Massive rockslide demolishes road between Marble and Crested Butte

 

A massive rockslide has destroyed part of a U.S. Forest Service road that serves as a popular jeeping route over Schofield Pass between Marble and Crested Butte.

The No. 314 road, near the Devil’s Punchbowl in Gunnison County, is utilized in the summertime by jeepers, dirt and mountain bikers, and hikers.

Already a rutted and rocky path, the recent slide punched four large holes in the road and covered what is left in enormous boulders, effectively closing it from any use beyond walking. The damage is about a mile past the ghost town of Crystal, but it doesn’t affect the route through Lead King Basin.

Glenwood Springs native Tays Anderson told the Aspen Daily News this week that he was traveling up the road on a 4-wheeler with his father about two weeks ago when they came upon the slide.

“There are large chunks of the road missing,” he said. “I don’t think a 4-wheeler, or possibly even a dirt bike, could get past there. It’s impressive.”

But few others were aware of the slide.

Gunnison County’s public works director Marlene Crosby said in an email that her department didn’t know about the slide, and staff at the Forest Service’s Aspen-Sopris Ranger District hadn’t heard of it, either.

One of the holes in the road is roughly 15 feet wide, 9 feet long, and around 4 feet deep. Some boulders on the road are around 5 feet in diameter, and others, larger than vehicles, lay just off the road.

Scores of mature pine and spruce trees were splintered like matchsticks.

One large tree, or what was left of it, sprawled across the road atop a bed of crushed quartzite, and other trees in the area were deeply scarred and missing limbs.

Anderson, who spends a lot of time in the area, said the slide was the largest he’s seen around there. He guessed that it had only occurred a few days prior to their discovery, and was around 150 yards wide.

“It was pretty intense just standing there,” he said. “You just hope that nothing else is loose and could come crashing down. Some of those boulders [are] the size of small cars.”

Also called the Upper South Fork Crystal River/Schofield Pass Road, No. 314 is classified as a “Level II” road, designating it as open for limited passage of high-clearance traffic.

Crystal Bridge No. 4, which crosses the south fork of the Crystal River at milepost 14.8 near the Devil’s Punchbowl, was closed last October to traffic after it was determined unsafe for vehicular use.

But the road itself remains open, with a rocky, natural stream crossing immediately upstream of the bridge, providing temporary passage to the skilled 4WD driver, according to a Forest Service statement in October.

Another large boulder fell into Forest Service Road No. 314, about two miles from the historic Crystal Mill. It prevents larger vehicle traffic, but smaller 4-wheelers and dirt bikes can still pass.

collin@aspendailynews.com