June 14, 2003
After our hike of Huron Peak the day before we decided that we felt good enough to hang out another day and give La Plata a shot. We spent the afternoon cruising Buena Vista and Salida to pass the time until about 7 p.m. when we proceeded to the Lake Creek trailhead. Wore out from the Huron hike we retired for the evening early. The photo below is La Plata seen from the trailhead.
June 15, 2003
The alarm at 5 a.m. came too early but it was nice to get up and moving since it was a very cold evening in the high country. After a quick breakfast we were off and hiking just before 6 a.m. The route follows the road for about .25 miles and then the trail heads off to the left crossing the south fork of Lake Creek very quickly. There is a very powerful waterfall under the bridge that is quite scenic. From here pass the trail register and proceed for another .4 miles or so until you come to the La Plata Gulch Creek crossing. Once across this creek the route begins to climb the hillside and has several steep sections with steps built in shown below.
After about 1.8 miles the trail levels out and follows the very scenic valley shown below. The are several views of La Plata as you proceed up the valley.
The trail doesn't remain flat for long and heads left up the slopes for 1,500 feet to gain La Plata's northwest ridge at 12,760. Midway up the ascent to the ridge you come to a gully shown below where the trail switchbacks up the slope.
After ascending the gully the trail traverses south and we encountered some minor snowfields shown below directly below the northwest ridge.
We finally gained the northwest ridge and from this vantage point the Ellingwood Ridge looks incredible.
Also from this point you realize that you still have alot of elevation between you and the summit..
Gaining another shoulder on the northwest ridge shown in the photo below the remainder of the climb can be seen. The trail switchbacks up the slopes sometimes disappearing under the snow. We found the snow to be pretty firm and it was easier to kick steps up the snow than to boulder hop and look for the trail.
The ridge seemed to go on forever and we were definitely feeling a bit wore out from the long weekend. But we continued onward and finally the summit ridge came into view. We made it to the summit right before 9 a.m. taking about 3 hours for the ascent. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the views of all the Sawatch Range was incredible. We sat down behind the windbreak and I ate just about everything I had in my backpack. After about 20 minutes or so on the summit another couple from Boulder arrived and we took turn snapping summit photos. Huron Peak is the triangular summit on the left side of the photo and the Three Apostles are just right of Huron Peak.
I tried to call my dad and wish him a Happy Father's Day from 14,336 feet but was unsuccessful. After talking with the other couple for awhile we began our descent. Taking advantage of every chance to glissade down the snowfields we were making pretty good time. The snow was still firm and it was really easy to get up too much speed glissading.
After crossing the last snowfield we shed layers of clothing down to just a t-shirt and shorts. We took our time descending, trying to soak up the beautiful surroundings for as long as we could. As we descended towards the valley the roar of La Plata Gulch Creek got louder and louder until we had reached the brief flat section of the trail. Back in the shade of the forest we continued downward until finally reaching the trailhead at noon bringing our hiking time to 6 hours again, same as our time for Huron Peak. It was nice to take off the boots for good and enjoy a cold soda. We took one last look at the mountain before departing back to Boulder. It was a great weekend in the high country and just what the soul needed to recharge. I got my 26th 14er and 2 closer to finishing up the Sawatch Range, and it was Amy's first 2 14ers, what a stud!!