La Plata Peak  
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2016-03-05  Route: Northwest Ridge
Posted On: 2016-03-07, By: Brimstone10
Info: Solid Trench in place from the trailhead to the headwall. No flotation needed and I didn't use any traction, although microspikes would be helpful but are not required. The route above the headwall is spring like with sections of solid snow and rocks. I chose to use crampons to ascent the snowfield starting around 13,300 all the way to about 100 ft below the summit. Its definitely climbable w/o crampons as there are rocks you can stick to. I just figured I'd brush up on my crampon usage since its been a bit since I last used them. 
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2016-02-26  Route: Northwest Ridge
Posted On: 2016-02-26, By: wilsclin
Info: I had La Plata all to myself today! I started hiking at 7:20 am. It was around 15 F and absolutely no wind. There was probably 1-2 inches of untracked snow for most of the route, starting between the first and second foot bridges (I guess it's all tracked now though!).The trail/trench was very solid. I brought snowshoes but didn't put them on until treeline by the headwall where I first started postholing. Just bare boots until then. They're pretty aggressive snowshoes (MSR lightning ascent) so I wore them up the headwall. I think the headwall would have been horrible without some kind of traction. Also used an ice axe for a third point of contact, and glad to have it (also came in handy glissading later on). I kept wearing the snowshoes until about halfway up the ridge before leaving them, but in hindsight I should have ditched them way sooner (probably right at the top of the headwall) because there is so much exposed rock and grass to walk on, which is faster/more efficient than shuffling along in showshoes. Plus, a lot of the snow was very sugary so my snowshoes couldn't really bite into it. I didn't notice any wind until very near the summit, around 11:20 am. I'm not sure if that was location or time dependent, but it was probably a steady 15-20 mph and VERY cold. I returned from the summit to below the headwall in just bare boots with almost no postholing, but in the meadow I sunk up to my crotch so I put the snowshoes back on and wore them all the way back to the road. I was glad to have traction going down since the upper portion of the trees is very steep and I was tired. The afternoon was very warm and the snow was super sticky/wet, so anyone getting an early start tomorrow should have a nice solid hiking surface tromped down by my snowshoes. Got back to my car at 2:40 pm. There were no clouds all day. It was my first winter 14'er and I was nervous and wished there was more recent condition info, so I made an account just to post this. Hope it helps someone! 
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2016-02-20  Route: Northwest Ridge
Posted On: 2016-02-20, By: vdavidoff
Info: Summited La Plata today. Second winter summit of this peak (yay). The trench in the trees seems to be the same one described by Furthermore in his peak conditions report from 2016-02-11. The trench is very good but I agree it has a few minor bushwacky spots. I know lots of people have been hitting these trenches without snowshoes but I used them, and I know I would have been doing a lot of post holing if I hadn't. I hate everything about post holing so that just wasn't an option for me, especially on the descent after the sun had been warming things. I used microspikes and my ice axe to ascend the headwall (ice axe only at the top), and left my microspikes on until I was entering the trees on the way down. Descending that head wall never gets any less sketchy. To my surprise there are quite a bit of old tracks sun baked into the crust on the ridge. If you stay along those, you'll be okay, otherwise you'll post hole in quite a few spots, though there are some large sun crust slabs that are really firm. There are large sections of the ridge that don't have any snow at all, but then others that have a pretty thick crust. There are some wind slabs and small cornices, about what you'd expect. I saw a ton of surface hoar on the ridge, which doesn't really matter there, but is probably something to think about come next snowfall, in general. I made my life more difficult than necessary by trying to stay high around the buttress, like I have in the past, and not taking advantage of the fact that there's so little snow the entire summer route around the buttress is doable (I didn't see it a lot of it well until the descent). So I did a bunch more scrambling than necessary. I only ran into two other people (a single group) who I passed on my descent on the ridge while they were on their way up. Quite a few skiers out down in the gulch but I was pleasantly surprised there weren't more on the mountain. RT 10h 12m (~7h up ~3h down, including all stops, etc) More pictures, most crappy: 
2016-02-19  Route: Northwest Ridge
Posted On: 2016-02-20, By: jclark217
Info: Made it above the headwall on 2/19. Lots of new, sugary snow had filled the trench. Should be a trench for a few days now though, but high winds will probably keep filling it in up high, so bring snowshoes for flotation. (I think skis would be an awful day.) Had (and used) axes and helmets on the headwall. Plan for a lot of time and energy just to reach the base of the headwall. We were out of time and gas by the top of the wall and called it a day. TR pending... 
