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|2015-09-27||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: I climbed La Plata via the Southwest Ridge Sunday 27 Sep. I have a couple things to add that I think are important. First getting up the head wall was pretty tough. The trail is getting wider and wider because people are trying to find a way up with some solid footing. Its basically all gravel and loose dirt and nothing to really prevent you from slipping. Being so steep made this tough. As bad as going up was, going down was worse, basically I just skied down the mountain. Someone called it "Texas Skiing". Either way it was pretty tough because it was very steep and very loose. The next part was the first false summit. On the Nat Geo Topo map the trail stops around this area. The reason is because there really is no defined trail up that first summit. You sort of make it up as you go. There are some cairns here and there and they help to a point but the main goal was to just get up and over so you can actually see the ridge leading to the real summit. The last thing is about the washed out road leading to the trail head. I stopped at this area and was prepared to hike up from there but then decided to take the Ford Explorer through it, and had no problem. Took it slow and at the correct angle. This cut off about 2 miles on the hike which I was thankful for because my legs were screaming from the steep hike. I took a couple pictures because I know some people have had questions in the past about this area. Overall this was an amazing hike. I only saw 2 groups going up when I left at 7:00. One group of 1 adult and three teen age boys turned around after they got up the head wall and saw what faced them ahead. The other two guys I passed up and met at the summit. On the way down I ran into 2 other groups. Very peaceful but hard hike. The drive up was amazing, fall colors right at their peak in most areas and past in some.
|2015-09-26||Route: Passing through the area
Info: Fall colors from the South Elbert Trailhead are peak and some what coming to an end. Independence Pass is holding fall colors better than Elbert. La Plata has good colors at lower elevations. Most of Independence Pass is holding good fall colors. Maroon Bells (Maroon Peak/N. Maroon Peak) and Pyramid are the best fall colors Leadville to Aspen right now.
|2015-08-15||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: We took our 4x4 with 9" of ground clearance and an experienced off-road driver up past the washed-out road section across the creek and up a final steep, rocky section to the trailhead proper. We got a couple of rock hits, but nothing major. Land Rovers, Jeeps, Trucks, Xterras, and 4Runners will be able to do the same with A/T tires and an experienced driver if the road is dry. Other SUVs and crossovers will want to stop at the washed-out creek or earlier if you get uncomfortable. I would not take a passenger car very far up the road to the trailhead. We started from the trailhead proper @ 5:30 AM. Lower sections of the route are marshy in areas, but nothing too bad with some rock hopping. Otherwise, the route is in pretty good shape and well defined save for some areas on the ridge that are noted in the route guide. Summited @ 10:00 AM and was down by 12:30 PM.
|2015-08-08||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: I have a GPX track of this route (something I had a hard time finding without subscribing to a trails web site). If you want it, contact me through my profile info here on 14ers.com. Perfect time to do this peak from SW ridge. No issues. In the marshy flats just above treeline there are a two 10-20 yard sections of ankle-deep mud. You can avoid it by carefully stepping on helper rocks, but be prepared with good footwear. As reported earlier for this route, the road is washed out about a mile from the TH. There appeared to be parking for about 6-10 vehicles at the wash-out point, and there was plenty of space left when we walked back around 1pm. There are a couple logs laid across the creek for an easy crossing by foot. If your car cannot make it past Winfield, you could also walk in from Winfield, which is 2 miles from the TH. The path from the road to the TH is a bit hard to spot in the dark, and the TH sign is nothing more than a piece of dilapidated plywood now. Go left at the plywood to begin your ascent.
