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La Plata Next Weekend (need condition report)

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports
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La Plata Next Weekend (need condition report)

Postby Liquid Shadow » Sun Mar 17, 2013 9:11 pm

Just wondering if anybody has been on La Plata within the last week or so, would like some information on current snow/trail conditions. I'm going to attempt it with a partner next weekend.

We plan to do a two-day climb on La Plata, and camp at a flat area around 12,000 ft on the North Ridge. Most interested in information regarding snow depth and firmness.

Thanks!

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Re: La Plata Next Weekend (need condition report)

Postby Wookie Horn » Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:46 am

Shadow - lafutura and I are going to have a go at LaPlata's NW Ridge tomorrow. Trying to get one more snowflake before the clock chimes Spring. We will post a condition report when we get back, and you can ping us with questions.

Re: La Plata Next Weekend (need condition report)

Postby lafutura » Mon Mar 18, 2013 1:52 pm

dang it! there i was thinking "oh, good, someone posted on here giving recent la plata conditions". er...yeah. :)

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Re: La Plata Next Weekend (need condition report)

Postby Liquid Shadow » Mon Mar 18, 2013 3:03 pm

Wookie Horn wrote:Shadow - lafutura and I are going to have a go at LaPlata's NW Ridge tomorrow. Trying to get one more snowflake before the clock chimes Spring. We will post a condition report when we get back, and you can ping us with questions.


That would be greatly appreciated! :-D

Re: La Plata Next Weekend (need condition report)

Postby lafutura » Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:04 am

hi there!

i'm going to post a peak conditions report now so everyone gets info asap. i know that when wookie horn gets a little time he can give you the gps route we took (along with the advice of "don't do this part that we were dumb enough to do" - ha ha). feel free to pm us both for more info.

i hope you have snowshoes, especially for that flat camping area. you're going to need them! we used ours past treeline, had to take them off in a scree slope, and really could have used them again after that (but made do with microspikes and some usually annoying postholing).

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Re: La Plata Next Weekend (need condition report)

Postby Liquid Shadow » Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:17 am

lafutura wrote:hi there!

i'm going to post a peak conditions report now so everyone gets info asap. i know that when wookie horn gets a little time he can give you the gps route we took (along with the advice of "don't do this part that we were dumb enough to do" - ha ha). feel free to pm us both for more info.

i hope you have snowshoes, especially for that flat camping area. you're going to need them! we used ours past treeline, had to take them off in a scree slope, and really could have used them again after that (but made do with microspikes and some usually annoying postholing).


Thanks for reporting back!

We don't have snowshoes, but we've postholed in way worse conditioned and managed. We do have sizable crampons and gaiters. We are thinking of postponing La Plata until the middle of next week though, because the whole state is going to get pretty cold this weekend, with windchill it will be in the -20F range.

Oh, and I've studied the NW Ridge route pretty well, but how far is it from the trailhead to the scree slope? About a mile or so?

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Re: La Plata Next Weekend (need condition report)

Postby Wookie Horn » Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:36 am

Hi Shadow,

The picture below shows two bread-crumbs up the Winter Variation of the NW Ridge. The red track is a known good track from a prior climb, and the black track is our track from yesterday. A couple of deviations to note.

First, the approach to the scree field. Around 10,600 the current trench diverts from the most expedient route to the ridge. As a consequence you arrive too low in La Plata Gulch. To mitigate we beelined east to gain the ridge through the scree field at around 12,100. Consequently, we attacked the scree field due east versus the southeast heading you would see in prior trip reports. The distance down trail to our east turn was roughly 2.1 miles. The scree climb was another 0.6 miles along our route. The slope angle from our turn to the ridge averaged about 15 degrees. I don't think it is possible to exceed 20 degree slope angle anywhere on or near our route to the ridge. As Lauren mentioned we used our snowshoes to the scree field and then switched to microspikes for the rest of the climb.

The second deviation occurred as we tried to find the route up the bump in the ridge rising from about 12400 to 12600. This bump occurs after the most significant elevation loss thus far as you are ascending the undulating ridge and at its base is where the summer trail joins the ridge. We were wrongly allured by trail segments leading around the west side of the bump. Quickly we lost what trail there was and went through a process of first scouring the terrain for rock cairns to eventually rock hopping back to the ridge top. The difficulty is that the snow is neither dense enough nor the rocks spaced close enough to avoid significant post holing and slow progress through unstable footing. Bottom-line: stick to the ridge.

