| This Can't Be Winter...
1) Make it home alive- Yes
2) Have Fun- Yes
3) Cool Pictures- Look Below
4) Get a Good Workout In- 11.5 miles, 4500'...yup
5) Get to the Summit- Yes
The five things listed above is my priority list when hiking 14ers, or hiking in general. I woke up around 0330 and got driving from the Springs at 0420. I got to the La Plata Peak TH at about 0710. After getting ready, sitting in the heat for a little bit, and listening to some pump up music I left the TH right off CO-82 at 0720. After a few minutes of hiking the trail splits off to the left. This location is indicated by the trail log and the private property sign to the left. The trail all the way through the trees was very very compact. I did not even bring snowshoes. I wore micro spikes until I gained the ridge line. Whoever broke trail, thank you very much. The spikes dug in and allowed me to hike at a pace almost as fast as my summer pace.
the TH on the left
this is coming down the mountain, take a RIGHT here
I followed the trail broken before me all the way through the tree. I approached a junction with one trail leading right and another leading left. The trail to the right will go about 50 yards and then dead end. Take the left turn at this junction. The trail continued to be firmly packed until it came to another junction with one trail leading left and one going right. The trail leading left will take you to the very bottom of the ridge line while the right trial will take you up the valley for a while following the summer trail. I took a right at this juncture. The trail that has been broken leads you through some of the marsh area covered in snow. At some point you have to make the decision to gain the ridge. I followed one person's tracks up the steep pitch. You know those exercises you did in 4th grade called mountain climbers? Yea, I did those for about 45 minutes. I gained the ridge by keeping low on all fours and kick stepping my way up the side of the ridge. Once I gained the ridge it was a very simple hike. About half of the ridge to the summit was snow, about half of it was as clear as if it was a summer hike.
I wore micros all the way until the ridge, and no my hair is not braided (for the 98% of Colorado hikers who have no idea what this means, Google it, I'll leave this lame joke in there for the 2% that understand). It took me approximately 3 hours to gain the ridge. From there it took me 2 hours to gain the summit. The ridge to the summit looks far more difficult than it really is. THe trail leads around to the right of the present snowfield and enables the hiker to follow the summer trail or to hop up exposed rocks to the summit.
After 5 hours of hiking I reached the summit. The views were absolutely amazing. I had attempted Mt. Sherman a couple weeks back and failed miserably. A trip to REI with a knowledgeable employee made this trip completely comfortable. I removed my down jacket and beanie and replaced it with my Marmot softshell jacket and ski goggles. This would be what I wore for the remainder of the hike.
I spent about 15 minutes at the summit. I ate my summit Snickers (with almonds), hydrated, and headed out. I did not wear micros the entire descent. The wind picked up for about 10 minutes about 3-5 times during the entire hike. Other than that it was a really warm day. My iPhone said that it was 18 degree F at the TH when I started. The snow was absolutely terrible. I must have postholed all the way to my calves at LEAST 4 times (for all you still wearing FOTL whitey tighties, this joke wasn't meant for you). Instead of descending the steep side of the ridge that I had ascended I decided to follow the ridge all the way down. There were footprints from past hikers so I figured if they had made it, I could make it down this way as well. At the end of the ridge I found no real easy way to descend down to tree line. I ended up making class 3/4 moves down a steep rock gully to get to treeline. In the image below, I down climbed the left side of the ridge. At one point I had to swing my body from one side of a rock formation to the other to continue down a line I had previously picked out. This ended up being a much quicker way down, although I would not suggest this route while ascending.
the ridge that I down-climbed
The trail from this point was much steeper the trail that I had ascended. It took me about 2:05 to descend; much quicker than the 5 hours it took me to summit. At times I ran the packed trail, at other times I slid on my butt using the nearby trees to break my rapid slide. The image below is where I met the broken trail that meets up with the main trail.
where I entered tree-line
Coming back down the trail I went straight where I was supposed to take a right. This is where I had taken a right earlier that morning but I did not recognize the turn. I found out that the trail dead ended so I turned around and corrected myself.
this is coming down the mountain, take a RIGHT here
As I drove on CO-82 there were some spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
After looking at the map I saw that there is a faint trail listed that comes down the front of the ridge and connects with the main trail. I took the main trail up to the summit, with a few variations (where I gained the ridge and such) and took the alternative route down. There is a split in the main trail but I think that they both end up in the same place.
Overall, this hike was absolutely amazing! Warm weather, my gear performed perfectly, I had the perfect amount of food and water, no signs of altitude sickness, and I did not get lost or turned around at any point (besides the 50 yd. miscue on the descent). I cannot say how lucky of a man I am to be able to afford this, have the time to do this, and to be physically able to do this. There are so many people who would kill to be able to do this sort of stuff but cannot, for this I am truly thankful. This type of "winter" weather will not last forever, and I have an issue with labeling this a "winter" ascent, but either way, all of my priorities were checked off today, so it was a complete success!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):