Peak(s):  La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet
Date Posted:  06/20/2011
Date Climbed:   06/18/2011
Author:  SpringsHiker
 La Plata and East LP Via SW Ridge With a Gang from  

Participants (Those who were with our group at least part of the day): SpringsHiker, globreal, Waggs, kushrocks, keystone4me, FCSquid, and speedyturtle, along with 3 friends of keystone4me. I know Beagle and Paula were there but I don't believe we met up on the trail.

After 43 summits I am long overdue for a trip report so here is my first one!

Conditions for hiking overall were very good but there is a LOT of snow in the basin. We encountered snow off and on from 11,200 through 12,300 and there is a great deal of water and boggy, soggy ground throughout the entire basin. The ridge out of the basin still has a lot of snow but it is mostly avoidable.

There was a bit of confusion among participants about our camping location in Winfield, the road to the TH (easy to miss the right turn required to go up the last hill before the TH) and even regarding where the TH begins. This strung hikers out over the starting area as we did not all know each others' locations. Five of us managed to start out together at 5:45 and were followed by a few other groups over the next 30-45 minutes.

LtoR: speedyturtle, kushrocks, SpringsHiker, globreal, Waggs

Early in the basin we stopped for a few photos:

kushrocks and speedyturtle

SpringsHiker and Waggs

Our group was joined by others and we bunched up or spread out at times. At one point in the basin there were 11 of us and 2 dogs.

8 of us and 1 dog crossing one of the drier portions of the basin

Climbing out of the basin to the first ridge included crossing some short snowfield sections but it was much better than crossing the basin. This was the one and only snowfield where we had to kick steps for the entire day.

Climbing out of the basin, mostly avoiding snow

As we gained the ridge and looked back we saw clouds moving in around from all directions. Sayres Benchmark is the prominent peak.

Sayres Benchmark. Clouds moving in. You can see others in our group along the trail on the ridge.

As we neared the talus-covered slope on our way to the 2nd ridge, clouds were moving in, bringing colder air and gropple, most of it bouncing off but occasionally hard when it was wind-driven.

Gearing up

Looking down from the summit you can where we crossed the 2nd ridge, from left to right. If you look closely you can see one climber traversing near the edge of the snowfield. Sayres Benchmark is the peak on the left side in the background.


Summit group shot! The weather cleared just for a bit and five of us were able to get a group shot. FCSquid joined us on the summit minutes after this photo was taken.

LtoR: keystone4me, SpringsHiker, Waggs, kushrocks, globreal. You can just see Boomer (l) and Sophie the Super Dog (r)

As we started out for East La Plata (ELP) we had to drop down a steep snowfield.

Waggs starting down the snowfield on the way to ELP

Four of us, myself, globreal, Waggs and FCSquid headed over to ELP and a little bit of technical fun on the short, 0.21 mile traverse. Sustained class 3 with a few class 4 moves.

View toward ELP along traverse

As we got out of the initial snow near the LP summit we started to encounter the rocky part of the ridge.

Waggs and SpringsHiker Moving Along the Traverse to ELP

The longest and hardest snow hit while we were nearing ELP. Our shot on the summit of LP was quick and we were on our way back.

SpringsHiker, FCSquid, and Waggs. (Thanks for the quick pic Britt!)

Looking back at the LP summit on our return. keystone4me was kind enough to wait for us and maintain radio contact as none of us knew how much more hard snow was to come. Fortunately the snow stopped shortly before we returned to the LP summit and the skies cleared for good.


Probably the crux of the route, we opted for a shorter, but tougher class 4 move here rather than skirt the rock formation down lower around the right side. The next two pictures show us making this move.

Waggs making a nice class 4 move

SpringsHiker on the same spot, with FCSquid providing guidance

As the skies cleared we stopped for some pics on the ridge.

Great mountaineering pic of Britt! (globreal)

Doggler was making his way up Ellingwood ridge during this time and we just missed him on the summit. He provided this great pic of the LP summit as he moved closer on the ridge.

Ellingwood ridge view looking toward LP summit (Credit and thanks Doggler!)

Our return into the basin allowed for several nice glissades although it was a wet, slushy mess. Tracking through the basin on our way out was so wet it left everyone with completely soaked feet, but we did pretty well keeping postholing to a minimum. Only occassionally did I hit a posthole up to the waist.


We stripped down layers twice after reaching the basin. The lower portion of the trail around 11,300 was sunny and warm.

Kevin nearing the end of the hike

The basin to the west was beautiful with all the snow and blue skies. The afternoon weather in Winfield was just beautiful.


We were sorry that we missed a few other 14ers people at the start of the day. A few turned back due to missing the TH or concern over conditions, i.e. weather, postholing, etc. For those of us making it to the top it was a rewarding summit. Congrats to Waggs on his 4th 14er! And Britt for finally nailing ELP!
Credit for photos in this TR go to SpringsHiker (Scott), Waggs (Rob), globreal (Britt) and Doggler (Sean). kushrocks (Ryan) forgot his camera in the car--at least we could help him provide evidence of his successful summit. It was also great to meet up and hike with keystone4me (Adam), FCSquid (Phil) and speedyturtle (Paul), along with Adam's friends Kevin, Jamie and Erica. It was a great group to spend a day with on 14ers!

Just for fun, a few victory shots and others I skipped over in the report:

SpringsHiker approaching the summit of LP

SpringsHiker Victory Shot

kushrocks Victory Shot. That sandwich attracted some friends!

Waggs posing along the ELP-LP traverse

SpringsHiker posing along the ELP-LP traverse

Another scenic shot from the LP summit

Some cool cornices overhanging the ridge to the west of the basin

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Great report.
06/20/2011 20:01
Great report and pics. I wish I was able to join the group. I will get La Plata soon!

Doctor No

Looks like a great day!
06/20/2011 20:04
My friend and I came up the other side, and summitted at 8am sharp right in the face of the wind/snowstorm - my favorite part of these things is the views from the top; looks like you ended up with a great window for sightseeing!


Great Hiking with you
06/20/2011 21:25
Awesome hike with you guys again!!! Whats next?!?!


Coming Climbs
06/20/2011 21:34
Next for me is Culebra and San Luis this coming weekend. After that I plan to turn my attention to the Elks. A few friends and I are planning a Chicago Basin trip in Sept. to enjoy the fall season in the San Juans.


Nicely done!
06/21/2011 01:09
Was a great trip. I enjoyed meeting up with you guys again(Scott and Ryan), and if it wasn't for Britt, I wouldn't have an AWESOME new avatar pic.

Thanks again Britt!



Sweet Recollections!
06/21/2011 05:15
If this was your 1st trip report, then you did it like a pro. Nice job! Great use of pictures and recollections. I love the shot of the dogs going after the sandwiches!
What a day it was....and the longest 3 1/2 miles I've done in a while. But worth it all and especially making some new climbing buddies. Looking forward to climbing with you again.

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