| Epic Day on La Plata
Climbed La Plata on Sunday, Oct 12. Given the conditions, I felt like I was on K2. Wind was brutal for most of the day gusting up to 60mph+ blowing snow everywhere and making walking difficult, causing me to sit down and wait several times so I could see where I was going and was very cold with the tail end of that recent storm still holding temps low. I contemplated turning around a few times due to the conditions, but figured I would go slow and make sure I could get down anything I was going up.
There was a dusting of snow at the trailhead (got there at 6:15AM) and got progressively deeper as I ascended. Most of the switchbacks had anywhere from 6" to three feet in many spots, with me postholing from about 12,000 up, many times right up to my thighs. I have a few photos below showing my footprints and axe in the snow to show depth. I didn't see any other cars at the trailhead and no other footprints in front of me. The third shot is me looking back at my tracks coming up. The hiking up was great, with snow covered mountains surrounding me.
There was no visible trail to follow, I was sort of heading up following faint signs of where I thought the trail was looking at my map and seeing where the ridge was. Route finding was more difficult below treeline in the woods. Once out of the forest, you can more easily pick a line and shoot towards it. I didn't feel there was significant avalanche risk. There was new snow, but it was not that deep and the slopes I was on were under 30 and the route seemed sufficiently far away from a few chutes that looked like avy paths (the route at least I took, which I cannot guarantee was on the trail or any trail, since things were covered in snow).
Skies were pretty clear with only a few clouds on the horizon. The talus and boulders further up was a bit painful both up and down and required care for those going up due to the ice and slipperyness and not knowing what was beneath the snow. I moved slowly, slipped a few times and banged the knees into the rocks which wasn't too fun. I was feeling strong, so I pushed on.
Crampons and ice axe recommended, at least for conditions yesterday as there was ice under some of the snow on steeper sections. The pain in the neck was the deeper snow mixed in with the steeper firm snow, but I just left them on anyway.
Along the trail after 11,800, my axe would plunge into the snow right to the head on most steps-for those wondering, don't bring alumunum crampons here, too much rock will dull or break them.
The trail disappeared after 12,000 or so and only occasionally would it reappear where the snow was blown off on exposed areas. While it was frustrating to find the way from here up (and down) and added to the time I was out, it was pretty cool to walk the entire way with no footprints in front of me and have the place to myself.
The skies cleared wonderfully by the time I was on top and I got a great view on top of all the other snow capped peaks despite the cold, though the wind didn't disappear. Higher up, my footprints were blown clean from the wind, so routefinding on the way down was a bit *fun* too...
You can see the spindrift coming off the edges of the rocks in this below shot. Was still a bit windy up there...
Here is a shot of La Plata from Elbert (the following day). A beautiful, complicated looking peak.
I was the only one on the peak all day, which really surprised me. I saw footprints to about 11,500 on the way down, so someone must have turned back. Postholing all that way, the routefinding and the slippery talus made the trip a long day.
As this image shows below, most of my tracks from ascending in the morning were gone when I got down..
As I returned, driving back, the foliage was still spectacular around Buena Vista and southeast of Indpendence Pass
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):