Will (hunterwf) and I met up in Colorado Springs Friday afternoon and drove up to the La Plata TH off of Independence Pass to tackle the NW Ridge. We set up camp and talked to a couple of other hikers that arrived just after we did. At about 9:30 PM we hit the sack with a wake up call at 4 AM. This is where things got a little interesting.
Will woke up at 3:45 AM and got out of his tent to stretch out and after looking around saw a pair of green eyes looking at him, then another pair not to long after that. So Will comes over to my tent to ask if I'm awake, I responded, then he said I see a pair of green eyes staring at us and they are coming closer. So I got up grabbed my headlamp and car keys and we made for the car! After sitting there for about 15-20 minutes we saw other vehicles pullling up so we got out to warn them that there were mountain lions in the area and advised to them to wait and start until there is more light out.
So after waiting in the car until nearly 5 AM we got out and started getting our packs ready and took down our tents and we were on the trail by 5:30 AM. The trail was relatively snow free until we got close to tree line. On the way we managed to run into the Incline...though I don't remember tapping my Merrel trail runners together and saying, "There is no place like home."
As we continued up the trail Will points out there is a sign saying there is now hang gliders, motorized vehicles or equipment, or bicycles. So we had to leave our hang gliders in the trees and forgot to pick them up on the way back. So if you happen to see our hang gliders would you please return them.
We continued on to tree line and ran into our first snow patch covering the trail. This snow patch covers the trial of photo 2 in Bill's route description. If you stay to the left you can make it past it pretty easily. Once you get to the top you will see the trail off to your right.
You will make your way across a couple of other small snow fields covering the trail, no more than 30 feet wide. After you hike a few switchbacks past the second small snow crossing you will see another large field of snow where the trail is covered once again. This snow field is covering picture 4 in Bill's route description. We stayed to the right of this to gain the ridge. Here is a look at Ellingwood Ridge from the NW Ridge.
Once you gain the ridge you will run into a large patch of snow, if you look at photo 8 in Bill's route discription this is where you find that large snowfield. You can dodge most of it by staying to the right and here is where you begin your boulder/talus hopping adventure all the way to the summit. You will find patches of trail and it becomes more clear once you get close to the false summit.
We finally reached the summit at 10:15 AM. Here are some pictures of us at the summit and other amazing views.
My summit shot.
Me and Will on the summit.
We left the summit at 10:35 AM and reached the cars at 1:45 PM. It was a beautiful day out in the mountains and I have to say some of the best views off any of the 14ers I've been on. This peak is in the top 5 for sure if not top 3 of all the peaks I've summited so far!
Thanks Will for coming along!