Peak(s):  La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet
Date Posted:  03/21/2007
Date Climbed:   03/17/2007
Author:  maverick_manley
 La Plata NW Ridge - Winter Ascent  

Mountains: La Plata Pk. (14,336')
Route: Started at Main trailhead (10,000'), used the NW Ridge route
Elevation Gain - 4500' (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage - 9.5 miles (approx)
Time – 11 hours

With the last weekend of the calendar winter drawing near one last large summit was required. This was to be doumall and Debbie's prep trip for El pico D'Orizaba as well. We decided to drive up to the trailhead on Friday night and spend the night there. After a large beef soup (I swear it was like 3 gallons of soup) with large chunks of rare steak, well done shanks, and bear's tripe in aurochs dripping, we hit the winding road through the mountains into the Sawatch.

After basking in the starlight for a while, we hit the hay feeling good about the next day. We woke up early and after a meal of banana and some rather ghastly oatmeal we hit the trail at 5:30AM under head lamps. The trail seemed pretty well beaten but stepping out of it resulted in at least a knee-deep posthole. Much of the first half mile was an easy downhill trek. We crossed the bridges described in the route page and began our steep uphill slog. At the end of the first hour there was a net elevation gain of only 700 feet. All that downhill trekking killed our stats a bit.

There was a good snowshoe trail to follow for a bit and trail breaking wasn't too much of an issue for a little bit. Beyond a point however the trail became irregular and we went off route a couple times and evemtually zeroed back in on the right path. The snow was slushy at places and there was plenty of post holing and trail-breaking fun. We found a shovel handle/probe on the trail. If you're reading this report and can identify a suitable reward, the shovel's yours.

We finally approached treeline and an elevated plateau prior to gaining the ridge via the scree slope. Here we stopped for a bite to eat and drink. We removed our snowshoes at this point and started up the steep scree with patches of snow.

There was some good scrambling at the top of the slope which took us to the top of the ridge. Here's looking down at the slope from the top…

We had made good time up until this point and we started up the ridge at 8:20AM. This was going to be a great day. The ridge for the most part was characterized by patches of packed snow.

We identified a few wet slides on East facing aspects of adjacent peaks. A slushy fate awaited us on our down climb. The initial part of the ridge was gentle and we forged ahead confident of making good time.

At about 10AM the steeper sections were upon us.

Here's looking back at the ridge from this point.

It was a beautiful day with clear blue sky. Ellingwood ridge (in the picture below) issued a very strong invitation from across the valley, and we fought off the temptation to set off bounding down an east face into the arms of that burly beast. No… that will be reserved for a different day.

The ensuing sections of the NW ridge started taking on the semblance of steep snow and we had to kick-step our way up it. Crampons were not necessary.

Here's looking at a snowfield above us. The snow appeared safe and solid with some sastrugi. The wind which had made an appearance ever since we hit the ridge started picking up a little bit. My nose demanded a balaclava and the said clavae were provided.

Doumall and Debbie make their way up the slope in an almost surreal setting…

We got past this final snow slope and appeared at the following rocky section of the climb at about 11:30AM

We quickly boulder hopped our way up to this last stretch leading to the summit block at the end.

We reached the summit at a reasonable time of 12 noon, and what a day to be up there… I mean, look at all that blue sky…

... and our mugs...

Here's a little Ellingwood beta if you're planning to do it this spring. I made a promise to try and make it back to this beautiful ridge some winter, when I'm a faster and better climber.

We had some sandwiches and hydrated up on the summit and stayed awhile taking pictures. We set off plunge-stepping downhill at about 12:45PM.

At about 2PM we met a couple other climbers at 13,700' making their way up. They appeared to be moving steadily and we chatted awhile. That's a lot of traffic for one winter day. The La Plata trail is beginning to look like a Roman road. We steadily made our way back to the scree slope and made our way down it very carefully and donned snowshoes again. There was a brief section of snowshoe skiing to be done which got us down to treeline.

The rest of the trail through the trees was not as slushy as we'd expected and the going was fairly quick, barring a couple tumbles and the occasional posthole inches away from the beaten trail. The last uphill section was not fun but visions of many pounds of steak carried us faster. We got one last peek at this beautiful mountain before making it back to the trailhead at 4:20PM… a roundtrip time of 10:50.

Another day, another mountain climbed with great people... Good times were had by all.

 Comments or Questions

Nice TR...
02/05/2011 00:22
...mang. You show the route well, and some of the senics are killer. I doubt there are many people who have summited as many winter teeners as you during there first year of climbing. Nice work.


You mountain goat you
03/22/2007 16:54
Nice report and good job on a long winter summit.


Thanks for the memories
03/22/2007 17:56
Nice report and great pictures. La Plata was my first in 1983 when I was 17. Those pictures really brought back some sense memories. Nice Job and congrats!! Matter of fact my avatar is La Plata in 1983!


Thanks for the comments
11/30/2010 17:28
It was a pretty sweet winter. I'm rather bummed it's over and it kills me that the next one is 9 months away. Hope to catch you guys on the mountains some time this year.


Excellent TR
03/22/2007 18:59
I would have to say that was one of the best trail reports I have read in a while. The pictures are awesome! I hope to do the same route in a couple of weeks. Great job.


03/22/2007 19:49
Thanks for the vote and the kind comments, Kirk. I would definitely recommend this hike.


where'd he go? shit, he's in the ditch!
11/30/2010 17:28
Nice TR dude!It was great getting back on the mountain again! Have fun spring skiing while we're in Me-hico.


03/22/2007 20:03
I meant to vote 5 stars but it took it as the base that it starts with 3... sorry to bring it down. can you change your vote?? I figured it out. That ”Change Vote” button is kind of hard to see... hee hee


at least I didn't roll over :)
11/30/2010 17:28
haha... it was good having you guys' truck around to tow me out... I've had more close calls driving back than on the mountain itself. Thanks for the vote and comments Debbie.


Good job
04/03/2007 14:33
Great trip report.. I enjoyed it! 8) Done La Plata in summer but looks like lots of fun during the winter!


11/30/2010 17:28
Great trip report! Your pictures really made this an excellent report (along with your sharp wit Very fun to read! I've climbed this in the summer, and man does it look different w/snow on it.


Re: Good job
11/30/2010 17:28
Thanks a load for the votes and comments... it sure was a lot of fun. Hope y'all have a good climbing season.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2017®, 14ers Inc.