|Peak:||La Plata Peak (14er)|
|Date of Information:||04/12/2013|
If at first you don‘t succeed, try 3 more times. Alternatively: 3rd re-try‘s a charm. Alternatively: be a stubborn fool.
Today I finally made the summit of La Plata Peak via the Northwest Ridge solo in the winter, on my 4th attempt. This is a massive personal achievement for me.
The peak has received a lot of snow over the past 5-7 days. The summer path below tree line was detectable via a slight depression in the snow, but there were no tracks anywhere. I decided to follow it almost to the clearing on the hill just below the clearing at ~11,700, and to work up the hill through the trees at that point. I think this worked out really well. I have followed 3 other trenches, 2 of which follow the accepted "winter route" (gain the hill immediately where the summer trail turns hard south), and I think this was definitely the easiest route, and didn‘t cross anything dangerous.
The peak‘s about to get some severe weather (as soon as tomorrow) so I imagine this trench won‘t be there by the time someone else goes out, but for now, it exists and is good. I‘m sure that the ridge is already blown clear. I would go so far as to say that snow shoes below tree line are required, if you want to summit in a decent time and not hate your life. The snow is super soft and you‘ll posthole like mad (knees and higher) without snow shoes. This was the case on my last attempt, too. There was a little deep trenching/post holing even with the snow shoes, but it was totally manageable.
I have been on the ridge 2 other times, both this winter, and today there was by far more snow on the ridge than I have seen before. I only used my snow shoes below tree line, and microspikes on the ridge, but with the exception of working around the buttress where snow shoes would be just plain hazardous, you would benefit from snow shoes on the rest of the ridge. There was a lot more post holing than on my previous attempts. It looks like quite a bit more snow is about to get dumped on the peak, too.
Some weather blew through that was more aggressive than I had planned on, and it was a little scary, but all is well. I‘m guessing 30mph winds gusting to 40mph (had to lean into the wind a bit at times) with light snow from the sky and a lot of hard nasty bits screaming over the ridge and into my face. This was blowing through during my last ~30m push to the summit, and didn‘t let up until I was descending the ridge to the clearing.
I was surprised by and super happy with my climb time. 8h0m up, 4h20m down. 8.6mi RT.
The picture of the ridge was taken immediately after gaining it. The picture of me is from the summit, and it‘s lame, but with the weather impeding visibility I wanted to get down immediately.
Photos (click for slideshow):