Peak(s):  La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet
Date Posted:  08/17/2010
Date Climbed:   08/10/2010
Author:  Dancesatmoonrise
 And the Living's Easy...  

And the Living's Easy...
Summertime in the Sawatch

Peak: La Plata (& some non-peak meandering...)
Route: NW Ridge
Date: August 10, 2010
Length: 9.5 miles La Plata / 17.5 total
Vertical: 4500 feet La Plata / 6200 total
Ascent time: 2:26
Ascent Party: Dancesatmoonrise

ImageSawatch Alpine Tarn

It was one of those in-between days. Too much work to plan a big trip, but not so much that it couldn't be put aside for a nice mid-week day. A friend of mine has high regard for such truancy, referring to it as "playing hooky." The word certainly evokes angling, and visions of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. Some last minute details, and I was out the door.

Some people demean "walk-up" 14ers. I like them all. I just like being in the mountains. Any month, any weather - but who can pass up summertime, on a nice weather day, when you barely need more than a pair of trail runners, water, and sun screen.

Besides, I had a date with a little alpine tarn on the first sunny afternoon, to see if any fish were interested in feathers tied up to look like bugs. So a trip up La Plata, followed by some trout fishing, would be perfect for slipping away on this sunny Tuesday. With a great forecast, being on the trail by mid-morning was not a problem. I arrived at 8:30 am.

ImageCrossing over Lake Creek on the La Plata trail.

The La Plata trail is nearly a class 1 hike. It's really pretty straightforward. There are some nice views and nice late-season wildflowers right now, with the recent rains.

ImageThe South Lake Creek crossing has a nice footbridge.

ImageStairway to the Alpine.

ImageIn the basin on the west side of the ridge.

ImageWildflowers still glow in late season.

ImageThe ridge is well-defined, though a summer trail makes it even easier.

ImageThe impressive Ellingwood Ridge can be seen to the east from the standard route.

At the top of the ridge, the trails from north and south converge, and both head briefly east to the summit. I wanted a good ascent time but hadn't been feeling too well this week. Despite the legs and lungs whimpering a bit above 13,000, they still managed 2:26, TH to summit. I was happy to pay for that later. The views were typical Sawatch paradise.

ImageHuron and Brown's from the summit of La Plata.

ImageA small alpine tarn on the south slopes of La Plata... Is there life?

ImageSnowmass, Capitol, Bells, Pyramid... Elks, we'll see you this weekend for Eric's finisher!

ImageHikers nearing the top of La Plata's NW ridge. Highway 82 to Independence Pass is seen 4000 feet below, with Lackawanna Peak in the background.

ImageWildflowers grace the basin below La Plata's NW ridge.

ImageSomehow, I missed the cabin on the way up.

After a bit of repacking, I was off for another hike - in search of a pleasant little alpine tarn to see if any fish were interested in playing the fly rod game.





I can't remember so many beautiful August wildflowers in years past. The late-season rains surely helped.



ImageAh, my first customer! (Released alive and well...)



Thanks for reading.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

08/17/2010 16:46
Absolutely amazing photos...seriously, wow.


Fantastic report!
08/17/2010 17:06
Terrific pics to go along with a fun report. That was one beautiful trout too! I think we are putting LaPlata near the top of our to-do list next year. So it wasn't too difficult? (by 14er standards, of course.)

Doctor No

Very nice!
08/17/2010 18:24
I love the photography in this report.


Nice job Jim!!
08/17/2010 20:30
Looks like you had a more pleasant trip than I did on that Peak last year. Started storming on us on the way down but fortunately we were at treeline by then. I love your Photos! You have such a good eye for content and framing the picture.


08/17/2010 20:49
... that your photos are AWESOME yet again! 8) It's like my very own colorful postcard personal tour. I'm of the ”kiss and release” ilk too (unless we're camping). Thanks so much for posting. Happy trails!


