| La Plata - Standard NW Ridge
Decided to start my season over the long weekend and couldn't really figure out where to go. I don't have a 4WD and am not in the best hiking shape currently. Plus I don't have much winter gear, i.e. snowshoes, ice axes, etc. So I decided to give La Plata another try since it turned me back just below the summit last September and thanks to kylerhuss's peak condition update, I decided to give it another go. My 9/17/11 Trip Report
Left Littleton after lunch on Sunday (27th), stopping again in Leadville to grab my dinner and getting to TH at 5:30. It snowed very hard for about 30 minutes when I got there but nothing stuck down around the TH. It was a pretty cold night, dropping in low 20s.
Woke up with only one other car at TH and one guy pulled up as I was about to start a little after 5am. Didn't need my headlamp at all, turned it on for maybe 5-10 minutes out of habit but there was enough light from the distant dawn where you could get by without it.
I basically think of this hike in 4 parts, the forest, the boulder field/switchbacks, the approach, and the summit.
NOTE: Apologize for the pics, the camera got a little too cold during the night and wasn't working properly.
The forest begins at the La Plata Gulch at the TH
Once on the main trail, make sure you head straight toward the water. The metal/wood bridge is a little hidden right now in trees, so just follow the trail directly to the water and you'll see it wedged between the rocks over the gulch. I only mention this because it does look like a small trail heads off in a different direction right in front of the crossing. Follow South Fork Lake Creek to a beautiful valley
Leaving the forest
Both times hiking it has taken me about an hour to get through the forest and up to the short boulder field. Up to this point, you haven't really gained that much elevation even though you've climbed up a few steep stairs and done at least a mile. From the bottom of the boulder field, you pretty much head straight up for a while continuing through the switchbacks.
Look up at the switchbacks
After the main switchbacks, you hit a few more weaving your way up and around until hitting another small boulder field you must climb to reach the ridge line. Currently, you have to cross probably 30-40 yards of snow to get to the boulder field and can lose the trail a little. Look for the signs posting restoration area and stay just left of those. Once on the ridge line, you can choose hard snow pack to climb or boulder hop your way up. I threw on my yaktrax and went up the snow but think you can make up either way without.
Looking down, half way up first ridge
Looking up from the same spot
Looking up at the final ridge
There's less snow the further up you go and just like the route description explains, the trail "weaves through the rocks on or just below the ridge crest". There's a little snow on top but nothing serious at all. Hit summit about 9:15, so just a hair over 4 hours to top for a very average hiker. I'm thinking I'm not very tough because I felt like the wind was whipping again at times and I only stayed on the summit about 10 minutes because of it. But the weather was beautiful and sunny all day and if not for the wind, could probably have been okay in shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt. Temps had to be in mid to high 40s once in sunlight.
Made it back down to truck at 12:15 and was back home in Littleton by 2:30 (yes, I made crazy good time). I saw about 8 people on the mountain and 2 beautiful dogs. I'm also pretty sure I lost my hat on the summit as I was looking for food, so somebody has a nice Nike hat or a mountain goat has a snack.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):