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Triumph and Humility on La Plata Peak

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Triumph and Humility on La Plata Peak

Postby djkest » Wed Sep 07, 2011 2:19 pm

Last Saturday I climbed La Plata Peak (via SW ridge) with my parents. While I managed to take them to their first 14er summit ever, I was humbled by the experience in I way I hadn't anticipated.

They have lived in Colorado for 24 years. They have hiked all over the state, and last year they hiked to Chasm Lake and back. They were confident of their ability, having recently lost weight and ran/walked a 5k race in Loveland. I told them that I thought a 14er would present a new challenge to them, but they tried to downplay the difficulty I was suggesting.

I was expecting based on my other 14ers this year that I would require about 2L of water. I brought 3L in my bladder and also (2) 12 oz bottles of Gatorade. My plan was to share with my parents. Anyway, long story short, the hike ended up taking much longer than anticipated (especially on the way down) and I ran out of water. I only drank about 25 oz of water (give or take) in the 5 hours and 30 minutes it took us to summit. I was pouring water out of my bladder to fill the 12oz gatorade bottles (now empty) to give to my mom. Well, while juggling the bottles and my bladder I ended up DUMPING about 12oz or so of water on the La Plata Peak summit- making a bad situation even worse.

Some nice people on the summit offered up some additional water which I accepted- although somewhat embarrassed. Me, an in-shape young guy needing to get water from other climbers. One person in particular gave me 1L of water on the summit which I dumped into my platypus and thanked him.

Well, that 1L of water really saved our hides. By the last 1.5 miles of the hike everyone was out of water. I had some water purification tabs but I didn't use them (stupid decision, in hindsight; although they do take 4 hours to work). While it wasn't a hard or long hike, it was for my parents. The extreme length of time eventually took it's toll on me and taught me a valuable lesson. 2L of water in 10.5 hours of hiking (and waiting) is enough to harm the hardiest of hikers. Also, in hindsight I should have hiked down the last 1.5 miles as fast as possible and loaded up on water, then hiked back up to supply my parents with food/water to aid their final push back to the vehicle. It was difficult for me to think of leaving my parents alone when I told them I would guide them.

At the end my mom (56 years old) told me it was the hardest thing she'd ever done in her life. I should mention that she gave birth to me without any painkillers in a birthing clinic. I really should have picked an easier mountain for their first 14er. (lesson #2)

We ended up taking 5.5 hours to summit, and about 4.5 hours to decend. I thought that once the summit was reached, we could quickly descend to lower altitudes and immediately feel relief- but my mom moved at a slow pace even on the flat parts and took frequent breaks, which I told her were somewhat counterproductive over 13,000 feet. She said her legs felt weak and it was nearly impossible to even walk at that point. If you can't do it you can't... just no way around that.

Thank you to the person who donated a liter of water to me on the summit. Probably didn't seem like a huge deal to them, but it made it much better for me. On one hand, I was extatic that my parents summitted their first 14er, but I am humbled by my imperfect planning and questionable decision-making on my part. The most constructive thing I can take from this is the lessons I've learned. After all, how much do you "grow" when everything goes according to plan?
Last edited by djkest on Thu Sep 08, 2011 8:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Triumph and Humility on La Plata Peak

Postby MtHurd » Wed Sep 07, 2011 3:05 pm

Congrats on your parents summitting La Plata! I ran out of water on San Gorgonio a long time ago before I got back to the trailhead. It's was before bottled water was sold as we know it today. When I finally got to a store, I bought and guzzled down a liter of Dr. Pepper! It was nasty and good at the same time.

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Re: Triumph and Humility on La Plata Peak

Postby mattpayne11 » Wed Sep 07, 2011 4:52 pm

Thank you for sharing your story with us!

I learn from my own mistakes just about each time I go out. Just when you think you have this mountain climbing thing figured out, something else presents a nice fun challenge for you to conquer. Glad you made it out OK and that you were successful! Good work.

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Re: Triumph and Humility on La Plata Peak

Postby milan » Wed Sep 07, 2011 5:21 pm

A friend of mine and my hiking buddy once brought with him a novice hiker to Mt. Holy Cross, they had enough water but the new hiker was completely exhausted and it also took them incredible amount of time being happy they actually made it back to the car. I learned from it and when I introduce new people to hiking, I take them to "test" hikes like Mt Audubon, Grays/Torreys, Bierstadt... and it will tell me how they do. They often initially say how good shape they are in and how difficult hikes they've done in the past but mostly they over-rate it. Anyways, congratulations on summiting.