08/17/2010 23:46
Thanks, everyone! Darrin, thanks so much for the kind words. Really, I don't deserve it. It's not much more than taking the ”saturation” lever all the way to the right and shamelessly pumping the color. I figure, this ain't art, it's the internet. They do it on postcards all the time. I decided, why fight 'em, join 'em. Huffy, thanks. The route's not too tough - but usually I get through the verts pretty easy. There are some steep sections. Also, heads up immediately after the footbridge over South Lake Creek. You want to go right, not left. Remember, you're going up-drainage, not down. It could be deceptive. I'd also have a map for that devil's triangle flat area east of South Lake Creek, north of Lake Creek, and west of the route. Easier to get lost there in winter if you have no track, but I noticed there are several summer trails in there. The other place to watch is up top where the trail goes east a short jog to the summit. A map and the route description should suffice. Enjoy; it's a pretty fun route. You might also consider the south approach from the 390 road - more driving, less vertical to climb, if that's a consideration. Thanks, Dr. No and Presto. So Presto, you guys flyfish too? Isn't it a kick! It was nice to finally get some flyfishing in this season on a 14er mission. Randy, you are too kind. Looking at your photos of Pyramid, I certainly don't have any talent behind the shutter that I don't see in your images. I'll be using five of them for that TR - not that the others aren't stellar as well. I particularly liked the portrait of Britt; keep up the great work!! (BTW - you're using a 550 or 650, yes? I think it's the same camera Kevin Baker uses. Great shots.)


Canon A550
08/18/2010 04:07
is what I have been using. Keep thinking about getting an SLR but I just don't think I want the weight/bulk on the trail.


Sweet photos
08/18/2010 12:45
Jim - are you using a circular polarizer or are you using photoshop/lightroom to bring out the color? Either way - awesome job. Love the fish photo :-)


Well done
08/18/2010 15:12
Love the photos, the writing, and the shot of the cool fish! I've only seen that area covered with snow, but it's nice to see it all dressed up for summer!


great photos
08/18/2010 16:57
Thanks! And if you can whine about a 2:26 ascent, you're way faster than me, so enjoy it all.


08/18/2010 17:00
Wow-great photos! We plan to do La Plata in a couple weeks along with some fly fishing, wouldn't want to share a location, name, directions, etc. for that little alpine tarn would you?? Haha


Great Stuff Jim
08/18/2010 21:53
Thanks for the sweet photos and commentary. You gotta love going solo every once in awhile to just take it all in, just you and the mountain and not much else. On a side note 2:26 TH to summit ain't too shabby .


That fish!
08/19/2010 04:19
Great shot Jim. They're good eating, but much too beautiful to kill.

As usual, I enjoyed the finer details. You are fast as can be, but still take the time to savor the roses. Nicely done!


08/19/2010 15:51
Randy, I agree - but one of these days I've got to make the sacrifice and carry the SLR and some lenses - it's a balance between the experience and the capture. Maybe I'll be fortunate enough to go with Kimo and Sen again some time and we'll ”focus” on the photography. That would be fun. I do use the SLR for some of the rock climbing shots. Your A550 does a remarkable job, judging from the images of this last trip!
Matt, to be honest, it's just a little 4 oz Cannon 1200. Image capture is almost good enough to get by doing everything in post. I need to get some filters for the SLR and learn how to use them.
Mark, thanks for the comments. Let's climb this winter.
cftbq, I wasn't whining, the legs and lungs were, but believe me, I paid for it later!
Bob - my fishing partner assures me that she would be most disappointed if I were to direct you to her hunting grounds. However, I notice that there are a ton of little lakes all around there and I plan to do some scouting - you're welcome to join!
Ben, thanks for the praise. Yeah, solo is an important concept in the experience of mountaineers. Especially now and then in winter, just to keep us honest. There is a certain freedom and sense of confidence it evokes. By the way, I really loved your reports from last winter - looks like you had a great season. Here's hoping this upcoming winter is even better!
Kimo, like Presto, I usually let them all go unless I'm on a multi-day trip in the backcountry, where the fishing becomes part of the ultralight strategy! Yes, it was nice to have the afternoon to kick back, do some fishing, and get some photos - next trip like this I think I'll try taking the SLR. You and Sen still need to show me how it's done!


08/22/2010 13:50
TR and photos as usual. I'm pretty far behind on reading TR's (and writing them ) Been too busy climbing. Thanks for the tip on the saturation. I'm playing with it on some of my pics.

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