Peak(s):  La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet
Date Posted:  09/19/2011
Date Climbed:   09/17/2011
Author:  hikerdawg

 Almost La Plata - Standard  

I wanted to get one more in this year and try a harder moderate one to test where I was as a hiker since I'm still new to the Colorado mountains. After reading all the route descriptions and trip reports, I decided on La Plata.

The weather report said rain Friday night and 30% of rain/snow on Saturday with high of 48. Sunday looked better but I really like having a day to recover before heading back to work on Monday so I went for it.

Left Lakewood area around 3pm on Friday, stopped in Leadville for sandwich and made it to TH at 5:45. Planed on early bedtime for an early start. Getting ready to shut it down around 8:30 and a young couple breaks down a half mile from the TH. Long story short, I pulled them to Aspen and returned to TH at 10:45.

Started the hike at exactly 5am (wanted to give myself plenty of time since I wasn't sure how long it would take me). I was the first on the trail and got pasted by a couple of guys around 6am. The route description on here is spot on as always. Had no trouble making it through the trees. It was a little wet from the rain but a very nice morning hike. Made it through the forest and bottom of gully with all the switchbacks about 6:30. Turned off headlamp just before this point. There was light rain most of the way so far but nothing much to worry about. Going up the gully was very interesting because the rain turned to sleet, then to snow. Still very light though and not really a problem.

Looking back down the gully on the way back down. Too dark on the way up for a pic

My guess is that it was in the upper 30's to low 40's and no problems so far. The weather above hadn't looked good all morning but I was still hoping that it would clear up or at least be manageable. I have to say that my inexperience did put some doubt in my mind because when I left the TH there were at least 6 other cars there and other than the 2 guys that passed me, I hadn't seen anyone else coming up yet. I was wondering that maybe the weather was too bad up top but I figured I'd keep going.

Looking back up on the way down. It looked pretty much the same going up

On my way up the ridge, weaving through the snow dusted rocks, the wind was picking up and obviously making it considerably colder. The snow was only a dusting but did have 6 inch drifts around some rocks. It was still pretty easy going but snow made the rocks a little slick and might slow you down maybe a half step.

Boulder field/weather

Boulder field/weather

I'm usually way over prepared bringing more gear than needed..........having said that, today I only brought some glove liners and not actual gloves. I was fine everywhere but my hands. About 7:30, my hands started getting very cold as they got a little wet from balancing on the snow topped rocks. I was just under the summit around 8:20 but was getting wind blasted and my hands were officially frozen.

Final push up ridge and over to summit

A look back down the ridge coming up

I sat there for around 10 minutes hoping the wind would slow just a little. When it didn't, I decided to head down and warm up the hands. My guess is that I had about half a mile left to summit and maybe 500-800 ft of elevation. I think I could have made the final ~45 minutes to the top but didn't like the thought of having to descend that same route as cold as my hands were. I retreated down about 1,000 ft and rested, protected from the wind. I sat there for about 45 minutes waiting to see if the weather would break for me. The guys that were ahead of me passed me on the way back down, they had made the summit and said it was cold and windy up there. I finally saw some other groups making their way up. At 9:30, I decided that the clouds were not going to break and I was ready to call it a day and start the long drive back home. I took my time back down taking a lot of pictures of things I couldn't see in the dark on my way up. I passed at least 20 people going up as I was retreating. I hope the weather got better or they were a little better prepared than I was and were able to make the summit.

Overall it was a good day and a beautiful hike that I look forward to doing again. Outside of the hands, I felt great, no problems with the length, elevation, or altitude. Made it back to the truck at 11:50 and back home in Lakewood (Belmar) around 2:45.

Just a guess, but probably did around 8.5 miles and close to 4,000 elevation.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

The mountain will be there next time.
09/19/2011 16:22
There is absolutely no shame in turning around if conditions warrant....


No doubt
09/19/2011 17:08
It was still a great day on the mountain and you're right, it's not going anywhere.


Nice to chat.....
09/20/2011 00:00
....with you briefly at the TH. I was glad to see that you did make it back from Aspen, and much faster than I thought you would! The weather in the area was interesting on Saturday.


Good decision
09/20/2011 21:14
You made the right call. You don't want to mess around with frostbite or even frostnip. And the bright side is, you now have familiarity with the mountain - which will make it easier next time you attempt it.


09/23/2011 16:37
Maybe I'm a wimp, but if there's gonna be cold weather I bring a pair of those hand warmers and foot warmers that activate when you open the package. They've saved me and my poor circulation to my extremities on a few occasions!

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