Peak(s):  La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet
Date Posted:  07/24/2009
Date Climbed:   07/19/2009
Author:  LIV

 La Plata Northwest Ridge  

Next to Missouri Mountain, which we completed the day before, La Plata paled in comparison. I had always looked at this peak from the summits of others and thought it would be the ultimate climb. I was just a little disappointed, although it had its moments of greatness along the way.

Lon and I arrived at the trailhead of La Plata's Northwest Ridge route at about 5:30 a.m. We hit the trail around 6:00, later than planned. Lonnie was tired from all of the hiking the day before, so we started out at a much slower pace than normal.

The first portion, through the trees and across the metal and wood bridge was easy walking. There was a pretty cool waterfall that we passed right away.

This is the waterfall from the bridge.


After a while, we crossed another stream and started up a series of stone and woods steps (I think Lonnie counted about 105 steps) up through the forest.

Looking back at the steps.


We hiked for quite a while in the trees and finally came into a pretty nice meadow. We moved up the left side of the meadow for a little way. Then we started up some switchbacks of a stunning looking gully.

Looking up at the gully and switchbacks.


Looking back down at the switchbacks.


The wildflowers were definitely in season. At the top of the gully were a rocky ridgeline and some awesome rock formations. We exited the gully to our right and continued under the rocks attempting to gain the saddle.

Some of the wildflowers


Quite a few rocks fell from above while we were crossing under the ridge, but we never were hit by any.

Looking back from high above the gully to our car and the road.


Some of the wildlife along the way.


The portion of the climb right below the ridge was the steepest. Slides had wiped out some of the trail and it was just scrambling up loose rock and dirt. Lonnie picked great steps for this portion.

Finally on the saddle.


Once we gained the saddle, we saw our first sight of the Ellingwood Ridge across the valley. It looked very daunting.

Ellingwood Ridge


We continued up the ridge toward the summit, and in some places lost the trail and just had to scree hop toward Cairns. Wow, I'm so glad I have Lonnie along. He has a truly great sense of which way to go!

Lon making his way from cairn to cairn.


Finally, after circling around to the backside of the mountain, we reached the summit. I was pretty glad to have finished this one – ah, well, yeah, not quite.

Summit shot of Lon and me (Ice Mountain in the background).


Some summit shots of the Ellingwood Ridge.


Looking toward Elbert and Massive from summit.


Lon resting before starting down.


Lonnie and I made the trek down quite a bit shorter by jogging some of the trail before we got to treeline.

I had already duct taped Lonnie's ankles, but when we got to the river, I suggested we take off our shoes and soak them in the water. Lon was all about that!

Lon after soaking his feet.


Looking back at La Plata from the road (La Plata is farthest to the right in the distance).


Just as we got in the car, it started to rain. Timing was perfect.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

nice reports
07/26/2009 17:56
Thanks for the Missouri and La Plata report. Nice job. 2 questions: 1.) Why do you say La Plata pales in comparison to Missouri (I ask because I did Huron on Friday and it was a toss up between something in the Missouri, Belford/Oxford group and La Plata for my Saturday, I chose La Plata since the TH was 15 minutes from where I was staying, tough to pass that up. I thought La Plata was terrific) ? In other words what did Missouri do for you that La Plata did not ? Just curious. 2.) Any reason you are trying to finishing up one range before sampling the next ? Again, nothing wrong with that just curious as to why. Thanks again for the reports and nice job on the climbs.


La Plata
07/27/2009 15:30
Well, I just thought Missouri basin was so beautiful. Perhaps if I had not done it first, I would have had a better report on La Plata. Also, it sounds like you did La Plata from the Southwest Ridge (Winfield) trailhead. We did the Northwest Ridge. That may have made a difference. Also the summit of Missouri was just so cool -- the ridge walk.

I wanted to finish the Sawatch so that we could start next summer on the San Juans and get to know that area like we know Buena Vista (favorite places to stay, eateries, routine). Also, since the drive isn‘t quite as long, I thought my 12 year old son would have a better time getting started on this group. He has now completed most of the Sawatch (still have 3 left), all of the Front Range, all of the Mosquito and Ten Mile ranges.

Glad you had a great trip on La Plata. Huron was nice, wasn‘t it?? We did it in a white out in March -- we still had a great time on that mountain.


great comments, thanks!
08/03/2009 04:56
my wife and I are thinking about doing this next weekend, and I loved your pictures. thanks for the great TR!

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