March 29, 2008

Whitney Portal Road: ‘Closed’ vs. Closed

Well, I drove up to Lone Pine yesterday with big plans for some climbing and skiing in the Whitney Portal region, only to discover the road, which is normally "closed" for winter had been Closed.

Seems the issue is the powers that be have decided to open Whitney Portal Road (earlier and earlier each year, isn't it?), so they graded a sand berm across the road to Close it while they're opening it (ie, clearing boulders and snow). It all makes sense, I suppose, though I wish they hadn't decided to Open the road (aka Close it) on the weekend I happened to be driving up. The Visitor's Center says they expect the road to be open as early as Monday of next week, so the open-closed ambiguity will be resolved for good soon, at least until next winter.

For the record: Whitney Portal Road is closed during the winter, though it is a fuzzy closure in that the road is not gated or otherwise physically blocked. My guess would be that CalTrans or whoever maintains the road and the National Forest Service don't want to be liable for winter maintenance, or accidents, hence the closure policy, but at the same time they recognize that people want and expect vehicle access to the portal year-round, including winter. If you do observe the closure point, you are adding a withering 2000 vertical feet and three miles, one-way, to your Whitney approach, which is easily enough to ruin your plans.

Ah well, next time...


Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow

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