Tioga pass, the important road that connects locals and visitors to the west side of the Sierra during the summer, may open in time for Memorial Day weekend, though avalanche concerns and cool weather may throw a wrench into the works.
At last word, crews with Yosemite National Park and Mono County had cleared the road all the way to Tioga Pass from the west side. Caltrans had already cleared the road from the east side. Crews are now at work to widen the plowed road area.
In some years, this news would soon be followed within a few days by the opening of the road to the public. This year there is still uncertainty that the pass will open before Memorial Day.
National Park Service spokesman Scott Gediman says that avalanche risk at Olmstead Point and other areas remain a concern. Crews have already spread black charcoal on the snow above Olmstead Point to speed the rate of snowmelt, but Gediman explained that the cool temperatures of recent days have slowed that process. Crews may start blasting the avalanche areas early next week.
Forecasters are calling for additional cool and possibly wet weather over the weekend which wont help speed up the process either.
If Tioga Pass does open before Memorial Day, there may be no services available for those that make the drive. Besides the usual time it takes to open the store, gas stations, and the ever important bathrooms, this year there hasnt been power in Tuolumne Meadows since January. Gediman explained that there appears to be a problem with the Southern California Edison underground power line that provides electricity to Tuolumne. Not only is the problem possibly underground, the cable is also under many feet of snow.
So while the plowing situation on Tioga Pass looks good for Memorial Day, park officials make no guarantees.
In other springtime road news, for those that like to ski or fish near Tioga Pass, its possible that Caltrans can also open 120 to the gate at the pass this weekend.
Caltrans crews are working to clear Sonora Pass and may open this road to the west side of the Sierra this weekend, though this opening is also not guaranteed at this time.
In the White Mountains, John Louth with the Forest Service reports that the paved road is open and clear to Schulman Grove. You can continue on the dirt portion of the Bristlecone Road as far as the Junction of the Silver Canyon and Wyman Canyon Roads. Both Wyman and Silver Canyon Roads are now open. Louth says the road past Silver and Wyman will open as soon as possible, though it may be June 10th before the road is open as far as the White Mountain Peak Trailhead.