|2015-07-22||Route: Ellingwood Ridge
Info: You can ascend via Ellingwood Ridge without touching snow until the traverse from East La Plata to La Plata (at which point the route-finding and technicality is trivial. Thus, no need for traction or an axe. There are a few gullies retaining snow on the route, but they can easily be bypassed, with the exception of a section at 14,000‘ (the bypass is less evident). I‘ve added some annotated pictures which might make more sense than my words, but I‘ll do my best to describe it. En route to East La Plata, you ascend one final talus slope towards what Roach describes as a "snow-filled gully" at 14,000‘. Once you reach the base of the gully, he suggests skirting to the left (SE), ascending to the left of the gully, and traversing to the right above the gully towards the ridge crest. As my pictures show, it is difficult to skirt left as there is a 5 ft. snow drift blocking the path. Instead, cross immediately underneath the snow gully and ascend up the right side of the gully, close to the ridge crest. You can keep it around class 3 if you take your time. We topped out and descended the Northwest Ridge route. There is a 200m snow field around 13k‘ that we were able to glissade (albeit slowly, accumulating slush in our underpants). Other than that, nothing noteworthy except for several lengthy pennants of dirty toilet paper affixed to the grass significantly above timberline, immediately adjacent to the trail, fluttering in the breeze like little poop-smeared flags of surrender. Come on people... (Luckily we had some empty ziplock bags)
|2015-07-11||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: GEAR (to bring): GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat, day pack with water sack, food, sunscreen, lip balm. This is the most beautiful mountain I‘ve climbed so far of my 12 fourteeners. The waterfall about a half mile in when crossing the "bridge" (disconnected on one side, but safe) is breathtaking! The trail in the treeline is a little damp in some places, but not enough to get your feet wet with careful steps. The trail is straightforward, but when you climb in the boulder area, go to the far right instead of trying to go steeply up if you want to conserve energy. The peak was cold and windy as usual and I wore full on winter gear. I‘m climbing all 55 fourteeners (including Carmeron) this summer. Follow my blog and the hikes in more detail at sunshineof1985.com
|2015-07-10||Route: Ellingwood Ridge
Info: almost clear of snow except for 2-3 pretty steep patches and by the time you reach these, they are pretty warm and sketchy.. (started at 5am, reached these around 10am) - some you can squeeze between the top of the snow and the rock, but at least one you pretty much have to traverse.. not even sure an ax would help, but would have made me feel better about it. Maybe there is a route above these on the ridge line but I couldn‘t find it.
|2015-07-04||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: La Plata is a great hike right now. Still some snow up there, which is pretty, but the flowers are really blooming too. If you haven‘t done the hike before, watch carefully when you get to the log bridge. There are two bundles of logs, and the one to the right is more like a dam. Look around to the left to find the actual log bridge. There are a couple of muddy spots below tree line but overall trail is dry. There are a few snow fields but they‘re easy to walk across. If you‘d rather not, most of the fields have ample rocks nearby so you can bypass without damaging the terrain. The longer fields up high are still nice for glissading, but they soften up early and aren‘t too speedy. That‘s actually really nice if you‘re new to this, like me.
|2015-07-01||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: As others have noted, you can avoid the snow by hiking around, but in many places it is easier to hike across. It should be gone in 2 to 3 weeks. Met some guys who slept on the top and they said it was clear all night. The snow is good for glissading, it isn‘t super fast (7mph) and that‘s a good thing. And it‘s a lot more fun than walking.
|2015-06-29||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Route was basically clear the entire way. No snow gear needed at all. At about 12,500‘-13,000‘ maybe, there is a snow field on top of the trail. Basically had to choose my own route up that part on the rocks which made it a little slow going with the dog. Other than that the route is in great summer condition. Beautiful view from the summit!
|2015-06-28||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Didn‘t bring gaitors, microspikes, or snowshoes. You don‘t need them, not worth the weight. Hiking poles were helpful for stability in the few snow crossings you can‘t avoid, but not necessary. Not a very muddy trail minus a small section below the first ridge by the first snow you have to cross. Most of the people on the summit were from the SW approach and said that despite the off road trail being washed out the final 0.4 miles or something, the trail wasn‘t any more muddy than you‘d expect through the willows. More info and can be found at https://everythingoutdoorscolorado.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/la-plata-peak/
|2015-06-28||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: The bridge is still washed off ~1.3 mile from the TH registration box. Willow is wet and boggy at spots, but not unmanageable especially with waterproof boots. The trail above willow is almost all cleared of snow and dried, there are only a couple spots (right below the last false summit and right below the summit itself) with snow fields to cross but there are established tracks to follow. No need for microspikes or snowshoes. Marmots and pikas are out in scores now, very fun to watch them when scrambling.
