| La Plata - std NW ridge route
La Plata Peak
Date Climbed : Saturday Nov. 3
Trip Time : Just under 8 hours (yeah I am slow…)
Route : Standard NW ridge route
Having sat idly for upwards of six weeks, I decided I needed to drag my flab up a mountain and chose La Plata because of the easy TH access. Arrived at the TH around 8 and noticed that there was not nearly as much snow on the ground as I expected. My dog, Brian, and I set out with a group of three other hikers but they were going a bit faster than I was, so I lagged behind (Brian, being a Shepherd "mix" spent his time shuttling between the groups).
Trail conditions under treeline were variable. In some stretches, it was pure dirt. Other stretches had nice crunchy snow that caused little traction issues. But, there were a number of stretches where crampons would have been useful. (Yes, I had them but was too lazy to put them on, knowing I would be taking them off after 50 yards). Best advice I can give on those stretches is keep just off trail and you'll be fine. Below is a picture of one of the snowier sections of trail :
Getting to near the treeline at about 11,400', we were treated to a beautiful view of Winfield Peak. (below) Weather was outstanding – a little breezy at times but generally mild. The summit was rather cold and windy but tolerable nonetheless.
Had a quick snack break at the shoulder at 12,300'. Brian amazingly still has energy…
Gained the summit ridge at about 12,800'. Cornices are only beginning to be developed. The snow was pretty fluffy and was generally lousy for walking on. I chose to hopscotch on the rocks (R side of ridgeline) and that worked out very well.
Despite the bluebird conditions, the last ~400' to the summit saw a significant drop in temperature and increase in wind speed. I spent maybe 10 minutes up top (did not find a registry but then again didn't look too hard), and snapped a summit shot of Brian and I. It was his second 14er (Democrat was #1). He ran into a few pickles where he would whine which I cannot figure out – he used to be a heck of a mountain dog in Alaska.
There were only a few spots where one could glissade, unfortunately….
Overall, a really nice early winter climb. I would recommend some sort of traction assistance for the treeline section of the route. The standard route I took is NOT a usual winter route, but avalanche risk was extremely low due to the minor amount of snow, so I would recommend this route until the next major snow system hits. After that, it may be more advisable to take the winter route. Here is a link for that (courtesy of Scott P, who posted this link on a 14ers.com board) http://www.summitpost.org/list/337648/Colorado-14ers-in-Winter.html It gives a general description but unfortunately no maps.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):