| Skiing La Plata‘s north couloir
I‘ve wanted to ski the north couloir of La Plata Peak for a while now, so I made plans to drive up from New Mexico with John, Paul, and Kurt on Friday evening and ski La Plata on Saturday. Getting there in the evening, I did some scouting and ran into four other people that were planning on skiing La Plata the same day as us. Suddenly La Plata was looking like a popular destination.
The crew camped at a semi-secret spot on the creek on the east side of the pass, just a few miles from the La Plata trailhead. We set the alarm for 4AM, but we still didn‘t get on the trail until 6AM, because...well, because we‘re New Mexicans.
The trail up to the top is steep in places and seems long when you‘re carrying your skis and boots and all your crap on your back. We were considering following the advice in Lou Dawson‘s 14er book to climb up the couloir but the trail up the northeast ridge was clear and straightforward so that‘s how we went. Turns out that Lou‘s advice was pretty weird. But anyway, by mid-morning we were on the NW ridge.
Kurt and John grunting up the ridge:
Paul went out in front (as usual). Notice all the tracks from other people that were ahead of us:
Soon enough (11AM) we got to the summit. Conditions were great. Obligatory group summit shot (taken by 14ers.com own Hook Em Horns who got to the top about the same time we did:
We were pretty stoked to see that we‘d be able to drop into the north couloir from the ‘exact summit‘ but it looked like there were at least a half-dozen sets of tracks already. So we enjoyed the great weather and views for a bit, then got down to business. Paul drops in, Kurt watches:
John‘s next (we certainly weren‘t getting first tracks):
The north couloir is a great classic shot - one of the best I‘ve ever skied - long, sustained and beautiful:
Kurt cruises the middle part:
More wonderful (and well-earned) vert:
Paul shows rippage:
The snow at the top had been tracked a bit and set up so it required some focused and careful skiing, but it got better and better on the way down, and near the end of the couloir it turned into perfect corn. On the apron we could really open it up and cruise. That‘s a wonderful sound - the hissing of summer corn.
Looking back at the evidence in the chute:
And a look back at the north face of La Plata - what a beautiful mountain:
And there are lines all over the place, I just happened to notice this great one:
We traversed skiers‘ left over to a bench on the NW ridge that lets you out of the La Plata Basin. The snow was pretty soft, but it wasn‘t very henious at all. We were grateful.
We hiked down the route that Dawson recommends skiers and climbers take to get into the north face, and we have some serious counter-advice for anyone considering skiing La PLata - don‘t take Lou‘s route to get to the north face.
It was a great day with a great crew on a great line - I give it two heels way, way up.