Peak(s):  La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet
Date Posted: 
Date Climbed:   08/18/2005
Author:  tay8000m
 Northwest Ridge via LaPlata Gulch  

Northwest Ridge via LaPlata Gulch 8/18/05

I summited LaPlata via the standard route described on this web site on the above date. The route description is through and accurate. I had attempted La Plata last year and turned around after reaching the ridge crest. My mistake then was I traveresed to far south after reaching the "flat" area above the "gully" at 12,200. I slogged up the scree slope, rather than the trail, up to the ridge. This year I did not make the same mistake. The trail from where the forest opens up at La Plata Gulch up the first gully is good. The large square boulder on the "flat" area at the top of the gulch is an excellent land mark and is around 12,200 feet. The trail from this area up to the ridge crest is marked with cairns. There is a large cairn at the top of the ridge to mark the descent point on the way down. Once you reach the ridge, the trail, again marked by cairns, travels through the scree and contours to the right of a large rock buttress. The route then traverses to the left across the ridge and to the left of the next large buttress. In this area, the route ran just to the right of the snow field along the left side of the ridge to avoid the second buttress. After regaining the ridge, the route then re-contours to the right side of the ridge again and finally loops up to the saddle between the two false summits (one to the south and the other to the left - north/east). After turning to the left, there minimal difficulty climbing over the talus over the false summit to the main summit. Great views of the Ellingwood ridge to the east along with Elbert, Huron, Missouri, Oxford, Belford and the Elk range to the west. This is not a dog friendly route due to all the scree. I left the TH at 5:30AM and topped out at 9:45AM with a return to the TH at 12:40PM. My cell phone did work (sort of) on the summit, but was directionally sensitive. Weather was stable with broken clouds and light wind. Be cautious on the descent and aim for the point on the ridge where you first gained the ridge. The trail down the slope of the ridge is much easier than trying to slide down the scree slope along the west side of the ridge higher up. I suspect that some people make the mistake of leaving the ridge too early on their descent.

There are two registers at the TH. Use the first one at the road. The second one several hundred feet down the trail is no longer used. I camped the night before at an unofficial campground 1/4 mile up the road from the TH and on the left (south) side of the highway. This area has several campsites and is sheltered from the lights or the road. It lies along lake creek. Be careful about drinking water from this area as there are signs at the TH advising of heavy metal (arsenic) contamination of the water in the creek from old mine effluent. Using iodine will not mitigate heavy metal contamination of the water. No wildlife encounters except for pikas and marmots. Dawson mentions a southern approach from Winfield to La Plata in his two volume book. The south ridge of La Plata looks like a junior Ellingwood Ridge to me. I therefore question the feasibility of this route for lesser mortals like myself.

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