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|Conditions Information||Posted By||Posted On|
|2015-07-22||Route: Ellingwood Ridge
Info: You can ascend via Ellingwood Ridge without touching snow until the traverse from East La Plata to La Plata (at which point the route-finding and technicality is trivial. Thus, no need for traction or an axe. There are a few gullies retaining snow on the route, but they can easily be bypassed, with the exception of a section at 14,000‘ (the bypass is less evident). I‘ve added some annotated pictures which might make more sense than my words, but I‘ll do my best to describe it. En route to East La Plata, you ascend one final talus slope towards what Roach describes as a "snow-filled gully" at 14,000‘. Once you reach the base of the gully, he suggests skirting to the left (SE), ascending to the left of the gully, and traversing to the right above the gully towards the ridge crest. As my pictures show, it is difficult to skirt left as there is a 5 ft. snow drift blocking the path. Instead, cross immediately underneath the snow gully and ascend up the right side of the gully, close to the ridge crest. You can keep it around class 3 if you take your time. We topped out and descended the Northwest Ridge route. There is a 200m snow field around 13k‘ that we were able to glissade (albeit slowly, accumulating slush in our underpants). Other than that, nothing noteworthy except for several lengthy pennants of dirty toilet paper affixed to the grass significantly above timberline, immediately adjacent to the trail, fluttering in the breeze like little poop-smeared flags of surrender. Come on people... (Luckily we had some empty ziplock bags)
|2015-07-11||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: GEAR (to bring): GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat, day pack with water sack, food, sunscreen, lip balm. This is the most beautiful mountain I‘ve climbed so far of my 12 fourteeners. The waterfall about a half mile in when crossing the "bridge" (disconnected on one side, but safe) is breathtaking! The trail in the treeline is a little damp in some places, but not enough to get your feet wet with careful steps. The trail is straightforward, but when you climb in the boulder area, go to the far right instead of trying to go steeply up if you want to conserve energy. The peak was cold and windy as usual and I wore full on winter gear. I‘m climbing all 55 fourteeners (including Carmeron) this summer. Follow my blog and the hikes in more detail at sunshineof1985.com
|2015-07-10||Route: Ellingwood Ridge
Info: almost clear of snow except for 2-3 pretty steep patches and by the time you reach these, they are pretty warm and sketchy.. (started at 5am, reached these around 10am) - some you can squeeze between the top of the snow and the rock, but at least one you pretty much have to traverse.. not even sure an ax would help, but would have made me feel better about it. Maybe there is a route above these on the ridge line but I couldn‘t find it.
|2015-07-04||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: La Plata is a great hike right now. Still some snow up there, which is pretty, but the flowers are really blooming too. If you haven‘t done the hike before, watch carefully when you get to the log bridge. There are two bundles of logs, and the one to the right is more like a dam. Look around to the left to find the actual log bridge. There are a couple of muddy spots below tree line but overall trail is dry. There are a few snow fields but they‘re easy to walk across. If you‘d rather not, most of the fields have ample rocks nearby so you can bypass without damaging the terrain. The longer fields up high are still nice for glissading, but they soften up early and aren‘t too speedy. That‘s actually really nice if you‘re new to this, like me.
|2015-07-01||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: As others have noted, you can avoid the snow by hiking around, but in many places it is easier to hike across. It should be gone in 2 to 3 weeks. Met some guys who slept on the top and they said it was clear all night. The snow is good for glissading, it isn‘t super fast (7mph) and that‘s a good thing. And it‘s a lot more fun than walking.
|2015-06-29||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Route was basically clear the entire way. No snow gear needed at all. At about 12,500‘-13,000‘ maybe, there is a snow field on top of the trail. Basically had to choose my own route up that part on the rocks which made it a little slow going with the dog. Other than that the route is in great summer condition. Beautiful view from the summit!
|2015-06-28||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Didn‘t bring gaitors, microspikes, or snowshoes. You don‘t need them, not worth the weight. Hiking poles were helpful for stability in the few snow crossings you can‘t avoid, but not necessary. Not a very muddy trail minus a small section below the first ridge by the first snow you have to cross. Most of the people on the summit were from the SW approach and said that despite the off road trail being washed out the final 0.4 miles or something, the trail wasn‘t any more muddy than you‘d expect through the willows. More info and can be found at https://everythingoutdoorscolorado.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/la-plata-peak/
|2015-06-28||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: The bridge is still washed off ~1.3 mile from the TH registration box. Willow is wet and boggy at spots, but not unmanageable especially with waterproof boots. The trail above willow is almost all cleared of snow and dried, there are only a couple spots (right below the last false summit and right below the summit itself) with snow fields to cross but there are established tracks to follow. No need for microspikes or snowshoes. Marmots and pikas are out in scores now, very fun to watch them when scrambling.
