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|Conditions Information||Posted By||Posted On|
|2013-07-08||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: The wife and I started out prepared to do Ellingwood Ridge (Photo 3)- but the instructions from 14ers.com confused us and we backtracked to the Northwest Route. So a quick note for those trying to do Ellingwood Ridge - after the road hike and then starting on the trail, you will come to a small bridge crossing a spectacular creek bottleneck - just after this take a left where the trail splits right (South) & left (North). After a little hike you will come to another creek - you may have to wade across this if run-off is high. That\‘s were we turned back but should have continued on, so I hope that helps some of you. Now, our climb up the standard route was great (started at 6:00) it was a bit wet (a large thunder/lightning storm rolled through the night before) but by the time we reached rocks/boulders things were drying up. The willows were a bit damp but did not soak through to my socks. This standard route is very steep and involves a lot of switchbacks - so be prepared. After timberline there\‘s a traverse that leads to a small saddle, and then it\‘s up, up, up lots of boulders. Here (at the boulders area) there was some leftover snow, but it doesn\‘t hinder the hike at all. We made summit at about 10:15 with few clouds and began our descent at about 10:40. Have your camera ready for there are lots of marmots just hanging out (Photo 4). Clouds came and went, but without moisture nor lightning. Really a beautiful hike.
|2013-06-15||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: Hiked from the West Winfield trailhead. The trail is clear of snow until the upper Southwest ridge. Be prepared for several inches of mushy mud on much of the trail through the willows. As you near 14,000‘, there is a good bit of lingering snow on the ridge. Much of it is avoidable, but there was no postholing when walking straight across. Saw several people in shorts and trail runners that made the summit with no issue. Traction, gaitors, etc definitely not needed. Photo 1: A look at the steep slope leading to the Southwest Ridge Photo 2: The remaining route shortly after gaining the Ridge Photo 3: The remaining snow on the last stretch of the route
|2013-06-08||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: Snow clear to tree-line. The basin below the southwest ridge is still filled with snow to a one metre depth. The switch-backs to the southwest ridge are intermittently snow-covered. The summit ridge is snow-covered to an unknown depth. I ran in my running shoes and DID NOT use any traction device or ice axe.
|2013-06-02||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: All the snow is gone to treeline. Between treeline and the buttress it is possible to move around it or minimize your time on it. The final summit pitch is still heavily covered with steep slope angle. Ice ax is recommended. Microspikes are recommended unless you have a firm boot for kicking steps.
|2013-05-04||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Very snowy still, the entirety of the woods and the basin. The gully is full of snow. There are a number of considerable snow fields leading up to the ridge. They were firm in the morning but you better have an ice axe. From the ridge to the summit there is still plenty of snow, but it can be mostly avoided by hopping on the talus and sticking to the occasional part of the trail that is exposed.
|2013-04-28||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: The trail is entirely snow covered, but visible and easy to follow up to about 11,000 ft. From there the best option seems to be to ascend directly to the ridge where tracks are again visible most of the way to the summit. There was evidence of recent Loose/Wet slides on nearly all of the surrounding peaks, including one near the standard route around treeline so an early start is definitely recommended. It‘s tempting to try to take the standard route down at the saddle, but the better option is to follow the tracks along the ridgeline. Some sort of flotation will be necessary on the descent, after the snow gets direct sunlight and softens up. Also, I discovered a pocket knife in the middle of the trail on the descent. I assume it belongs to the group of backcountry skiers camped at the trailhead when I arrived. If anyone knows someone who lost a knife recently on La Plata, please contact me with a brief description and I‘ll be happy to return it.
|2013-04-12||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: 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.
