I started the hike from the West Winfield cemetery having made it that far in my “lowly” passenger car. I had made an unsuccessful attempt at summiting La Plata late last fall, having had to retreat shortly after I’d climbed out of the basin to the ridge, ill prepared for the harsh cold winds that ravaged the ridge that day. Today, even though I didn’t set foot on trail until nearly 10 a.m., the weather was definitely on my side.
At the turn off point on the 4WD road, the pine-strewn slopes on the south side offered an enticing view.
View to the South at fork leading to TH
As I trudged northward through the dense woods, a clearing in the foliage opened views to the spectacular valley and the majestic mountains to the west.
Valley to the West
As the trail climbed up and away from the stream, I was amazed by the amount of water raging through.
Coming out of the woods, I was treated to my first view of the picturesque valley ahead and the trail leading up to the ridge.
Coming out of the Woods
View of the Valley
The trail meandered through the basin for half a mile or so before presenting the first challenge – the steep climb up to the ridge. While the loose rocks and sand certainly did no favors, they would prove to be a real handful on the way down. Here’s a look down the trail to the valley beneath.
Looking down the basin
Once on the ridge, the views all around were breathtaking.
View from the Ridge 1
View from the Ridge 2
The trail then offered a brief respite as it made its way to the large boulder field leading to the top of the first false summit.
Trail leading to First False Summit
Heading to the pitch up the talus face, I stopped to say hello to this little denizen of the tundra that seemed to be basking in the sun and enjoying having his picture taken by hikers!
I'm just passing through, little one!
The steep talus face posed the next challenge and here you can see a couple of fellow hikers resting momentarily.
I pressed on up the talus and snapped this shot looking down from near its summit. The tiny specks on the rocks are indeed hikers and the trail through the top of the valley is visible in the distance, lending some perspective to the magnitude of that pitch.
Looking back from Talus summit
At nearly 14,000 feet, the talus top afforded great views of the majesty of the Sawatch that surrounded us.
Views from the Talus Summit
The hike though, was far from over, as evidenced by the view up the remainder of the trail showcasing a relatively steep climb up through two more false summits.
View of Remaining False Summits 1
With well placed cairns marking most of the trail from here, route finding was thankfully not a major challenge.
View of Remaining False Summits 2
The pitch to the last false summit was the final challenge leaving the peak and its other proud occupants only a casual stroll away.
Pitch to Last False Summit
The panaroma from the top was definitely worth the effort.
Finally, some rest and reward for the weary!
In nearly a decade and a half of hiking Colorado’s majestic fourteeners, I have come to expect serious challenges and dramatic weather changes tempered with awesome sights and sounds but, as a predominantly solo hiker, sparkling conversation hasn’t typically been on that list! On this descent, though, I was rewarded with just that as I met with a fellow hiker, making for a very enjoyable return; so if you’re reading this, here’s to you, Francis, and happy summiting!