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Route: La Plata via Southwest Ridge
Who: Nice Axe! (Amy) and scotthsu (Scott)
Altitude climbed: 3610 ft.
Time up: 4:00
Time down: 2:00
Equipment: crampons, N'ice axe!
We slept at 10,730' near the 4WD parking above the W. Winfield TH. We started hiking around 6:30am. The trail was easy to follow all the way to the hanging valley. This is what we saw:
Around 11,800' large snow fields obscured the path (see last photo). The snowfields were solid and easy to hike on and we were able to pick up the trail between patches of snow. There was a clear trail up to a saddle at ~12,780' NW of us shown in this pic.
Here's some beta on the 3 Apostles and Huron - can't wait to climb the Refrigerator Couloir!
However, we opted to vector NE into the high basin beneath the visible high point in photo #1 hoping to gain the ridge via a snow climb (following Roach's route). Here's Scott blazing the trail:
and me bringing up the rear after donning crampons at ~12,300':
We chose to climb class 3 rock to the ridge at 13,200' to avoid this cornice:
This is a shot looking back along the ridge. The ~12,780' saddle is visible behind.
Looking up the ridge to the first (of 3) false summit at ~13,960'. This was a pleasant & fun rock hopping ascent on talus.
Looking back toward the false summit, the snow was firm and easy to walk on all the way to the summit.
Summit shot - Scott & Amy:
We ran into the elusive 14ers.com "Saddlebagger" on top of La Plata and were able to capture this rare event on camera! Nice solo! It was a beautiful day and the weather permitted us an hour on the summit!
The descent was a lot of fun. We were able to glissade large sections avoiding the talus below the first false summit. After downclimbing the 3rd class rock section below the cornice, we were able to do some more glissading and hiking on snow to about 11,900.
Although it was already 12:30p, the snow held up better than we expected and we only postholed a few times. After I was in thigh deep and having to dig myself out with my axe, we stuck to bushwacking through willows. Good trip!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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