County hires helicopter to remove Ute Rock above popular Ute Trail
December 19, 2017
The helicopter buzzing around Aspen Mountain this morning is related to Pitkin County's efforts to remove a precariously-perched rock atop Ute Mountain.
The helicopter is ferrying equipment, including fencing, rock-splitting equipment, compressors and generators, to Ute Rock, which split apart in a lightning strike during a thunderstorm this fall, G.R. Fielding, county engineer said in an email.
The county decided to get rid of the remaining piece of Ute Rock rather than run the risk of it tumbling down the steep slope, which also features the popular Ute Trail, and hitting people, homes or infrastructure. The project is costing the county $124,000.
The city, which administers the Ute Trailhead, closed the trail soon after the rock split in September and sent large boulders tumbling down to the street below. It remains closed.
The helicopter began transporting the equipment about 8:30 a.m. from a spot east of Aspen near the Northstar Nature Preserve, Fielding said. Traffic on Highway 82 near that spot will face delays when the helicopter picks up the equipment, he said.
Crews are scheduled to begin installing rockfall fences Wednesday below Ute Rock. After that, crews above will break Ute Rock into "something manageable" and move it further up the slope to secure areas, Fielding said.
The project is expected to take about 10 days, he said.