to find a place to stay…doesn’t speak very good English, think she’s Romanian…you think she could camp on your sofa for the night?” I pause, suspicious. “Uhh, yea, sure, I guess so.” Jerry: “Great! And one other thing…I think she’s from the circus … she has a monkey with her.”
Long pause. “Did you say MONKEY?” Jerry: “Ya, I think it’s a MONKEY. Will your dog be okay with that?”
East Riverside running over the shed.
Gary King photo
West Riverside the same day.
The Avalanche Review, February & April 2009
It’s anybody’s guess why forecasters do this job. It could be the smell of powder, throwing 50 pound shots from the helicopter, watching hard slab failure release energy over several alpine basins at once, or maybe just the company you keep.
Whatever the reasons, you get hooked on the excitement and the challenges of the job. It requires a lot of field experience (series of non-fatal errors), collection of empirical evidence, listening to your inner voice (intuition), and distilling all of the variables to reduce uncertainties until you can finally make a decision that you can live with. There are many truths to be learned. It’s no big mystery; you pay attention and do your work because you don’t want to be a victim of your own bad planning. It helps to be comfortable in the world of uncertainties.
~~~ READ PART ONE , PP. 24, 25, 32 ~~~
East Riverside & snowshed..
~~~ READ PART TWO OF RED MOUNTAIN PASS – CHIEF OURAY HIGHWAY ~~~
Jefe & CDOT foreman, Tim Lane
Old time friend Ona and rŌbert with Basque sheepherders, Juan y Alberto. Wetterhorn Basin 1969.