|2013-03-27||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Today I attempted La Plata Peak‘s Northwest ridge for the 3rd time this winter. I got within about 350‘ vertical feet of the summit then had to turn back due to exhaustion. It was painful to have to turn back so close, but it was the right thing to do. I‘m pretty wasted right now. There wasn‘t really a trench at all anywhere today, but there was a depression where a recent trench was, and I followed it. It was full of new snow and had no tracks in it whatsoever, and snow shoes were definitely required. Later in the day 4 other people (in two parties) followed the same trench, so if you wanted to do so, it‘s pretty well beaten now. Though I still recommend snow shoes. I knew very well that the standard winter route ascends toward the ridge very soon after the standard summer route hooks hard South, but for bad reasons I kept following the depression even though it was clear it was more or less following the summer route. I finally made the decision to try to crank up towards the winter route way, way too late, at around 2 miles. I knew I had waited too long, but that‘s just how it went. Don‘t follow the tracks that turn up the hill at the 2mi point unless you‘re interested in abusing yourself. The attempt to turn up the hill at this point resulted in me digging a thigh-deep trench for about 2 tenths of a mile, at which point I decided to go back down and keep following the depression. The whole ordeal wasted about 1 hour (45m to go 2 tenths of a mile...). It was just way too hard and taking way too long. Turns out, only a about a tenth of mile past my too-late decision was a slope much less dense with trees, and significantly easier to climb, that led up to the clearing at ~11700. There was still a significant amount of trench digging going on but it was a way smarter move at that point. That climb was definitely harder, more time consuming, and more aggravating than if the standard winter route had been followed, but it was safe, so I guess that‘s something. The past two times I have followed trenches that more or less followed the standard winter route, and those climbs to tree line took around 3h. Today, not including my poor route choice, took 3h30m. I used snow shoes, and would recommend them, all the way up to the base of the scree slope where you actually gain the ridge. On the ridge there are places where snow shoes would keep you from post-holing, but there are so many other parts on the ridge where they‘d be anything from inconvenient to down-right dangerous/not advisable that I wouldn‘t recommend trying to use them on the ridge, unless you‘re really quick with stashing them or don‘t mind having to swap them on/off often. I used microspikes. Last time I got stuck at the buttress, because I tried to go over the top. This time there was a lot less snow on the ridge and it was clear that I could go around it to the West. This worked but I may have been a little lower on the West slope than was necessary, but I didn‘t find it to be dangerous. Just slow going due to the somewhat unforgiving nature of making a mistake there, and dealing with finding footholds through the snow. In the attached picture note the small outcropping to the left (East) marked in red just before the top of the buttress. It is at approximately this point that I started making my way around to the right (West). Worked for me. The battery in my GPS died about 1/2 down where I climbed to the hill to the clearing, so I don‘t have descent data beyond that point, but I didn‘t deviate from my ascent beyond there, so I don‘t think anything interesting is missing. Including all stops, the poor route decision at 2mi, etc, it took me about 9.5h to reach where I did. About 4h down.
|2013-03-19||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: this is info for the nw ridge with a winter variation to keep out of avy territory - we definitely saw either prime conditions for some pretty nasty slides (or slides that had already triggered) on various faces (no particularly single face direction) so there is a need to be careful. there were some pretty large cornices - it‘s just the usual thing...just don‘t be dumb about it. there was a pretty good trench already in existence up to around 11,000 feet. we probably helped pack it down with our snowshoes. the trench suddenly disappeared, and we made our own, but with fairly steady winds (and upcoming snow predictions) i‘m not positive of how long that will stay. there were some slight footprints we could see from previous climbers at points but not enough to follow. also be prepared to lose any standard trail a lot, but then again that is what climbing in snow is all about, right? snowshoes helped and became necessary once we came out of the trees. there were two guys that were on our trail who didn‘t have them and were postholing a ton. we had to ditch our snowshoes for a scree slope and erroneously thought we wouldn‘t need them on the ridge. no question they are useful though you can get by without them. microspikes are pretty much a given.
