Cinnamon Pass Open with Drifts, Work Ongoing to Clear Engineer Pass

Hinsdale Road & Bridge personnel are reporting significantly lower snow levels — although challenging snow drifts still remain — as they work their way toward the summit of 12,800’ elevation Engineer Pass.
12,620’ Cinnamon Pass was opened through into San Juan County as of Wednesday afternoon, April 25, although icy and muddy conditions, and the occasional drift of snow near the pass summit on the Animas side of the range, still pose challenges to 4-wheel drive motorists.
Road & Bridge Supervisor Monte Hannah reports that JoAllen Blowers, Breck Thompson and Norman Ragle completed the Cinnamon clearing into San Juan County the middle of last week, although they returned again on Thursday, April 26, after drifting in San Juan County once
again closed the road.
Average snow on the approach to Cinnamon Pass from this side averaged just 2’ to 4’ depth, the deepest excavation being through a 16’-deep drift close to the top of the pass.
Hannah says he had reports of a dozen or more jeepers who made the trek up Cinnamon Pass late last week and over the weekend, some of whom tuned back after encountering the snow drifts and others who plowed through to ultimately reach Animas Forks and down the Animas Valley.
On Engineer Pass, Norman Ragle and Gavin McNitt, aided by alternate Breck Thompson, were hard at work Tuesday morning just below the rock powder house at the Palmetto Mine.
They report little difficulty clearing the long, high altitude “straight stretch” of 4-wd road above Thoreau’s Cabin but are looking ahead to greater snow accumulation as they work their way toward the summit.
In past, normal snow years, a drift at the top of Engineer can exceed 60’-depth and take up to a week to cut through. This year, however, the drift may be about 30’ and the extent of work to get through it is as yet unknown.
Warm spring days and natural snow melt accounted for several county road openings last month which normally require plowing. Road Supervisor Hannah says Forest Road 520 on the upper Rio Grande up to Getz’s Lost Trail was open and a bit dusty as of early April. As of this week, Hannah had sent a grader over to start smoothing the popular thoroughfare.
Also opened by natural snow melt was County Road 17 access to Oleo and Quiet Valley ranches on the upper Cebolla. Deer Lakes Road was cleared of snow by the county road crew in mid-April, although the Forest Service requested that access gates remain closed until later this week.
Following up on a request from Town of Lake City to access their radio transmission beacon on Round Top Mountain, road crew members Blowers and Thompson finished work Monday this week opening the 4-wd road up Round Top Mountain above Lake City.
A transmission technician was scheduled to make repairs at the radio beacon on Wednesday, May 2. Occasional heavy snow accumulation — in the 10’ deep range — was reported on the road in the forested portions near the radio tower.
Supervisor Hannah says his crew is already looking ahead to the Wager Gulch Road to Carson on the Continental Divide. JoAllen Blowers set out on a reconnaissance mission over the weekend, driving his all terrain vehicle up the gulch and through the aspen groves until within eyesight of the Carson buildings. Snow depth on the road at that point, according to Hannah, was in the 2’ to 3’ range.