Peak(s):  La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet
Date Posted:  03/26/2012
Date Climbed:   03/24/2012
Author:  GerryRigged
 La Plata standard route   

I saw a few photos of La Plata posted by Oldschool the other day and it looked like a summit ski might be there.Image
Summit from the saddle at about 12700

I hit the summit about 1:30, pretty late in the day. Image
On the summit looking south

I originally wanted to ski the north col but I was concerned about the snow pack, moderate avalanch danger on N facing slopes. It didn't go from the top either. A second option was a west facing col but I would have had to down climb several hundred feet. I'm glad I didn't do this. The third option was the NE ridge. This seemed to be the safest option. Not too steep, good solid snow and I could ski from the summit, making a few turns in before I had to downclimb through fifteen or twenty feet of rocks. From there it was skiable to the saddle at about 12700 although I chose to skirt around one small section that would have put me on a short steep section of the north face with a climb out over a cornice.Image
Why are ravens flying around at 14000 ft? Because they can.
Looking down my line

I left the summit about 1:45. The snow was dry and windblown with a few spots of smooth thin powder. I think the north face stuff would have been good skiing. By the time I reached the saddle the snow was already softening up but still felt safe to ski. I had to down climb another hundred feet or so to the top of the first of three large slide paths I would have to cross to get out. The snow here felt good so off I went. I don't have any photos from here to the bottom near the creek because the farther down I went the worse the snow got and the more tense the situation got. I had planned to ski straight down the first slide path to the creek. After just a few hundred vertical feet I stopped to check the snow again. Here I was seeing an inch or two of softening crust on about six inches of sugar. This did not look safe to go any farther straight down. I decided the safest bet was to traverse across the slope following the boot pack. I figured this would be least likely to put any new stress on the slope. I tested the snow once more several hundred feet down and found the same condition as before. More traverseing. At the last short down pitch before you hit the creek bed I took the skis off and down climbed the boot pack. Here the snow was isothermic and I postholed to my crotch most of the way down. My reasoning here again was don't put new stress on the slope. Once at the creek bottom I knew I was OK.

Thinking back:I should have started out a couple hours earlier. Would it have made a difference? The west facing slopes might have felt safer but would they have been? I see three outcomes to this 1) I skied all the way down a slide path without incident 2) I skied down a slide path and started an avalanch 3) I did what I did and came out OK.

At the top the gully goes left to near the summit
A last shot looking back

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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