|2015-06-26||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: No real snow on the trail until the final ridge. Even there, it is avoidable if you stay to one side (we choose the right/west). No snowshoes necessary. Brought Microspikes but never ended up using those either. Stream crossing at the beginning is flowing fast but there is a manageable log bridge that shouldn‘t give anyone a problem. Be warned though, your pup may not like it (I had to carry a Bernese across in the afternoon).
|2015-06-26||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Trail is almost entirely clear. Saw several people hiking in sneakers. The creek is pushing on a raging river right now and is sketchy to cross. I skied a ridge line on the West face which still had a good amount of snow on it. It was rather difficult to get to, lots of fun, but the snow is pushing unskiable.
|2015-06-24||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: No snow of real significance. We had some trouble route finding as we did not research the route before-hand. Almost climbed Sayers without proper equipment thinking it was La Plata (would‘ve been a huge mistake). Willows are muddy, but not awful. small snowfields that are avoidable above the Willows (no point avoiding them though as they were fairly supportive even at 11). No need for traction, snowshoes or Ice Axe, although the Ice axe could be helpful for a glissade or two. Bring waterproof boots, don‘t bother with gaiters unless you only have tennis shoes. When climbing up the first false summit after the Willows, avoid the snow as it is unsupportive and completely avoidable. If we hadn‘t had so much trouble route finding, could‘ve summited in about 2 and a half hours.
|2015-06-24||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Took snowshoes and microspikes, but didn‘t need either. The snow covers parts of the trail between 12,300-12,750 and also from 13,000-13,500 (my best guesses of elevation based on the route description). It‘s easy enough to avoid the snow if you go off trail, and I would‘ve been fine in boots. Stay to the right of the snow in both those sections. I ended up using snowshoes for a couple hundred feet between 13,000-13,500 just because it was easier to walk straight up the snow than to navigate the rocks. On the way down (around 12:15p), the snow was too soft, and the rocks were fine, just trickier. I don‘t recommend wasting the weight of any snow gear. Just walk around it. The few spots near the summit with small snow patches are fine in boots. Also as an FYI, a couple on the summit had just completed the Southwest route and didn‘t have any snow gear. One was in shorts. They both seemed to have managed just fine.
|2015-06-22||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: There was knee deep snow around the timberline intersecting the trail in several places. Not a big deal but I was able to circumvent most of it. Micro spikes for your shoes would be helpful but not necessary. I would have loved to have my ice axe for the decent but also not necessary.
|2015-06-21||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: The Southwest ridge route has to be one of the most scenic routes and its not that busy. Route description does a good job and its pretty easy to follow. Spring run-off has reclaimed the beginning section from the TH to the creek crossing. Its only about 3-4" deep, but flowing pretty steady. The trail could also use some TLC as its starting to get grown over in spots, especially in the willows. I was worried that the willows were going to be a messy quagmire, but they weren‘t that bad. Yes there is water and mud all through the willows, but its spring. It felt more like summer up there today. As soon as you break treeline, the cirque is fully green and quite a spectacle to marvel at. The little snow that remains is pretty consolidated and can easy be walked over. No need for traction or flotation. Car to summit to car took 4h 24min. Only saw one other party on the route. The summit was another story. About a dozen people up there when I summited.
|2015-06-18||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: No snow on the summer trail until about ~12,200. The ‘flat section‘ is still snow packed, as well as the last few hundred feet to the summit (see pictures). Didn‘t use snowshoes or microspikes, and only needed gaiters on the way down.
|2015-06-08||Route: North Face ski
Info: Great snow coverage, but you can see remnants of older slides. Approach trail has very little snow. Creeks are raging and creek crossings are treacherous.