|2013-02-21||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: I attempted La Plata Peak for the 2nd time today. Unfortunately for some reason my GPS didn‘t save the data it was collecting today (!!!), otherwise I‘d provide it. Last night La Plata Peak received about 6-8 inches of snow, and maybe another inch or two today. Even with that new snow, there‘s a clearly defined trench below tree line, all the way up to the clearing at around 11,700‘ where you aim to gain the ridge. Just after the clearing there was no sign of a trench or a trail at all, and given how quickly even today‘s mild winds (occasional, 10-15mph) covered my tracks, I imagine any tracks I left past the clearing are already gone. If you‘re into snow shoes, they would have helped today, but I generally find them more aggravating than helpful. Personally I think using them in the fairly narrow trench would have been a headache, and the sections where they would have been helpful on the ridge too short to mess with, especially considering the stretches where you‘ll be on rocks/boulders. But that‘s me. And that said, I still had mine with me. I stuck with microspikes, though there were some sections above tree line where I post holed. Making my way across the clearing at 11,700‘ to gain the ridge I post holed up to my thighs the whole way, but it was relatively short and I expected it. On the ridge there were a few short sections where I post holed to my shins or knees, but again, these were relatively short. The trench below tree line is solid, but if you get out of it at all, you will post hole to about your knees. I found the climb up to the ridge from the clearing to be a little sketchy, but perhaps I took the stupid way up (switched up right from about the middle the clearing). Though I didn‘t see a safer/better way to do it (not to say there isn‘t one). Once on the ridge I was doing a lot of careful foot placement, feeling for whether or not I was going to post hole, or would find a boulder under the snow. This slowed me down a bit but with care I usually found rocks/boulders under my feet. This trench below tree line diverts from the summer trail pretty quickly. Just before the last hard climb to make tree line there‘s a short section that mellows out, which is kind of nice given how steep of a climb the winter diversion is. This is just my opinion, but I think any way you slice it, gaining tree line during winter on La Plata Peak is just plain hard. It took me around 3 hours. My possibly incorrect understanding of the winter route is that instead of going west around the buttress that peaks around 13,500‘, you just go straight up it. I got within maybe 100‘ of the top and the climb got so sketchy that I turned back. At this point I would have had to literally climb (arms, legs, leverage, skills, what not) almost straight up over the top. As risky as that seemed (extremely), I couldn‘t imagine having to down climb it. At least not with the snow cover. Even down climbing some of what I had done so far was a little scary. I really wish I had my GPS data for this. I think it took me about 6 and a half hours to reach this point. As I descended I took a look at the west side of the buttress from several vantage points and couldn‘t see any way to safely divert west around it, like you do in the summer, with the snow cover. I also couldn‘t see any route other than the one I tried to take that appeared safe. But maybe I just didn‘t see it, or snow cover made it hard to discern. Basically I was climbing up the buttress and trying to stick close to boulders that I could hang onto, and the other options appeared to cross extremely steep decently large patches of snow, with no way to know what lay underneath. It took about 2.5 hours to fully descend. I was right at 9 hours when I reached my car at the trailhead. This is only my opinion, but I don‘t think there‘s significant avalanche risk if you stay squarely on top of the ridge, at least as far as I made it (near the top of the buttress). There absolutely *is* avalanche risk if you were to veer off of either side. There were clearly defined cornices on the east side of the ridge. There are sections where the ridge becomes very narrow, so great care must be taken. If you had to stick closer to one side of the ridge than the other, I found the west side of the ridge to be safer looking (more boulders and rocks than just plain slopes of snow). But again, just my opinion. Use your own judgement. Sorry that‘s long. I think that‘s all there is to tell.
|2013-01-09||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Note: This was my first attempt at La Plata Peak, so I have no personal experience with the standard winter route for the Northwest Ridge. What appeared to me to be the heaviest usage trail on the Northwest Ridge route appears to have deviated from the standard route in at least two places from what I can gather. Around the 1.6m point the trail starts switching back up to the ridge and becomes extremely steep with patches of uneven boulders and vegetation under the few inches of snow that existed today. This section does not seem to follow a well treaded path of any kind, and rather appears to be switchbacks someone just sort of forged for themselves. This continues until about 2.1m at which point you top out onto a relatively flat area with snow deep enough that snow shoes would help, but if you continue to follow this path you quickly enter into a boulder field, then head onto a steep slope of the ridge, where the snow shoes definitely need to come off. In hindsight, I shouldn‘t have stopped to put mine on. Apparently the standard winter route shoots up the ridge shortly after 2.1m on this path, but again the path that appears to have the heaviest usage continues precariously onto a very steep slope of the ridge. The "safe" path is extremely narrow and you cross sections of unstable gravel that could easily send you sliding down the face of the ridge into the gulch below. I cannot recommend following this part of the route. I went farther than I probably should have and ultimately called my attempt due to safety concerns. More discussion/information available in this thread: http://14ers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=38681 Attached is some data generated from my GPS, with the route I followed and the elevation profile. These are also in the thread I linked to above.
