This report is a bit late, but it's been a busy week since we got back to Texas. Might not be much good for in-state hikers, but if you're out-of-staters like us trying to anticipate what June conditions may be like, I hope this helps!
After opting not to do Elbert on Wednesday after a long day on Massive on Tuesday, we decided on La Plata over Elbert on Thursday so we could leave CO feeling like we had adequately challenged ourselves. We felt pretty rested at the end of Wednesday. The only problem was that Lori had developed blisters on her lips and the underside of her nose had become raw from sun exposure on snowy Massive the day before. (She forgot to reapply lip balm and sunscreen during the 12 hours we were hiking). Forecast was clear but with winds in the 25-30mph range with gusts up to 55mph. No problem, we have Windstopper gear! (right...)
overlooking the gulch
We started on the trail at 5:45 a.m. The trail was in really good condition and I was quite impressed and appreciative of the steps all along the steep climb through the forest.
The wind was quite calm, but started picking up by the time we hit this clearing.
By the time we got out of treeline, the wind was fierce and it was cold. My face got a little numb, but other than that I felt good with my Windstopper jacket, gloves, and hat. (I highly recommend the Marmot Leadville jacket if you're in the market for a light softshell, especially if you're prone to get hot and sweat). Lori was wearing a Windstopper jacket, but the wind chilled her to the bone and was really hurting her lips and nose. I felt bad for her and suggested turning back, but she would have none of that... she's pretty tough.
We got up over the buttress at about 9:15 a.m. and were very pleased to find firm snow on the ridge. We took some shelter, had a bite to eat, ditched our poles and donned our microspikes to head up the ridge.
reprieve from the wind before the snow field to the summit
Even though the ridge is pretty steep, it actually seemed to us like one of the easier portions of the hike. This may have been due to microspikes on firm snow or, more likely, we were more sheltered from the southern winds.
hiking up the firm snow to the summit
looking back down the ridge
After not seeing any fresh footprints on the way up, we were a little surprised to find three young men laying down in the semi-circle windbreak at the summit. They were from CO Springs and had hiked up the SW ridge which they reported was largely void of snow.
approaching the summit
We spent about 30 minutes at the summit after our arrival at 10:00 a.m. Lori was hunkered down from the wind and shivering, trying her best to enjoy the summit while I took pictures, videos, and uploaded a summit shot to Facebook. (She has saintly patience with my affinity for technological gadgets).
The glissading on the way down the snow field to the buttress was a little slow due to some softening, but definitely better than walking down. There was one really good glissade on a snow field coming down off the ridge.
good glissade on the way down
Even though we felt good about achieving the summit, we were subtly reminded of our out-of-state status when we passed by a friendly group of three on the way down: one guy wearing shorts and another hiking barefoot. The wind wasn't nearly as bad coming down as it was going up, probably because it was mostly at our backs and the day had warmed up considerably. We took our time taking lots of pictures and breaks... just enjoying the last beautiful day of our trip. We arrived back at the parking area around 2:45 p.m.
This was Lori's 7th and my 6th 14er. Even though it was a bit cold and windy for Lori, she enjoyed the hike. I have to say it was my favorite 14er yet and a great way to finish our trip. We can't wait until our next trip to CO!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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