Peak(s):  La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet
Date Posted:  06/20/2006
Modified:  06/21/2006
Date Climbed:   06/17/2006
Author:  fleetmack

 La Plata Peak via South Fork Creek Road  

Saturday morning I rose bright and early at 2:00ish a.m. and packed my bags. Today's pack consisted of the usual stuff: (1) Peanut Butter Sandwich (2) Cliff Bars (2) quasi-power bars (2) 32oz Gatorades (1) 2 liter camelpak bladder of water (1) long-sleeved T-shirt (1) hoodie (2) camera batteries (1) camera (1) compass (1) hollow-point loaded .40 Glock (6) Advil (2) allergy pills (1) 30SPF sunscreen (1) cell phone. Out the door at 2:37 to Jacob's place... I arrived there just after 3:00. After a minor setback talking to an off-duty mall-cop (who was trying to impress the skank-shift Shell employee at 3:00a.m.) at the Shell gas station, we were out of Golden
at about 3:15a.m.

I70 Westbound to the Copper Mountain exit (hwy 91) ... south 22 miles to Leadville where we switched to Hwy 24 East, south 12ish miles to HWY 82, where we hung an East (yes, I said "Hung an East") for about 13 miles. The parking area is 13.5 miles west of the 24/82 intersection. Although we took Jacob's Xterra, I could have driven Laetitia (my 1995 accord) to conserve gas. It's a paved road the entire way to the parking area, but I never know if there's some un-accord-friendly gravel we'll need to take for a couple of miles. We packed up shop and were hiking just before 6:00a.m.

The trail starts out on a gravel road for about 1/4 mile,

then you get to the actual trailhead.

The trail starts out by descending for about 1/2 mile or so, then you come to a bridge over a beautiful natural spillway.

Next you cross the river again on a log bridge

From here you hike for a short distance until you arrive to the "steps" that are built. Here you start gaining ground very quickly. It levels out awhile after a stroll through the forrest, and after you hit timberline, the switchbacks begin. The first 3 miles of this hike go very quickly. The trail continues to switchback across the tundra, and you finally climb up a saddle. There was some snowy spots, but they were relatively easy to cross. As always, be sure to take your time as overconfidence can cause a slip that could get you hurt.

The rest of the climb is fairly uneventful. We didn't see a soul until we were about an hour from the summit, and one guy was descending. He told us to watch out for black ice on the rocks near the summit, we kept our eyes peeled and he was definitely right, you could lose your footing and slip (as I did once) if you were't paying attention. We reached the summit just before 10:00a.m for a summit time of just under 4 hours.

We chilled (literally, it was cold) on the summit for 15 minutes or so and began our descent. We did some sliding (er, glissading or whatever that stupid word is) down the snow to save time, but when we got off the snow the trail was nowhere to be found. We ended up in a boulder & scree field, which sucked up all the time (and then some) we had saved by going down the snow/ice. After 45 minutes or so of frustrating scree descending, we found the trail again. We bumped into a few groups of people on the way down who were working their way up, but all in all there was hardly anyone on the mountain. We made it to the car around 1:15 for a 3ish hour descent (our fault, we could have done it in two had we not lost the trail after glissading). Hopped in the car, got back to Golden around 3:30. Wonderul hike!

all the pictures can be found here:

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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