Peak(s):  La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet
Date Posted:  09/09/2017
Modified:  09/11/2017
Date Climbed:   09/08/2017
Author:  overthe59hill
 Incomplete Due to Storm   

ROUTE - Southwest Ridge from West Winfield TH

My La Plata Peak hike on Friday was an electrifying experience. Yes, lightning! I've never felt that before. A first for me, hopefully a last. I felt it in my hat, my hair, and my gloved hands, which were holding aluminum trekking poles.

I call it a successful hike, because I had a great, grinding, grueling workout, and came out safe and sound, but exhausted. However, it was incomplete. It was not a summit. Dang, had it been sunny on top, rather than the sleet, hail, and lightning, I would have finished, and counted it as my 14'er number 9. I plowed ahead through the weather, determined to get to the peak, but finally high-tailed it back down when the storm started to hurt.

I turned around at 12:08 pm, after reaching the saddle after the first bump, and seeing still a couple more bumps ahead. MapMyWalk told me I had gone 3.46 miles at my turn around point, beginning at parking about 50 yards from the West Winfield trail head (see photo 1). Since it is a 7 mile round-trip hike, I thought the summit would be at about 3.5 miles. You can perhaps understand my surprise when I still had maybe another mile to get there. When I returned to my vehicle, MapMyWalk recorded the total distance at 6.39 miles. I assume I descended in a more direct path than I went up, cutting a half mile off the return. In any case, I stuck with trails and cairns as closely as possible. It might have been closer to a 9 mile hike had I reached the summit. If the remainder of my hike (see photo 9) was only about half a mile, it could conceivably be a 7 mile round trip. That sure looked like more than a half mile.

La Plata was my loneliest 14'er, I didn't see a soul until I reached the first bump. Then I met one woman passing me going up, three men descending my cairn path, and three others descending another cairn path. It was probably not very busy on this day because it was a Friday in September.

By the way - the woman who passed me going up came down, also incomplete. I met her at the point I was turning around. She got to the second bump, and began to feel the electricity in her hat too, so she turned around. She went down faster than me and I lost track of her. I didn't see her on the clear ridge trail ahead, so I assume she descended towards the east, more directly toward the meadow.

Began hike: 7:45 am
Turned around: 12:08 pm
Back to TH: 2:45 pm

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Comments or Questions

Don't worry
09/09/2017 16:12
You made the right call to turn around. Nothing gained by continuing on in an electrical storm where among other things, hurrying could have caused you to get off route, slip and fall, etc...Next time will be easier since you now know the approach route!


09/09/2017 21:24
If there is a next time, I am likely to go the other way up, where I don't have such a horrible road. I could have started earlier and probably made it to the top if I didn't have to negotiate that rough one, in my Nissan Frontier pickup, out of Winfield. But, I am glad to have gotten as far as I did.


RT Distance
09/11/2017 13:53
i also recall this hike being longer than resources said it would be. i think it was closer to 7-3/4mi-8mi RT. i don't think i would repeat this mountain at all, but i'm certain the standard route is easier than the SW ridge, but i have a hard time believing it is quite as beautiful


09/11/2017 14:30
I veered off the cairn path a few times on the way up, and tried to make corrections without increasing my total distance. That's why I thought the hike could conceivably be 7 miles if done right. It would still be a stretch for me to believe that, since I had two more bumps to go Thanks.

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