|2012-11-25||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: Steep, direct route. Some snow but we never needed traction or flotation. Trick is finding the TH. We measured 1.75+ mi from 390 390a fork at Winfield. 1.3 from High clearance vehicles only sign to the ATV road that goes to the TH.
|2012-11-19||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Very little snow and a non-issue for hiking. Maybe micro spikes would have been nice, but really there was no problem today. Camped overnight at 11,200 on the standard route. Very little snow.
|2012-11-12||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Fresh virgin snow when I showed up this morning at 7 AM. There was about 4-6 inches of easy powder while following the gulch up this morning. Once I turned east and started heading up the gully the snow began to get deeper and crusty. The snow was generally about 6-10 inches deep going up to the top of the gully. No issues with route finding until I got to the 6x6 boulder. Much of the snow from the 6x6 Boulder to the ridge was covering the trail and I lost the trail on my ascent. The Route from the Northwest Ridge to the summit was also problematic with portions of the trail being covered by snow. When I did lose the trail I would continued to climb in the direction of my next way-point and would regain the trail or spot the next cairn. Overall it was not to bad, I made the summit in 5 hours and did the return route in 3.5 hours. Yak Tracks / traction for the shoes are pretty much a requirement at this point. No snow shoes needed at this point. Although I didn‘t have any, poles would have helped with balancing while pushing through the snow. If anyone goes up before the next storm the tracks I had left today will be a helpful guide to the summit.
|2012-11-07||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Snow and ice patches the whole way up. Most are avoidable but some take more creativity. No need for spikes or snow shoes yet. Take care going over the icy spots - slippery!
|2012-11-03||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: This route is basically snow/ice free all the way to the summit. Their were a couple of small patches(no more than 10 ft) in the trees that had a little packed snow/ice and along the summit ridge their were a couple of patches of snow that were easily avoidable. The marshy meadow was frozen on the way up and muddy on the way down, with careful navigation I was able to keep my feet clean and dry. Absolutly no need for gaiters, spikes etc. FYI...there is a tree that has fallen in front of the road about 200 yards from the trailhead. I don‘t care if you have a monster truck your not getting past it.
|2012-09-22||Route: Ellingwood Ridge
Info: Climbed up Ellingwood Ridge and down NW Ridge; both routes are totally free of snow/ice despite the snow on the north face. Aspens are in full color.
|2012-08-28||Route: Ellingwood Ridge
Info: Climbed La Plata via Ellingwood Ridhe in about 6 hours trailhead to summit, topping out at 1:25 pm. What a route! Saw only one cairn on the entire ridge on top of Point 13,206. There are faint trails one can follow, mostly trending to the east of the ridgetop, (climber‘s left) but route finding is difficult. Opportunities abound to bail down scree fields between cliffs off either side of the ridge but eventually one reaches the point where the fastest way off the mountain is over the top and down the standard route. No snow anywhere, some wet dirt in the shade. Rain started a little after 1:30 and thunder by about 3:00 pm.
|2012-07-01||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Headed up this morning all is clear and dry...summer is here for La Plata.
|2012-06-24||Route: Ellingwood Ridge
Info: Made it to the summit via Ellingwood Ridge yesterday. It appears the lingering snow reported last week is almost all gone. I think I stepped foot in snow once the entire day. There are some patches to be found but I generally would have had to go out of my way to get to them. Other than that the ridge is in summer shape for all intensive purposes.