La Plata Peak

Date to Climb: July 17, 2009

Date Climbed: July 05, 2009

Elevation: 14,336

Range: Sawatch

Latitude: 39.02940, Longitude: -106.47290

Route: Northwest Ridge ll, Class 2

Round-Trip Mileage: 9.5

Pre-Climb Comments

La Plata is a great climb. A little too crowded but other than that it is almost perfect. Jake will have trouble with the ridge, but by then he will have to be a pretty tough dog. It will be good to spend a few days in the Sawatch Range. We will stop in Twin Lakes for ice cream before going to the Elbert trailhead.

Post-Climb Comments

We were using La Plata as a rest day. Oh, it is a hard climb, but in comparison, it was easier. In scheduling, we tried to mix the longer days with the shorter days so that we could rest without taking a day off. Those folks that set the records for doing all the peaks and were doing three and four peaks every day... wow, that's not us!

We had camped at the nearby Twin Peaks Campground. It was not busy at all. There was a little bit of road noise, but our site was great. After doing the Missouri Group the day before we needed to sleep in and did not get up until 5:30, hitting the trail at 6:30.

Colorado Fourteener Initiative has done a lot of work on the trail. We had done the route a few years back and the trail ended at the 12,750 foot saddle. Now, the trail goes all the way to the top.

Because of our casual start, there were people ahead of us and people who even took a more casual approach, behind us. We were in the middle. There were quite a few dogs on the trail, including Jake. After taking a day off, he was ready to climb. Jake stays on a leash, we wish everyone else kept their dogs on leashes also. By doing so, the dog knows it’s place and the owner does too. It is harder to walk a dog on a leash, which is most likely why so many people do not want to keep their dog tethered to them.

The trail starts casually as it wanders to the La Plata Gulch from the trailhead. As soon as we started up the gulch we were greeted by a log stairway to heaven. Up and up it climbed rendering hardened legs soft.

La Plata, Ellingwood Ridge

Looking at Twin Lakes and Ellingwood Ridge

After climbing the steep slopes we were rewarded by a beautiful valley. It would probably be one of the most idyllic places in the Rockies except the creek is still contaminated by mining. Signs were posted at the beginning of the trail warning of the dangers of drinking the water (dangerous mineralization from mining debris), including death! We were looking for mutant marmots but all looked normal.

The haul from tree line to the saddle was relatively easy because of the great trail. Using many switchbacks, the trail designer kept the grade to a minimum while climbing fifteen hundred feet.

Leaving the saddle the trail winds on either side of the ridge. We had to use care in a few places to keep on the exact trail. It was sad to see little hiker trails made to go around or shortcut the hard labors of the trail workers. The trail remained excellent all the way to the top, but it is a long way from the saddle to the summit.

We had the summit to ourselves. After celebrating number 30, we headed down as quickly as possible. Nick started down like he was shot out of a cannon. We walked more conservatively due to our old joints and muscles.

Nick on La Plata

Nick coming down from the summit

I fell on one of the snow crossings and damaged my shin badly enough that we had to stop and plug the hole. No real issues other than just some more pain.

We returned to the car and headed back to the campground. We stayed in the same site for two nights, a real joy. Jon and Laura had bought the ingredients for a hobo dinner cooked over the fire. Umm, good eating, makes for strong climbing.

La Plata Peak - July 05, 2009 summit check