2016-02-11  Route: Northwest Ridge
Posted On: 2016-02-11, By: Furthermore
Info: There is an excellent trench in place but its a little bushwhacky. I did not use flotation for any portion of the hike. If you feel the urge to take flotation, take snowshoes as the current trench would be awful on skis. I dont own microspikes but some folks may find them helpful. Here is a link to a GPX with the current trench. Go get it while its snowshoe free! 
2016-02-06  Route: Northwest Ridge
Posted On: 2016-02-07, By: kentmw
Info: 3 individuals summitted yesterday so there is a distinct trench all the way up to the headwall. Snow covering the scree made it easy to ascend the headwall. Snowshoes were used up to where the winter variation rejoins the summer route. Microspikes were used the rest of the way to the summit with minor postholing in some areas. 
2016-01-27  Route: Ellingwood Ridge
Posted On: 2016-01-28, By: thatnissanguy
Info: There is a boot pack in place to the Ellingwood Ridge Route. It departs the standard route at the "headwall" feature. The snow is very deep, up to waist height in many places unless on West facing aspects where it is firm and supportive. We heard two loud whumphs while crossing below the NE slope of the standard route. Ellingwood Ridge is in decent condition, although there are several large cornices and a good amount of exposed snow that is in very poor condition. We did ~5 rappels with a 60m and simuled across an avy slope. We soloed a LOT of easy mixed terrain. Expect 10 hours minimum from the top of the approach gully to the summit if you solo the whole thing. Also, I left a trekking pole up there! Please bring it back to me : ) 
2016-01-23  Route: Northwest Ridge Winter Variation
Posted On: 2016-01-24, By: Count40
Info: Just to add some photos (caption notes may be useful) to what other users said for Jan 23rd regarding general route and Headwall. Yes, up to timberline either small snowshoes (trench being not too wide, but quite steep in many spots) or microspikes (which did the job). As for the rest, some even decided to leave snowshoes (though small) below headwall scramble. Your choice of "weight vs. options", there was still lots of work left to be done. Note that the easy part (below timberline) still needs attention. In some places, you just would not like to posthole on the downhill side of the trench. In that very short stretch from timberline to headwall, stick to trench center/visible rock, because careless postholing between rocks can get you down up to your waist. Groups started going up between 4:45 am and 7:20 am. Early ones needed 10 to 12 hours overall. A late one did it in 8.5 hours. Say, in that range, it takes about 2 to 3 hours to headwall, then about 1 hour max for headwall (where bottom half, below that red circle, has less solid rock, and more slipping and sliding), then 2 to 3 hours to summit, then about 2 hours max back to headwall, and about hour and a quarter back to TH. As for the headwall lower portion, some chose the seat-sled option going down (see those long slide marks on headwall pic). Note that mountain-forecast for Sawatches next week shows even warmer conditions, with much less wind (was 20-30 mph on 23rd above timberline) of only 5 to 10 mph for Thursday 28th and Friday 29th. Till then, not much snow expected Sunday 24th and Monday. 
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2016-01-23  Route: Northwest Ridge
Posted On: 2016-01-23, By: JQDivide
Info: Winter Variation: There is a solid trench from TH to Treeline. I do recommend traction, MicroSpikes or even snowshoes. The steepness of this route causes a lot of step and slip-- traction will help prevent some of that and spare you some muscle fatigue. Snowshoes are NOT need for flotation in the trees until the next snow. The Headwall was a bit loose, but manageable. The ridge has a variety of snow conditions, hard snow, soft snow, bare rock. The trail was fairly easy to follow except for the wind blown rocks in the 13,200-13,500 area. Again, traction is needed. The ridge took longer than I expected, mostly due to the step and slip in the softer snow above 13,500 
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2016-01-16  Route: Northwest Ridge
Posted On: 2016-01-16, By: jknappe17
Info: Climbed La Plata today via the winter variation of the Northwest Ridge route. Despite the fresh snow, we were able to follow a well packed trench all the way to tree line and the ridge headwall. We followed the standard summer route up to 11,000‘ and deviated left / East thanks to a nice trench that has been packed down. The deepest snow of the day came just before the crux headwall which lead to a few post-holes on boulders but for a very short distance. Headwall makes for a nice scramble and we found it to be casual with just our boots. We bare-booted the entire day and only utilized an ice axe on the upper ridge past the false summit, and when we wanted to have some fun on the descent. Though we never dawned the snowshoes it was a good idea to have them just in case. Great snow pack all the way up the ridge with only the occasional knee-deep posthole. Beautiful hike! 
