| La Plata Peak -- Northwest Ridge 1/26/2007
I decided to give the Northwest Ridge a shot today -- it looked like a fun winter climb! I got started around 5:30 am with my skins on my skis. There was still a faint trail from December that helped me find my way over the two log bridges.
I was going solo, so I wanted to avoid all avalanche danger. I headed to the ridge as soon as possible, and found some really rough route finding. There were a ton of downed trees that made picking a skin path very difficult. The lower part of the ridge (in the trees in Bill's pics) is actually a lot steeper than I thought. Finally, many hours later than planned, I popped out of the trees at the rock formation leading to the upper ridge.
(My skin track definitely gets the job done, but beware that there are several log crossings. Yuck! Sorry I couldn't find a more efficient route through the trees on the lower ridge.)
At this point, the climber is afforded a good view of the route ahead. I didn't see much snow covering, so I ditched my skis at treeline.
The crux of the climbing on the route is surmounting the rocks to gain the upper ridge.
I headed up towards the right side (slightly steeper than 30 degrees), and found rotten snow mixed in with small rocks. A thin layer of ice required crampons for purchase. I didn't need my ice axe, but others might want one there.
Once I gained the upper ridge, it was also slow going. I was exhausted from breaking trail on the lower ridge, and I post-holed in some places along the upper ridge. (I don't regret leaving the skis behind, though.) I stuck to the ridge as closely as possible, and found it to be overall in great shape! Several hours of climbing along the ridge and the summit was at hand.
This was definitely my toughest winter Colorado 14er climb so far (Bierstadt, Quandary, El Diente, Shavano, Tabeguache). Overall, it took me 8 hours to reach the summit! Granted, I'm not in great shape, but I'm not in bad shape, either. The downclimb was straight-forward, and I followed my skin tracks back out to make sure I found the log bridges.
Overall car-to-car time: 11.5 hours. I usually beat Dawson's time estimates fairly handily (finishing in 50-75% of his times), but I just barely beat his estimate of 12 hours.
A final note -- the standard route actually looks fairly windblown. It might be in shape. It would be much easier than tackling the forest of the lower ridge, but dig a pit first.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):