Feb 15, 2011 5:08 PM by Andy Koen

Rock slide clean up to take "a couple days"

A specialized team of mountaineers are in western Fremont County scaling a cliff-side in with ropes and pulleys to remove loose rocks at the site of a massive rock slide from Monday.

The slide happened about two miles west of the town of Cotopaxi and is estimated to be between 70 and 100 feet wide and is completely blocking US Highway 50. The Colorado Department of Transportation says the scaling work must be finished before it is considered safe for workers to begin clearing the debris that is blocking the highway.

Deputy Maintenance Superintendent Carl Valdez hopes to get the roadway cleared and opened by Friday.

"A good guess right now is a couple of days," Valdez said.

Geologists determined Tuesday morning that scaling work was required after finding too much loose rock still sitting on the cliff above above the highway. The scaling teams were working a job site in Blackhawk and had to be redirected to Fremont County.

Valdez says the changing temperatures can cause condensation that form in crevices of the rocks to freeze and thaw, make the rocks come loose.

"With the weather that we've been having with the freeze and the that, it does loosen up rocks," Valdez said.

The slide has divided the Cotopaxi School District. Many student and teachers who live in communities on the western side, including superintendent Geoff Gerk, stuck making a 133 mile detour to get to school. Classes were canceled Tuesday and Gerk says they will remain closed for the rest of the week.

He points out that Cotopaxi student haven't taken a snow day yet this winter and that with a 4-day school schedule, they shouldn't have to make up time at the end of the year.

Drivers who made the detour from Salida through Buena Vista and Hartsel then back to Cañon City seemed to be taking the

Chris and Kimberly Drydale were visiting from Missouri. "(It was) a lot longer but It was very scenic though," Kimberly said. "It was nice to see the different views and everything."

Shawn Dill took a less traveled route around the slide. "I left Salida and went up (Hwy) 75 to County Road 2," Dill said. "It saved me about 30 minutes."

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