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Re: Triumph and Humility on La Plata Peak

Postby Mountainspirit » Wed Sep 07, 2011 6:03 pm

First of all - congratulations on you and your folks gaining the summit. I tried the SW ridge in July and was turned back about 300 feet from the summit due to storms. That rapid descent into the basin was no easy task.

Secondly, I personally like how you so openly shared your lessons learned, as I know others will likely benefit from your experience.

FYI, I gained LaPlata's summit 2 weeks later via NW ridge.

IMHO, LaPlata has been the second most difficult 14er I've done in the Sawatch (though I have not yet experienced Columbia's scree - somthing to look forward to!).

Keep on climbing!
"I sang out from a mountain top, out to the valley down below
Because my cup doth overflow
With the beauty of the days gone by." - Van Morrison

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Re: Triumph and Humility on La Plata Peak

Postby Dancesatmoonrise » Wed Sep 07, 2011 7:02 pm

Agree that La Plata is one of the most frequently underestimated 14ers. It's also underrated. :-$
A very fine mountain indeed, and makes a wonderful, though challenging, winter ascent, as two of us learned last January. :shock:


Congrats on getting Mom and Dad to the summit!
Wow, 56 years old, and she made it up La Plata. Imagine that!

:D

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Re: Triumph and Humility on La Plata Peak

Postby djkest » Thu Sep 08, 2011 7:10 am

la_plata-2533.JPG
la_plata-2533.JPG (341.9 KiB) Viewed 952 times

Kirk (57), Christy (56), and me (29).

I love my parents and was so happy to share this moment with them! The views on La Plata Peak are wonderful.
Last edited by djkest on Thu Sep 08, 2011 8:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Triumph and Humility on La Plata Peak

Postby Tornadoman » Thu Sep 08, 2011 7:16 am

I did La Plata from the Northwest Ridge and must say that it was a bit harder than I expected, (I don't know about the SW ridge though). Glad you guys made it up and down safely. I also notice that you don't look anything like your avatar picture. Too bad, it would have been nice to see a cat on the summit!

Re: Triumph and Humility on La Plata Peak

Postby gonzalj » Thu Sep 08, 2011 8:07 am

First off, congrats to you and your parents on the la plata summit and second thanks for sharing your valuable lesson. I remember last year that final summit of september was la plata via the SW ridge route and to this today that is probably the hardest (or maybe the 2nd hardest - sneffels is neck and neck with it) summit I've achieved. I remember taking 3 liters for myself and I ran out of water about 0.5 mile before I reached my car that day. I remember all that scrambling up the talus slopes once I reached just over 13K was brutal and tested me in numerous physical and mental capacities and in addition there were probably 3 moments during all that scrambling where I thought about turning around (even though I was blessed with blue skies, sun & no clouds for the entire hike - what can I say mother nature was nice that day). Anyway, I remember when I reached the summit that I was very glad I didn't turn around and to this day that is one of the most extatic feelings I've had on any 14er I'ver done. Once again, mad props as I know the difficulty you're talking about =D>!

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Re: Triumph and Humility on La Plata Peak

Postby Jim Davies » Thu Sep 08, 2011 8:32 am

Thanks for the story, Dan, and congratulations to you and your parents for summitting. You'll all remember the day better because everything didn't go perfectly, too. :)
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Re: Triumph and Humility on La Plata Peak

Postby djkest » Thu Sep 08, 2011 8:43 am

Thanks for the comments guys!

I should mention that the skies looked threatening on the way down, and I was anxious to get lower. However, amazingly enough, we didn't hear a single sound of thunder, and I didn't feel a single raindrop. Lucky? Fortunate? Whatever you call it, it was a blessing for sure.
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Re: Triumph and Humility on La Plata Peak

Postby Dex » Thu Sep 08, 2011 4:41 pm

djkest wrote:Well, that 1L of water really saved our hides. By the last 1.5 miles of the hike everyone was out of water. I had some water purification tabs but I didn't use them (stupid decision, in hindsight; although they do take 4 hours to work). While it wasn't a hard or long hike, it was for my parents. The extreme length of time eventually took it's toll on me and taught me a valuable lesson. 2L of water in 10.5 hours of hiking (and waiting) is enough to harm the hardiest of hikers. Also, in hindsight I should have hiked down the last 1.5 miles as fast as possible and loaded up on water, then hiked back up to supply my parents with food/water to aid their final push back to the vehicle. It was difficult for me to think of leaving my parents alone when I told them I would guide them.



That is a difficult mountain.

I'm not sure where you were going to get the water but, due to the mining run off it isn't recommended to drink water around there. Maybe others can correct me if I am wrong.
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