| La Plata - Four Pass Warmup
La Plata Peak - Standard Route (Northwest Ridge)
Google Map of Route+Campsite
It's genuinely surprising how quickly one can be in Buena Vista from Kansas City if you leave at 4:00am and take full advantage of I70's speed limit increase. We were ordering subs around 3:00pm when the realization of the moment crash-landed into my conscious. After many months of preparation and anticipation our time in the mountains was finally upon us.
With the Four Pass Loop (4PL) being our ultimate goal La Plata made for a convenient break in driving and excellent acclimatization opportunity. As we pulled into the full parking lot it was obvious why 14ers.com has no pictures of this trailhead. You cannot miss it. Leaving most of our 4PL gear in the car we loaded up and set out for our campsite destination at 10,800'
Route finding on this hike was fairly easy. We had printouts from this site, scans from Roach's book and a Garmin Oregon 450. Other than getting on the right trail initially and some route finding high on the ridge our direction was without question.
South Fork Lake Creek looking north at the crossing:
South Fork Lake Creek looking south:
La Plata Gulch log bridge crossing:
The infamous stone and log steps between 10,400' and 10,700'. More dastardly in height between them than in frequency they were a lunge workout Tony Horton would be proud of.
At 10,750' an impressive view of Star Mountain opened to the southwest:
Just like Denver Davis said (thank you bdavis!) a wonderful campsite awaited us at 10,800'. To get there hike the standard route and look for an obvious clearing on the west side. The map link above clearly shows our campsite location.
Campsite looking south:
Campsite looking north:
La Plata's NW ridge from the creek near our campsite:
Another NW ridge view of La Plata:
After setting camp we made a fire and finished off the other half of our subs:
The creek made for an excellent natural refrigerator for our summit beers:
As evening drew near we hiked a couple hundred feet up the trail to see what was in store for us the following morning. It's amazing what a nice campsite, fireside dinner, seven hundred miles in a car and ten thousand of elevation gain will do to you. With the alarm set for 5:00am we crashed hard.
After enjoying our new breakfast choice of Pop Tarts we set out for La Plata at 6:05am. Sayres BM at 6:20am:
I've been up and down far worse gully's than this one. The switchbacks were nice and even and held tight with firm early morning traction:
Looking west at Star Mountain and La Plata Gulch:
Hillside at 11,800' provided a nice break after the gully and before gaining the north ridge:
At 7:37am we reached the main ridge. View looking north:
We downed some water and the first of many Clif bars over the next five days then pressed south up the ridge trail:
The ridge trail provided some interesting route finding opportunities. More than half of the trail is well defined but you do go for extended periods where route finding is imperative. We passed and were passed by many individuals; all taking different routes up the summit.
Weather for the day was predicted to be outstanding and it did not disappoint. Our rain gear remained stowed for the entire five day trip! With a particularly rainy summer we considered ourselves to be very lucky. Just below the summit looking east at the Ellingwood Ridge:
From thirty-three miles to the west the Elks patiently await our arrival:
The extra 200' of elevation difference between previous fourteeners and La Plata really does make a difference. It seemed to take quite a bit longer to get to the top, especially since only one day prior we awoke a paltry 700' above sea level. We joined a dozen or so folks at the top and crashed in one of many ample wind breaks.
Hagerman, Snowmass, North Snowmass, Capitol and K2:
Summit Pano West:
The Ellingwood Ridge with Elbert left of center:
The Three Amigos!
After calling loved ones, drinking our tasty Porter summit beers and stocking up on food we headed down. I was thankful for our campsite and getting an early start as we passed over two dozen hikers coming up. Most were well prepared and taking advantage of the excellent weather. To those that were not we gently shared our experiences and to others, our duct tape and band aids.
The gentle ridge switchback with Seyres in full sun. Look at those clouds (12:19PM):
Looking north at the beautiful La Plata Gulch and Casco Peak (blue arrow denotes our campsite):
By 2:00pm we were back at our campsite for a round trip of eight hours. To me nothing is better than an ice cold mountain stream on my feet after a long hike.
Our acclimatization exercise complete and knowing very well that this was just the beginning of our adventure we rapidly broke camp and headed down the rock and wooden staircase. Full packs, a beautiful Crater Lake campsite and the Four Pass loop would wait no more!
CLICK HERE to view our Four Pass Loop trip report.
Elevation Profile of La Plata Hike:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):