|2015-05-30||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Still plenty of snow by the creek. More exposed aspects below treeline are bare though. Plenty of snow on the ridge and north face. Included are photos of Huron (and the Three Apostles), Sayres and Grizzly Peak A (I think)
|2015-05-13||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: After a round of spring snow and with a week free of obligations, I decided to meet my old CMC-Steamboat compadre Liam to attempt a snowboard descent of La Plata peak in the northern Sawatch range. We arrived at the La Plata Peak TH the night before and awoke at 4 am to start the day. After coffee, breafkast (which consisted of a bacon-guac burger from the night before for me), and gearing up, we left the TH at 5 hiking on dirt. We encountered frozen snow intermittently and soon we were following a skin/snowshoe track South and East into La Plata Gulch. 1 The trail took us up into the creekbed, where we continued skinning through the forest. We wanted to attain the NW ridge of La Plata, and decided to ascend the ridge to our left (East). The W-facing slope had intermittent snow cover and we were forced to boot up to the top of the ridge. On the ridge we continued, bootpacking through a steep scree field until we arrived on a bench at treeline. We decided to venture into La Plata Basin (the N-face descends into the basin and the W-face descends in to the gulch) to see if we could gatch glimpse of the face. It was around 7 am at this point and clouds clung to the face around 13,000ft. The west side of Ellingwood ridge looked incredible, but I doubt that it typically looks this good. The consistent upslope storms this spring have left the Sawatch looking filled in well. We booted up an E-facing chute on a supportable, kickable crust and continued along the top of the ridge. We continued along the ridge, passed the point where the summer trail reaches the saddle on the NW ridge, and continued higher. After meeting the first patch of rocks, Liam decided to bootpack while I followed a skin track weaving through the rocks. The skinning was at first difficult but became easier higher up as the snow cover increased. Around 13,600 feet, Liam and I stopped, heavy clouds completing blocking the face, and our route up. We decided to wait and see if an opening in the clouds arrived. After ten to fifteen minutes, the mountains surrounding us began to appear and we scrambled towards the summit. On our way up the clouds once again reclaimed the peak but we continued on hoping for another break in the clouds. We arrived at the summit around 1030-11, a 5-6 hour ascent. The clouds opened up with views of the Sawatch tempting me into other basins. This was my first time in this area and I wonder if the snow cover is typically this good as I saw enticing, huge lines in every direction. 2 img We hurried to do our transition and ensure some sort of visibility for our run. We spotted a chute, which ended up not being the one we were shooting for, that looked to descend the entirety of the face at 20-50 feet wide. I descended first, making a slope cut across the couloir. We know that the warm temperatures, spring snowpack, and new snow would most likely result in a soft slab avalanche, if anything. This would release at our feet and if we were careful, this problem could be managed. My slope cut released nothing, and showed mixed bag conditions, a firm base with edge-able cream cheese on top. Liam descended next after I was in my safe spot. He released a small sluff and continued onwards. La Plata‘s North Face is a beautiful thing, especially for skiers and snowboarders. Couloirs litter the face, with couloirs residing within larger couloirs. The face has a true big mountain feel with exciting route-finding and aesthetic views with gigantic rock buttresses. The descent went well with good, soft but variable snow with most of it residing within the cream cheese realm. 3 After making gigantic turns down the apron, I stopped atop what seemed to be a rather insignificant roller lower down on the apron to take a picture of the face. I turned downhill toward what appeared to be a mellow slope reconnecting with the basin at large. With the lower visibility, I was not able to differentiate between the snow at my feet and the snow 20 feet below me. It was not until too late that I realized what had happened, and I was 20 feet in the air. I landed in a heap, but bounced up immediately. After throwing a bit of a tantrum, and making sure I wasn‘t hurt, I gathered my things for the rest of the descent. I have had similar things happen to me before, where I was trying to take speed in an outrun and flew off of a windlip. What I‘ve learned from these experiences is that the day is not over once the face has been descended. The mountains demand your respect until the moment your back inside your car. The rest of the descent would drive this point home. 4 Once in the flats, we switched into split skis and began descending and traversing, North and West, back into La Plata Gulch. Up high the snow held our weight, but soon we encountered trap door conditions. If you‘ve ever had the pleasure of watching a snowboarder attempting to split ski downhill, then you can imagine how I looked trying to ski collapsing snow. We cursed, and you would have laughed as we slogged downwards towards the valley. Upon reaching the valley floor, I exclaimed something about how La Plata could throw anything at us and we could overcome it. I need to learn to keep my mouth shut. 5 After pulling skis off, and booting down the dirt to the flat valley below, it was apparent that we still had a few miles West to travel to reach the bridge across Lake Creek. We opted for the direct route North, across the river and back to the road where we would walk to the last few miles on pavement. After deciding this, we came across a willow bog. After a good bout of willow thrashing, we arrived at the river. Channels one and two were easy crossing, especially in my snowboard boots, and the third would be the swiftest and most challenging. We made the crossing, and soon the road. We arrived back at the cars around 230, a 9.5 hr day. It was an incredible day, frustrating at times, but very rewarding for my first winter (Snow?) ascent and descent of a 14er. https://vimeo.com/127856441
|2015-04-12||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Began from trailhead at 5:00 a.m. Snow pack was hard through the tree line. Only used micro spikes for the ascent. We weren‘t sure if we were on the specific winter route but followed some tracks that turned up towards the ridge a little bit before the standard summer route came out of the trees. Made summit at 11:00 a.m. Snow shoes were very helpful once we made it back to tree line. Summer route may have been safe. Some potential avy chutes but I don‘t think there was enough snow to be of concern. Not an avy expert so we still stuck with the winter route.
|2015-04-11||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Ascended the winter route to the NW ridge, nicely packed trail to treeline (hard pack in the AM), then just followed the ridge. Lots of snow on the ridge, mostly packed and no need for flotation any of the time, we carried our skis from the car to the summit. Skied the NW ridge to the West side of the North face. Snow was a mix of wind blown powder and wind packed crust. Conditions were still more winter like, no corn up high, but things are melting fast down low. Below treeline snow was very sloppy in the afternoon, but staying in the packed track made for minimal postholing. If one climbs/descends in the AM you can probably get away with trail runners, microspikes and an axe (for some of the more exposed sections).