|2015-06-26||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: No real snow on the trail until the final ridge. Even there, it is avoidable if you stay to one side (we choose the right/west). No snowshoes necessary. Brought Microspikes but never ended up using those either. Stream crossing at the beginning is flowing fast but there is a manageable log bridge that shouldn‘t give anyone a problem. Be warned though, your pup may not like it (I had to carry a Bernese across in the afternoon).
|2015-06-26||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Trail is almost entirely clear. Saw several people hiking in sneakers. The creek is pushing on a raging river right now and is sketchy to cross. I skied a ridge line on the West face which still had a good amount of snow on it. It was rather difficult to get to, lots of fun, but the snow is pushing unskiable.
|2015-06-24||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: No snow of real significance. We had some trouble route finding as we did not research the route before-hand. Almost climbed Sayers without proper equipment thinking it was La Plata (would‘ve been a huge mistake). Willows are muddy, but not awful. small snowfields that are avoidable above the Willows (no point avoiding them though as they were fairly supportive even at 11). No need for traction, snowshoes or Ice Axe, although the Ice axe could be helpful for a glissade or two. Bring waterproof boots, don‘t bother with gaiters unless you only have tennis shoes. When climbing up the first false summit after the Willows, avoid the snow as it is unsupportive and completely avoidable. If we hadn‘t had so much trouble route finding, could‘ve summited in about 2 and a half hours.
|2015-06-24||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: Took snowshoes and microspikes, but didn‘t need either. The snow covers parts of the trail between 12,300-12,750 and also from 13,000-13,500 (my best guesses of elevation based on the route description). It‘s easy enough to avoid the snow if you go off trail, and I would‘ve been fine in boots. Stay to the right of the snow in both those sections. I ended up using snowshoes for a couple hundred feet between 13,000-13,500 just because it was easier to walk straight up the snow than to navigate the rocks. On the way down (around 12:15p), the snow was too soft, and the rocks were fine, just trickier. I don‘t recommend wasting the weight of any snow gear. Just walk around it. The few spots near the summit with small snow patches are fine in boots. Also as an FYI, a couple on the summit had just completed the Southwest route and didn‘t have any snow gear. One was in shorts. They both seemed to have managed just fine.
|2015-06-22||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: There was knee deep snow around the timberline intersecting the trail in several places. Not a big deal but I was able to circumvent most of it. Micro spikes for your shoes would be helpful but not necessary. I would have loved to have my ice axe for the decent but also not necessary.
|2015-06-21||Route: Southwest Ridge
Info: The Southwest ridge route has to be one of the most scenic routes and its not that busy. Route description does a good job and its pretty easy to follow. Spring run-off has reclaimed the beginning section from the TH to the creek crossing. Its only about 3-4" deep, but flowing pretty steady. The trail could also use some TLC as its starting to get grown over in spots, especially in the willows. I was worried that the willows were going to be a messy quagmire, but they weren‘t that bad. Yes there is water and mud all through the willows, but its spring. It felt more like summer up there today. As soon as you break treeline, the cirque is fully green and quite a spectacle to marvel at. The little snow that remains is pretty consolidated and can easy be walked over. No need for traction or flotation. Car to summit to car took 4h 24min. Only saw one other party on the route. The summit was another story. About a dozen people up there when I summited.
|2015-06-18||Route: Northwest Ridge
Info: No snow on the summer trail until about ~12,200. The ‘flat section‘ is still snow packed, as well as the last few hundred feet to the summit (see pictures). Didn‘t use snowshoes or microspikes, and only needed gaiters on the way down.
|2015-06-08||Route: North Face ski
Info: Great snow coverage, but you can see remnants of older slides. Approach trail has very little snow. Creeks are raging and creek crossings are treacherous.