Wow.  It is kind of a surreal feeling to be on the backside of the helicopter-based net laying.  What a push it was to get that completed during this favorable stretch of high pressure.  With 36 nets in place over the talus and considerable scaling completed at the top of the north gulley, the ‘heavy lifting’ of this project is in the rear view mirror.  There are still some important tasks remaining such as shackling the remainder of the net drapery, some spot scaling, and the installation of a cantilevered net fence at the highway level. But there won’t be any more ‘working for hours on end  underneath a rock-spitting 400 foot headwall’ and that is a relief for all involved in this rockfall mitigation project.

We were scheduled for one more day of good weather and we took full advantage of the conditions.  We flew in the last four panels, did a bunch of scaling in the north gulley including the removal of a behemoth boulder that was teetering on the slope, shackled about 1/3 of the drapery, and scouted the remaining pockets of hanging talus on the north side of the recent disturbance.  It was a very full day as they all have been.  Collectively, we were dragging with low energy levels as we descended to the highway at the end of the day.

This unique project has been without a doubt one of the most scary, dangerous, and yet gratifying endeavors I have ever been involved with in my professional career as a ropework practitioner.  We had around 12 people on the mountain side every day representing four different CDOT contractors. Most of us met for the first time the initial morning we ascended the fixed ropes. There was a tremendous amount of professional respect, an amazing element of team work, and some serious blood, sweat, and tears poured into that slope.

So far we have a 100% safety record on the slope with some close calls due to overhead rockfall, but no injuries.  We are all very proud of the overall team effort and glad to have played an important contributing role in the success of the project.  Like everyone else, I hope the pass opens soon. I am ready to go skiing!

Cory managing a rope station

The last net inbound

Placing a net in the north gulley

The crew at the highway. Glad to be safely down. 

Ruby Walls on Jan. 29 with 36 nets in place

Searching for the keystone on the behemoth boulder

Shackling the final net