Peak(s):  La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet
Date Posted:  07/05/2009
Date Climbed:   07/01/2009
Author:  James Scott
 La Plata  

After his baseball game on Tues night, I took my 9 year old son Connor to the Winfield trailhead on La Plata. Given the distance, elevation gain, class, and the number of 14ers Connor has done (7), I expected La Plata to be somewhat straightforward- longer and somewhat more challenging than what he'd done before, but well within his abilities. Instead, La Plata seemed determined to throw everything it could at us. We had a good day overall, with some memorable moments, but I felt bad for choosing a mountain that had so many difficulties.

The first thing was we got to within .6 miles of the trailhead, and at the first rivercrossing, Connor got a little spooked and we decided to park right there. This added 1.2 miles to our hike.
Connor at the river crossing:
The first great view of the day:
We took off at about 5:40 AM, and made good time up to the trailhead and into the basin. On our way up,
and breaking into the basin:

The basin was beautiful, but full of thick willows with deep, muddy trenches. I was able to step over many of them, but Connor got pushed around by the willlows, and also got his feet wet. Finally we broke through, and headed up the wall to the ridgeline. The scree on this section was probably the most frustrating I've experienced. Connor was sliding and falling about once every 5 or 6 steps, and I finally just took his hand and we did our best to hold each other up. I promised things would get better on the ridgeline, and it did. For a while.
The ridgeline
A cool looking frozen puddle

I read in Roach that from here, it was a "rolling ridge" to the summit. I should have read Bill's description more closely. The boulder field in the above picture was, in fact, the crux of the route, as Bill indicated. Normally Gary Roach has taken pretty good care of me, but he let me down this day.

I warned Connor about false summits, and reminded him that we were not approaching the top, but it took a mighty long time with several long rests to gain the top of the boulder field, and by the time we got there Connor had convinced himself that we were there. The top revealed the "rolling ridge to the summit" that Roach was talking about. Connor stayed strong, and before long we were nearly there.
Connor approaching the summit:
The two of us on top
The Mighty Connor
We sat for 25 minutes, eating cheese and sausage, enjoying the views. Connor declared that, "This is the life," and I pointed out the other 14ers in the area. By 11:00, the clouds were beginning to take shape, so we took off. On the "crux" boulderfield, I followed a mistake path to the right, and we found ourselves on a much steeper boulder field, trying to pick our way down and back to the path. This was frightening for Connor, worrying about injury, and that we'd gotten lost. Wasn't much to do but keep going, and that we did. Finally, we got back to the bottom and the path, and we felt a lot better. Oh no! The scree! Finally, we found ourselves back in the basin, with all but some mud and a couple miles between ourselves and the car. Mud didn't seem so important this time past, and the basin looked beautiful!
Back to the car, and finally on our way home! Even when the day doesn't go quite as planned, I can't think of a better way to spend the day with my son! What a Rockstar!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Thanks for the report!
07/05/2009 23:55
Planning to take the same route next weekend. How long did it take you? Any thing else I should know?


La Plata
07/06/2009 04:14
I did La Plata SW solo on Saturday. Took me a little over 3 hours up I believe, and then around 2.5 down. There are some very soggy/muddy spots in the basin, but if you‘re nimble you can keep you feet dry. The slog up the talus is pretty lousy...also, if you are up there early enough (8:00 or earlier lets say) be extremely cautious of ice on the rocks above 13.5K. I made the same mistake that the report poster made...trending right on my descent (towards the north). The scrambling down there is a bit rougher than that higher up on the slope I believe. Last thing, bring trekking poles, will really help on the kitty litter during descent on the steep slope from the basin.


Well Done!
07/06/2009 04:35
After getting to know you during the Culebra climb last August, it‘s great to see you out and getting it done this summer. And there is nothing like a father/son summit. Keep up the good work.


great TR, Thanks!
08/03/2009 05:11
we may be doing this next weekend, your write-up was very helpful. I think we are in for drier conditions. Interesting to know about the mistake trail coming back, will be wary of it. Thanks, and what a great adventure to take your son on! Kudos! :0)

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