|Peak:||La Plata Peak (14er)|
|Date of Information:||01/09/2013|
Note: This was my first attempt at La Plata Peak, so I have no personal experience with the standard winter route for the Northwest Ridge.
What appeared to me to be the heaviest usage trail on the Northwest Ridge route appears to have deviated from the standard route in at least two places from what I can gather.
Around the 1.6m point the trail starts switching back up to the ridge and becomes extremely steep with patches of uneven boulders and vegetation under the few inches of snow that existed today. This section does not seem to follow a well treaded path of any kind, and rather appears to be switchbacks someone just sort of forged for themselves.
This continues until about 2.1m at which point you top out onto a relatively flat area with snow deep enough that snow shoes would help, but if you continue to follow this path you quickly enter into a boulder field, then head onto a steep slope of the ridge, where the snow shoes definitely need to come off. In hindsight, I shouldn't have stopped to put mine on.
Apparently the standard winter route shoots up the ridge shortly after 2.1m on this path, but again the path that appears to have the heaviest usage continues precariously onto a very steep slope of the ridge. The "safe" path is extremely narrow and you cross sections of unstable gravel that could easily send you sliding down the face of the ridge into the gulch below. I cannot recommend following this part of the route. I went farther than I probably should have and ultimately called my attempt due to safety concerns.
More discussion/information available in this thread:
Attached is some data generated from my GPS, with the route I followed and the elevation profile. These are also in the thread I linked to above.
Photos (click for slideshow):