2016-01-12  Route: Northwest Ridge
Posted On: 2016-01-12, By: tomcat32
Info: Climbed La Plata via the winter route on the NW Ridge. There is a good trench to treeline. I used snowshoes. A group ahead of me had 2 wearing microspikes and one in snowshoes. I recommend at least spikes as it‘s fairly slippery on the way down. There were a few visible tracks up the headwall to the ridge but they were mostly blown in. Right now it‘s a mix of scree and snow on the headwall. There is plenty of solid rock mixed in to make it a little easier. I thought about using my axe on the headwall but there wasn‘t enough snow to make it worthwhile. As of now along the ridge my tracks as well as the trio that I ran into are in place but they may blow in again. It‘s mixed right now along the ridge below the false summit but generally scoured enough to bareboot. I barebooted to the summit, I think the trio used microspikes. Above the false summit on the ridge where its more snowcovered it was better to stick to the edge near the rock. On the climb snowshoes would have made it a little easier but don‘t seem like they would‘ve helped on the descent on the upper ridge Some older prints were visible but mostly blown in. The toughest part was heading down from the false summit as there is just enough snow to make the hidden rocks slippery and hide the occasional deep hole between rocks. I did posthole a few times but usually nothing major although I had a few postholes thigh deep. Now is a good time before the next snow to hit La Plata. As of now I‘d recommend at least microspikes or snowshoes and maybe an axe for insurance. Not hard enough for crampons. 
2015-12-29  Route: Winter Route
Posted On: 2015-12-31, By: Eagle Eye
Info: Much as blazintoes reported this track has been well traveled recently. From a group of 8, 6 people summited besides myself on the 29th. I didn‘t use any traction going up. Microspikes could probably have helped some in steep parts of the trail. At the ramp/wall to get on the ridge I rock climbed it and avoided snow going up. Coming down I did the opposite: put on crampons/used an ice axe and sought out snow and avoided rocks. The ridge is fairly blown clear but does have a mixture of conditions. I mostly followed and stayed on the ridge crest. 
2015-12-28  Route: Winter Route
Posted On: 2015-12-28, By: blazintoes
Info: I created a GPS track to gain the north ridge direct on La Plata that deviates at 10,600 but didnt need it. Instead there is a bad ass trench that deviates at 11,000 (as seen in the first image). Big shout out to AWilbur77 and "Mark" who I met today as these guys did all the work. This trench will lead you to the headwall to scale to gain the ridge. My route drawn in red. Once on the ridge caution it is looooooong and tedious. Bring goggles. Image 3 looking down the north ridge. #4 up at the false summit (notorious bad picture taker, sorry). #5 notorious good picture taker. Scared the crap out of DadMike today, hilarious. He made his own tracks today; this is what the cool kids do. Also, he misplaced his Spot tracker device so if you find it this week/weekend PM him. #6 Looking west from summit. #7 looking east I have a gps track of my route today. FYI. 
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2015-11-01  Route: Northwest Ridge
Posted On: 2015-11-02, By: superdarren
Info: 90% of the 9.5 mile hike is snow covered, with some sections having well over a foot. The top 1,600 from the saddle are much more difficult due to the bolder fields being mostly covered. Still very doable, but add a few hours to your expected time, and be very careful so you dont fall in between the rocks. We kept a somewhat slower pace and it took 11 hours, 5 hours of which was the 2.5 miles from the saddle, to the top, and back. 
2015-10-24  Route: Northwest Ridge
Posted On: 2015-10-24, By: mountainmaestro
Info: The mountain got a lot of snow in the recent storm. I‘d say we saw snow on at least 90% of the route. In the morning we saw a couple inches at the trailhead and there were 2 to 4 more inches for every thousand feet we climbed. Above tree line the depth of the snow was variable. At times we were postholing well past our knees. We broke trail until around 13,500 feet; it was hard work to say the least. Consequently, our speed was much slower than we anticipated. We had to turn around at that point in order to descend at a reasonable time. Four other climbers continued on to the summit, and I suspect trail has been broken all the way there at this point. Climbers will likely have reasonable conditions (with the trail broken) until the next storm. I would strongly suggest micro spikes and poles at least. Route finding can be very challenging on this peak with all the snow. Some climbers today took very creative paths up to the buttress, so the broken trail may not be optimal for all. . 
