Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hint of Winter

It's been both a challenging and a welcome return to stormy winter weather over the past several days in Yosemite. Tioga, Glacier Point and Mariposa Grove Roads closed last week, we got rain and snow, and the waterfalls picked up in volume. It snowed a couple of inches in Yosemite Valley yesterday, then clearing sky and swirling clouds at sunset made magic.
Ranger Ryan Hiller was killed by a treefall during the rain and high winds over the weekend. Ryan spent much of last summer patrolling the busy Half Dome trail corridor and was planning to work at our ski area this winter. He was the 10th known person in park history to perish in this manner and his loss is deeply felt by all of us here.
On Sunday night a section of the north canyon wall above the Big Oak Flat Road came loose and wrecked part of that highway between the Merced River and the Foresta turn-off. The slide is below the 3 tunnels, includes a lot of smashed live oaks and some very big boulders. Moving the debris is one thing, but the roadbed itself has been broken through and pushed downhill. NPS has posted pictures on their Facebook site. I'd guess that this will take at least a few weeks to reopen. There is some Sherwin glacial till in that area but this slide looks like all talus and cliff material.
Badger Pass got about a foot of snow and groomers have been working on the slopes. Warm weather the rest of this week will not help retain this base, but -you hear it here first: all Badger Pass operations will open on Thursday.
UPDATE: The Big Oak Flat Road reopens Saturday 28 January! Amazing work by NPS Roads to make this repair. Caution: unpaved gravel surface in the slide area.

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