| Climbing La Plata to get to Beau Jo's- Southwest ridge
SOUTHWEST RIDGE CLIMB
After climbing Kelso, Grays, and Torreys last weekend, I figured it would be at least a couple weeks before I would be ready to do another 14er. It only took a couple days. Monday passed... then Tuesday... Wednesday came and I was spending hours on 14ers.com in search of a mountain I could drive to Saturday night after work, climb Sunday, and drive back to Longmont that night. I'm learning my body doesn't appreciate a couple hours of poor sleep and then a fourteener just to go to work Monday morning. I can't think of anything that would stop me from doing it next weekend though.
I picked La Plata because it was in a mountain range I had never been to. I called both my hiking partners (Brice and Kory) to find out if they were ready to climb another. Unfortunately work prevented Kory from coming on this trip, but Brice had no objections. Now for the tough part... I had to call Kelly, the GF, and let her know I was not going to be around another weekend. Out of fear of her wrath I asked her to come along. She said sure. Whoa, didn't expect that response, but I thought it was awesome she wanted to share my favorite activity with me.
We left Longmont at around 7pm. Our first destination Tommy Knockers in Idaho Springs for a beer and our last good meal for a while. After dinner we drove to Leadville and found a spot to sleep at around 11pm. There is a RV campsite we found and pitched at tent at. It looked a little funny with everyones big bus RVs next to our two person tent. Yes that's right 2 PERSON tent with three people and Kelly's dog, Stella. We stayed very warm.
We set an alarm for 5am knowing we had to get to the trailhead still. The road to the trail is a washboard dirt road until you reach the 4WD sections. This was easy enough for Kelly's Jeep Liberty until the last part before the trailhead. It took a spotter to pick the right line through this rut.
The beginning of the trail was below tree line with a stream running on your left side. It doesn't take very long to get above the trees, but before you do there is still plenty of eye candy.
When you get out of tree line you begin to see your next couple of obstacles. We took a long break here on a round rock with a flat top.
The bushes in this area are very tall. There were some points you could not see the person in front of you if they turned a corner. I am assumming it is because the area holds so much water. Having waterproof boots in this area will make your trip much more enjoyable. I felt like a kid splashing in water puddles and deep mud.
I only looked over the route once which is a big mistake by me. Luckily the trail is well defined and easy to follow. The first steep section is easy to go up but took us some time getting back down. There a very few solid rocks to stand on. Most of the portion after the bushes is soft and loose dirt.
A third of the way up the first steep section was a mine shaft and only tracks. I was not willing to go exploring in here. It was full of water and who knows what else. It was a nice break point while climbing this part.
I was hoping someone on 14ers.com could help me in naming these two peaks. This is one area we did not purchase a map for. The ridge looks like it would be a good technical route with more experience.
Because I did not review the route before setting off, we all thought this was the summit. This was the first of several false summits.
We relaxed after getting to this point. All of us could feel the incline burning our legs. It was time for Gold Fish, Jerky, and lots of water.
The climb of the first false summit is the hardest part of the route. There are more than a dozen routes marked by cairns up this section. It took a good hour to an hour and a half to get over this part. It was fun to find a few long stretches to practice hand and foot manuevers. This part really took a toll on Kelly. She recently hit by a drunk driver and her knees are still recovering from the impact. The numerous amount of crows on and around this section were a little unsettling. What is dying up here that they could be eating?
Kelly had to finally give up after reaching the first false summit. Her knees were filling full of fluid fast, and I think she made the right choice to stop here. For someone who doesn't go hiking on a frequent basis, I was very proud of her for making it this far. We called this her summit. Good Job Kelly! She was nice enough to take a break at this point to let me finish. (on a side note, I did ask her when she was going to finish this mountain this morning before writing the trip report. It didn;t sound like it would be next week, but she was willing to try again which is awesome)
Brice was well ahead of me by this point and got to relax in the beautiful weather on the summit. I was doing everything possible to encourage Kelly up. It took me fifteen to twenty minutes to finish the final climb over two more false summits. Kelly watched my bag while I climbed this portion. You can see the remaining hills and the final summit in the picture below.
Brice and I have completed our first four 14ers this year and plan to do two more by the end of this month. We are both hooked on the idea of climbing mountains on a few hours of sleep and grabbing Beau Jos on the way back. What a great way to live!
The decent down only took two hours. Stella (dog) was a little afraid going down. She took plenty of encouragement and pointing to where she should go next. This is my first long hike with a dog. If I could do it again I hate to say, but she may have to stay behind. She will have to stick to short Boulder Mountain Park hikes. The amount of water she went through was hard enough to carry up, yet alone her pushing your pace faster than desired. The clouds rolled in on our decent making it easier to decent without the scorching sun on our necks. By the way we forgot sunscreen, OUCH!
Our morale was poor getting to the treeline. We were all very tired and the sun was brutal. Beau Jo's Pizza and a beer helped, but not as much as laying in bed after finally arriving home.
I want to tell Kelly good job. Your climbed over 3000 feet with very little experience and a crazed dog to deal with. I hope not summiting does not stop you from coming again. You climbed higher than you ever have and that by itself is a huge accomplishment, We will get you up your first 14er soon enough.
This is a great climb with great views even before summiting. The range was vastly different from the front range and elk range we have recently been to and I thoroughly enjoyed more stable rock to climb up. There was almost zero snow, and absolutely no snow on any portion of the climb.
Thank you for reading and I hope this gets someone motivated to climb La Plata.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):