| The Silver Peak - SW Route
La Plata – Southwest Ridge Route
Having moved to CO about 2 years ago, I left some of the greatest friends a guy could ask for behind in Ohio. For a week, everything was right in the world as they came out for a little time in the wilderness.
After a nice warm-up on Wednesday on Blodgett Peak, the guys and I set out for the "road less traveled" on La Plata Peak – the Southwest Ridge Route.
Thursday, July 29
We set out from about halfway up the high 4WD road around 2pm on Thursday, July 29 with a goal in mind to hike about a mile in. We started looking for campsites after about 45 minutes since the trail toward the Southwest Ridge begins to move away from the creek.
Dan P. Doing his best Uncle Sam
Luke "The Duke" and David enjoying the rain and a quick break
We found an awesome spot that was relatively flat and had some good shelter nearby – which would come in handy over the next 48 hours.
View from our campsite
We had just enough dry weather to set up camp. Then the rain came in and didn't let up until sometime during the middle of the night. We did get a small window to cook an early dinner, but spent most of the evening in the tent playing Euchre – ahh, the Midwest Card Game of Kings.
Clouds rolling up the valley as Dave and Dan prep for a firewood expedition
Friday, July 30
With just about everything being so damp, ¾ of us were pretty cold during the night. We hadn't planned on a morning fire, but I couldn't resist. We had a traditional Colorado Summer Morning, which was a pleasant sight for the Ohio Boys – and a relief for me. After all, I didn't want to bring them all into the mountains just to sit in a tent.
Morning light and Dave stirring out of the tent
Because of the shaky forecast and the beautiful morning, we partially considered heading up Friday morning. But reason and rationality took over, since it was now past 8:00am, and we just decided to head up to the meadow to scope out the route. What a fantastic place. The willows were a little muddy and wet, but posed no real problems – except for one extremely muddy boot (sorry Dave!)
Dan taking the lead with the ridge climb in view
After a tasty lunch of Ramen and Tuna/Salmon (Duke's favorite, right Duke?), we caught some rain once again. This time, we chose naps over cards. For me, this was one of the only naps I've taken over the past 6 months, thanks to my 6 month old son, Miles. I love you buddy!
The rain was much shorter-lived than the day before and we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening sunset-gazing.
Last-light on Huron Peak
Euchre again…this time by the campfire on a clear night. – Dan showing his "strong" hand – a 9 as usual. Dave and I won 5 games to 0. Maybe next time, guys. Practice makes Perfect, ya know.
Saturday, July 31 – Summit Day
We got up around 4:30 and fetched the food bag from its branch. After filtering water and some quick fruit bars, we hit the trail towards the meadow about 5:30.
Looking back from the meadow toward camp
Things got a little "marshy" through the willows, but the previous days' rain gave us some sweet scenes.
Gaining the ridge was not a walk in the park. We took the necessary breaks, kept a great pace, and got past our first obstacle well ahead of schedule.
Ridge around 12,800
The next ¼ mile was a nice break between the steep ridge climb and the SW shoulder of La Plata that was to come.
Here are the guys preparing to gain the 1,200 feet or so of the next slope
Dave tackling the first Class 2 of the day while Duke chooses his own line.
Dan trying to contain his joy after seeing snow in July
Since the weather forecast was for storms – and possible early storms – I thought we may not get a good view of the Elk Range. Instead, the "mind over matter" pace we were on got us up high early enough to see those Icons of Colorado – Pyramid, the Maroon Bells, Capitol, Snowmass, Castle, and Conundrum. Can I include Conundrum? Aww, what the heck.
Elk Range with full zoom
Just above 14,200 ft, Dave says, "If we were still around 13,500, I'd stop here." It's a good thing, man. Because in less than 10 minutes, we were topping out at our goal – 14,336!
Heroes of the Day – Duke, Me, Dan, and Dave
Dave's arch rival, Huron, and the Three Apostles
Ellingwood Ridge w/Elbert (right of center) and Massive (left of Elbert). I'll definitely be doing this route next time up. You, too Dave!
We hung around on the summit for about 20 minutes and decided to get a head start on the thicker clouds forming far off. We all agreed that our summit experience was a "Double Rainbow" that "started to look like a Triple Rainbow".
Duke and his Redlegs cap heading down one of the false summits
Once we got back down to the ridge, we took some time to sit and soak up the views and some rays. This was truly one of the best views I can remember as we stared out over the meadow toward Huron. Maybe it was just the company I was with that made it so great.
Dan (the 4th Apostle) lookin' all "Lewis and Clark-like" on the ridge
Couldn't resist the trademark shot
What a perfect week filled with laughs, tears (as a result of the laughs), the occasional altitude headache, and great friends in one of the most beautiful places God allows us to be.
To Duke: Congrats on #2. You are definitely the Silent Assassin when you come to Colorado. Next time I'll try to think of a challenge for you! Remember, if you're not settled down by 30, you owe it to yourself and to me to move out here. And if you cut your hair, I'll teach Jack to bite you in an unpleasant location.
To Dan: You would make such a great hiking partner out here for 3 reasons. 1) You're a natural leader by example and by energy level. 2) You're not afraid to run up the mountain – if only for about 7 seconds. 3) You're willing to pack in all the "necessary" things I refuse to carry. I already miss the excitement you bring to even the simplest things in life. Great work on 14er #1!
To Dave: What can I say…after about a month of analysis, phone and text conversations, Ellingwood Ridge paranoia, and "What do you think the chances are that I make it to the top?" questions – you did it man. You got your revenge. And if your knees recover by next year, we'll head out again!
Memorable lines and moments from the trip: This is only for our own archives.
Dan, Dave, Me: Countless "That's What She Said"s.
Duke: "Man, she sure talks a lot."
Dave: "I don't want any Snickers in the tent." Etc., etc.
Dan: "I want to cook my (already cooked) Salmon over the fire."
Us: The "Double Rainbow" song – including, but not limited to – "Oh my God…It's so beautiful", "What does this mean?", and "It's so intense."
Dan: "I'm gonna drink this lemonade all weekend. By the way, how much do we have?"
Me: Chain smoking my pipe
Dan: Flannel "base-layer" (wet)
Me: Rolling a rock downhill into my Rainfly…I swear I threw it far enough to the right. Anyone recommend a good patch kit?
Thanks for coming out here, gents. It was truly one for the ages.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):