Snow conditions along the route were a mixed bag. Down low until the scree field its typical Colorado powder that without snowshoes or a trench would result in repetitive crotch deep post holing. I found the snow in the scree field helpful in maintaining good traction. On the ridge some of the wind slabs are hard enough to support your weight. In fact on a couple of the steeper sections the wind slabs are hard enough that microspikes do not buy any traction and plunge stepping during the decent does not penetrate the crust. These few areas are the only places were crampons would be better than microspikes. In my opinion these areas were too few to bother with bringing your crampons. Instead, if you feel the need these areas would be the best places to switch from trekking poles to an ice axe for greater security, especially on the descent. Besides the wind slabs, most of the rest of ridge snow resulted in shin to knee to crotch deep post holing. The best bet was to stay on the rocks near climbers right on the ridge.

As Lauren mentioned we saw significant cornices on the east side of the ridge (so best to stay climber's right) and recent slide activity on several different aspects. There are several steep slopes that are ready for significant slides soon. None of this should be an issue for you unless you significantly deviate from either of the tracks below.

There is a small snow bowl at about 12,300 that might be the best place for camping on the ridge. The bowl is somewhat protected from the wind and there is some separation between the snow and a rock wall on climbers left that you might be able to groom into a nice shelter for a tent. Personally, I wouldn't want the pleasure of repetitive post holing for nearly 3 miles hauling camping gear up the scree slope, but if that is your brand of vodka, enjoy! :-D

Other than that, the ridge is long haul and exposed to wind. Our hands were pretty cold on the summit with only a 25 mph steady wind and blue bird, sunny skies. But the views all along the route more than compensate for any of the misery. Hit me or Lauren up if you have any other questions.

Have a good, safe climb!

Brian

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Re: La Plata Next Weekend (need condition report)

Postby Wookie Horn » Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:45 am

The image is attached.
Attachments
La Plata Screen Capture.jpg
La Plata Screen Capture.jpg (137.43 KiB) Viewed 216 times

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Re: La Plata Next Weekend (need condition report)

Postby Liquid Shadow » Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:43 pm

Wow thanks Brain! That has got to be one of the most well-written and useful posts ever.

So it looks like from the trailhead to the scree slope is about halfway, just over 2 miles long, I guess that is quite a bit of distance to posthole, we may rent snowshoes from REI.

I take it there isn't a well established trench at the moment? What about the trail that you guys broke? :mrgreen:

I have trekking poles, but my partner doesn't. We both have ice axes though.

Again thank you so much for the information, hugely helpful in our planning. We will try to do it in the middle of next week.
Last edited by Liquid Shadow on Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: La Plata Next Weekend (need condition report)

Postby Wookie Horn » Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:57 pm

I am blushing. Not only do you compliment me, you call me Brain too! 8) Thanks!

I would say distance wise it is about half way. Time wise it is probably about 1/4-1/3 of the way.

Barring a major snow event, I think our trench through the trees should be there. It should be doable without snowshoes to treeline. But I would recommend carrying them, because the roughly 500 ft of elevation between treeline and the scree were where they really made the difference. The snowshoes would have made the ridge walk a no brainer with respect to post holing. However, you can persevere up the loooooong ridge without them by sticking closest to the western edge of the ridge.

The winds were strong enough that parts of our trench on the ridge were starting to fill in during our descent. I would think the upcoming snows will erase everything but the trench below treeline. By all means, in 14er parlance, "poach our trench" if it is still there. The best part in laying one down is hoping others get to use it, without also have to wonder if the other users will ask, "what the heck were these guys thinking!"

Shout if you have other questions or would want the detailed GPS file.

Be safe and have fun.

Re: La Plata Next Weekend (need condition report)

Postby lafutura » Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:30 pm

thanks for calling him brain and complimenting him on his post...now the mountain won't be big enough for me *and* his ego! ha ha!

i agree - he did post something very useful. i might have been more useful had i had enough sleep. :)

i would strongly recommend renting snowshoes, especially with the upcoming snowfall predictions. i can't say i have ever regretted having snowshoes (even when i have to lug them on my back when i'm not using them) but man, have i regretted not having them!

keep in mind that when we're talking postholing, we're talking minimum knee but often hip deep. this isn't postholing like "oh, how annoying, it's mid-shin" - it was like "uh, i think i might crawl now".

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