2015-09-27  Route: Southwest Ridge
Posted On: 2015-09-28, By: harg311
Info: I climbed La Plata via the Southwest Ridge Sunday 27 Sep. I have a couple things to add that I think are important. First getting up the head wall was pretty tough. The trail is getting wider and wider because people are trying to find a way up with some solid footing. Its basically all gravel and loose dirt and nothing to really prevent you from slipping. Being so steep made this tough. As bad as going up was, going down was worse, basically I just skied down the mountain. Someone called it "Texas Skiing". Either way it was pretty tough because it was very steep and very loose. The next part was the first false summit. On the Nat Geo Topo map the trail stops around this area. The reason is because there really is no defined trail up that first summit. You sort of make it up as you go. There are some cairns here and there and they help to a point but the main goal was to just get up and over so you can actually see the ridge leading to the real summit. The last thing is about the washed out road leading to the trail head. I stopped at this area and was prepared to hike up from there but then decided to take the Ford Explorer through it, and had no problem. Took it slow and at the correct angle. This cut off about 2 miles on the hike which I was thankful for because my legs were screaming from the steep hike. I took a couple pictures because I know some people have had questions in the past about this area. Overall this was an amazing hike. I only saw 2 groups going up when I left at 7:00. One group of 1 adult and three teen age boys turned around after they got up the head wall and saw what faced them ahead. The other two guys I passed up and met at the summit. On the way down I ran into 2 other groups. Very peaceful but hard hike. The drive up was amazing, fall colors right at their peak in most areas and past in some. 
2015-09-26  Route: Passing through the area
Posted On: 2015-09-26, By: WillRobnett
Info: Fall colors from the South Elbert Trailhead are peak and some what coming to an end. Independence Pass is holding fall colors better than Elbert. La Plata has good colors at lower elevations. Most of Independence Pass is holding good fall colors. Maroon Bells (Maroon Peak/N. Maroon Peak) and Pyramid are the best fall colors Leadville to Aspen right now. 
2015-08-15  Route: Southwest Ridge
Posted On: 2015-08-16, By: vidoona
Info: We took our 4x4 with 9" of ground clearance and an experienced off-road driver up past the washed-out road section across the creek and up a final steep, rocky section to the trailhead proper. We got a couple of rock hits, but nothing major. Land Rovers, Jeeps, Trucks, Xterras, and 4Runners will be able to do the same with A/T tires and an experienced driver if the road is dry. Other SUVs and crossovers will want to stop at the washed-out creek or earlier if you get uncomfortable. I would not take a passenger car very far up the road to the trailhead. We started from the trailhead proper @ 5:30 AM. Lower sections of the route are marshy in areas, but nothing too bad with some rock hopping. Otherwise, the route is in pretty good shape and well defined save for some areas on the ridge that are noted in the route guide. Summited @ 10:00 AM and was down by 12:30 PM. 
2015-08-08  Route: Southwest Ridge
Posted On: 2015-08-09, By: proimion
Info: I have a GPX track of this route (something I had a hard time finding without subscribing to a trails web site). If you want it, contact me through my profile info here on Perfect time to do this peak from SW ridge. No issues. In the marshy flats just above treeline there are a two 10-20 yard sections of ankle-deep mud. You can avoid it by carefully stepping on helper rocks, but be prepared with good footwear. As reported earlier for this route, the road is washed out about a mile from the TH. There appeared to be parking for about 6-10 vehicles at the wash-out point, and there was plenty of space left when we walked back around 1pm. There are a couple logs laid across the creek for an easy crossing by foot. If your car cannot make it past Winfield, you could also walk in from Winfield, which is 2 miles from the TH. The path from the road to the TH is a bit hard to spot in the dark, and the TH sign is nothing more than a piece of dilapidated plywood now. Go left at the plywood to begin your ascent. 
2015-07-22  Route: Ellingwood Ridge
Posted On: 2015-07-23, By: fakejox
Info: You can ascend via Ellingwood Ridge without touching snow until the traverse from East La Plata to La Plata (at which point the route-finding and technicality is trivial. Thus, no need for traction or an axe. There are a few gullies retaining snow on the route, but they can easily be bypassed, with the exception of a section at 14,000‘ (the bypass is less evident). I‘ve added some annotated pictures which might make more sense than my words, but I‘ll do my best to describe it. En route to East La Plata, you ascend one final talus slope towards what Roach describes as a "snow-filled gully" at 14,000‘. Once you reach the base of the gully, he suggests skirting to the left (SE), ascending to the left of the gully, and traversing to the right above the gully towards the ridge crest. As my pictures show, it is difficult to skirt left as there is a 5 ft. snow drift blocking the path. Instead, cross immediately underneath the snow gully and ascend up the right side of the gully, close to the ridge crest. You can keep it around class 3 if you take your time. We topped out and descended the Northwest Ridge route. There is a 200m snow field around 13k‘ that we were able to glissade (albeit slowly, accumulating slush in our underpants). Other than that, nothing noteworthy except for several lengthy pennants of dirty toilet paper affixed to the grass significantly above timberline, immediately adjacent to the trail, fluttering in the breeze like little poop-smeared flags of surrender. Come on people... (Luckily we had some empty ziplock bags) 
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