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Ascent of La Plata Peak on 2007-09-03

Climber: Roger Dellinger

Date:Monday, September 3, 2007
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:La Plata Peak
    Location:USA-Colorado
    Elevation:14361 ft / 4377 m

Ascent Trip Report

Labor Day I headed west to hike up La Plata Peak, which is located south of Leadville, but north of Buena Vista, in the Sawatch Range. I started the hike about 1.5 miles west of the small ghost town of Winfield (actually it isn't a ghost town for some people have moved back into the town, although only about 3 houses like they are occupied and probably only as weekend get away cabins). At 14,331 feet, La Plata is the fifth tallest mountain in Colorado. From the trailhead, and for much of the hike, you cannot see the summit. For the first mile the trail follows a small creek, climbing steadily through a pine forest. Then the trail enters into a large basin at about 11,500 feet. The floor of the basin is filled with thigh high willows that like living in the swampy ground. Unfortunately the trail goes through parts of the swamp. For the most part I avoided getting muddy, but one time I did step into the muck and sink in over the top of my boot. Across the basin is a high head wall, which one has to climb up to get out of the basin. The trail goes up this wall on a trail that is small loose gravel, in which it seems to have to fight for every step taken because if you don't watch out you will slid back down. Plus it is steep so about every five to ten steps I had to stop to catch me breath. After what seemed like a very long time, I finally got to the top of this wall to come to a high, flat saddle. Hiking across this saddle, even though it is at 13,000 feet went very quickly. But once I covered the half mile saddle, it was time for more climbing. This time the climb was over small boulders. While there was a bit off a path at times, I basically looked for the next cairn to know which way to go. This took me to just under 4,000 feet, at which point I could finally see the summit. To get to the summit, it was a simple traverse up a boulder covered ridge, trying to avoid the two false summits. The distance from trailhead to summit is listed as 3.5 miles in one of my guidebooks, but according to my GPS the distance was 4.09 miles. It took me about 3 hours to get up, but what is interesting is my GPS gives actually travel time (when I was actually moving) as only about one and a half hours. No sooner had I got to the summit I signed the register, took a couple of pictures and then headed straight back down for there was thunder off to the north and that storm looked like it could have moved my way. I likely could have stuck around the summit longer for the storm passed to the north and no rain, nor did thunder and lightning come my way. The hike down, with a couple of rest stops along the way took about an hour and a half, or the same time it took me to move on the way up.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:3631 ft / 1107 m
    Distance:8 mi / 12.9 km
    Route:Southwest Ridge
    Trailhead:4x4 west of Winfield  10730 ft / 3270 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Weather:Overcast



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