Peak(s):  La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet
Date Posted:  07/24/2009
Date Climbed:   07/18/2009
Author:  jrbren_vt

 La Plata via NW Ridge (Standard)  

This is Part II of my trip report for my 9 day hiking trip from Vermont to Colorado for site seeing.

I give a little background on myself in my Huron trip report for my 7/17/2009 climb of Huron.

This trip would be all solo hikes, but given how well the Rocky Mountain National park trails and 14er routes are documented on this site, summit post, and in other books, this would be almost like hiking trails I have hiked many times before back east before ever stepping foot on them. So I am quite comfortable tackling this solo.

The week's itinerary is presented here:
Friday, July 10 - Fly to Colorado (Sleep at ~5280', Denver)
Saturday, July 11 - Drive to Estes Park - Hang out rest of day (Sleep at ~7800', Estes Park)
Sunday, July 12 - Climb Flat Top Mountain & Hallett Peak from Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, ~10miles RT and 3200' total elevation gain, maximum altitude 12,713' (Sleep at ~7800', Estes Park)
Monday, July 13 - Climb Chapin Peak, Chiquita Peak, and Ypsilon Peak from Chapin Pass in Rocky Mountain National Park, ~7 miles RT and 3100' total elevation gain, maximum altitude 13,514' (Sleep at ~7800', Estes Park)
Tuesday, July 14 - Hike to Crystal Lakes, Mummy Range in Rocky Mountain National Park, ~15.4 miles RT and 3000' total elevation gain, maximum altitude 11,500' at Crystal Lakes (Sleep at ~7800', Estes Park)
Wednesday, July 15 - Travel Day in Car, 7.5 hours of driving & sight seeing from car (Sleep at ~9300', Twin Lakes)
Thursday, July 16 - Rest/Easy Day in Twin lakes, 2 hour easy Kayak on Twin Lakes in am, 90 minute RT walk to InterLaken Dexter House in pm, ~3 miles RT and < 100' elevation gain along lake shore (Sleep at ~9300', Twin Lakes)
Friday, July 17 - Climb Huron Peak via NW Ridge (Class 2 walk-up/Hike), ~10miles RT and 3700' total elevation gain, maximum altitude 14,003' (Sleep at ~9300', Twin Lakes)
Saturday, July 18 - Climb La Plata Peak via NW Ridge (Class 2 walk-up/Hike), ~9 miles RT and 4300' total elevation gain, maximum altitude 14,336' (Sleep at ~9300', Twin Lakes)
Sunday, July 19 - Drive To Denver, fly back to BTV

This report focuses on Saturday's trek up La Plata Peak in the Sawatch.

The weather report was for mostly sunny skies with no mention of any thunderstorms before noon, 10% after noon, so weather should be excellent with a pre-6am start. I wanted to start early to 1.) beat the crowds, its Saturday and I was taking the trade route from Highway 82, and 2.) beat the heat, if applicable.

I slept in Twin Lakes at a very nice B & B (minus the Breakfast since I was out the door by 5:05am), it takes about 15 minutes to drive from Twin Lakes to the La Plata Northwest (NW) Ridge Trailhead (TH). This trail offers a first mile or two of easy and relatively level walking to make a very nice warm up before the actual climbing begins in earnest. I was walking by 5:25am. It was light enough where I did not need a headlamp but the sun was not up, and would not be up for a while in this valley west of La Plata's NW Ridge.

Although I sleep at 150' above sea level for most of the year, from the above itinerary one can see I was at altitude for several days before attempting this climb. I had climbed Huron the day before, so I was not quite as fresh as the day before, but I still felt good all the way up and down with minimal effects of altitude. The weather was, like the day before, ideal, sunny, calm and cool. Every morning on my trip dawned this way and stayed clear at least until about 11am before any threatening clouds showed up. There would be no threatening clouds all day for this hike.

The route is described well on this web site in the route descriptions for La Plata, NW ridge, so I will not reproduce the route description in detail here. Suffice to say it was a well traveled, easy to follow, foot friendly hiking path for most of the way. There was some sections of scrambling over boulders to the right of (as one ascends) the snow fields on the NW Ridge. This boulder hopping was very similar to the terrain one would find the the Presidential Range of the New Hampshire White Mountains above treeline. Once one got to the top of the snow fields, a very nice foot friendly walking path resumed.

I do not recall my exact summit time but I think I arrived at ~9:15am or so, and started back down around 10-10:15am. I spent a about an hour on the summit and dawdled and took photos on the way down. I got to the car around 2pm. Like on Huron, I had company on the trail but it was by no means crowded.

The rest of this report will just share some of the photos.

South Towards Huron From LaPlata

Me on LaPlata Summit

Huron From LaPlata

West Towards Snowmass From LaPlata

LaPlata Summit Ridge

North Towards Elbert over Ellingwood Ridge From LaPlata

NW Towards Independence Pass From LaPlata

SE Towards Collegiates From LaPlata

South Towards Huron From LaPlata

Huron From LaPlata, if you look closely, you can see the NW Slopes trail switch backing up the mountain. This is the trail I was hiking the day before.

West Towards Snowmass From LaPlata

South Towards Huron From LaPlata

LaPlata Summit

North Towards Elbert over Ellingwood Ridge From Hi on LaPlata

LaPlata NW Ridge looking towards Independence Pass

LaPlata NW Ridge looking back up to summit. This is the section where the trail goes over boulders and is less well defined. There are several heard paths through the rocks. The trail resumes above the part of the snow field that protrudes out to the right.

Holy Cross (?) from LaPlata is my guess, can anyone confim this mountain is Holy Cross, this is a large mountain zoomed in on the northern horizon from LaPlata ...

LaPlata NW Ridge looking back up to summit

LaPlata NW Ridge

Ellingwood Ridge from LaPlata NW Ridge

Wildflowers on LaPlata NW Ridge Trail

Wildflowers on LaPlata NW Ridge Trail

Columbine on LaPlata NW Ridge Trail

Columbine on LaPlata NW Ridge Trail

Wildflowers on LaPlata NW Ridge Trail

Columbine on LaPlata NW Ridge Trail

Wildflowers on LaPlata NW Ridge Trail

Famous Grassy Pitch on LaPlata NW Ridge Trail

LaPlata Gulch

LaPlata Gulch

LaPlata Gulch - Beautiful healthy looking forest here. With the beetle issues I witnessed on the drive to Twin Lakes from Rocky Mountain National Park, especially in RMNP's Kawuneeche Valley, I hope this forest here stays this way.

Lake Creek Near LaPlata NW Ridge TH

LaPlata from near NW Ridge TH

Thanks for reading & Happy Hiking ...


 Comments or Questions

05/16/2011 21:06
Excellent trip report. Great info and photos. I, like yourself, have read so many route descriptions, trip reports and books, it's almost like I have hiked it already. We are going to Colo in July. Trying to decide which peak to climb. Will either be Castle, or La Plata, NW or SW routes. (I live in Missouri)

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