Pretty standard route here, but a lot of people have been asking about snow conditions, so I figure that this effort will be worthwhile.
With my friend Eric in from Wisconsin, our initial plan was to climb La Plata Peak on Saturday, Mount Yale on Sunday, and Missouri Mountain on Monday (more on this later). Driving in from Denver on Friday evening, we met in Leadville for dinner (at the Golden Burro), and then arrived at the La Plata Peak trailhead around 8pm.
La Plata Peak, Friday evening:
Seventeen months earlier, we attempted the winter variation of the Northwest Ridge route, and after postholing to the hip for several hours, turned around just above treeline. We were eager to finally get back at this one, and after a car alarm woke us at 3am, we were off at approximately 3:30.
It's always nice to get the formalities out of the way in the dark, and by the time we could take clear photos, we were starting to work our way up the side of the ridge itself:
Fortunately the snow was hard, at least on the way up. Here we are above the first set of switchbacks (which were encased in snowpack):
And a broader view of the La Plata Gulch:
A look over to Sayers with the full moon in effect:
And a look at the largest snowfield we would have to cross. On the ascent, we circumvented this to climber's right. On the descent, I glissaded in shorts using my hiking boots for "control". Hilarious video available on Facebook.
Once we've gain the ridge proper. Photos never really properly convey steepness - the journey ahead:
Our destination is the point in the back, shrouded in clouds. We had had decent weather to this point, but clouds were coming in early this morning:
A look across at the mighty Ellingwood Ridge and Mount Elbert:
I always love to see suncupped snow in the morning:
We take slighty different paths through the boulder hopping - the snow is reasonably avoidable:
Here comes the storm! This is a look back from whence we came:
We summit at approximately 8am - this is my twentieth unique fourteener, and the visibility is probably worse than any other:
You really couldn't see very far in the snow and the wind. For instance, the Belford group was nowhere to be seen. Some examples:
I never get cold on these things, but on the descent I couldn't feel my left hand for about a half hour:
It's time to go - I'm either yawning or complaining (possibly both):
We begin to descend north - the road ahead:
Here, we glissaded for about as long as possible - the angle wasn't too severe:
Looking back into the valley, with highway 82 and the cars way in the distance:
Working our way to the last main snowfield on the switchbacks - for which I bushwacked to descender's right:
Now that it's light out, a look back towards the peak from lower in the valley:
Trying not to add "sunburn" to my case of "windburn":
Lot of creekwater going through at this time of year - although it could have been worse (17 months ago, I slipped on the icy bridge and fell into the water:
Lots of runoff!
And we are back at the bridge, right around 11am sharp:
Lake Creek is quite full:
And there you have it! Back to the Buena Vista Best Western and lunch in town, all to get ready for another tomorrow. Thanks to Eric for great company, and for some of the photos in this report.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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