Ascent of La Plata Peak on 2013-08-05

Climber: Paul Barish

Date:Monday, August 5, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:La Plata Peak
    Elevation:14336 ft / 4369 m

Ascent Trip Report

After a few other attempts on this ridge last year I was finally able to do it. Shortly after the second river crossing the main trail makes a right turn. If you go left there is a small climbers trail with a pink ribbon around a thin tree marking the start of the trail to the Ellingwood Ridge. If you follow a faint and easy to lose trail with ribbons on trees it will bring you to treeline and the base of the boulder field. I didn't follow this trail all the way to the boulder field but I made my way there. The boulder field is not easy to navigate. It is made up of constantly moving boulders of all sizes. The hiking is class 3 at some points. The entire thing is long an miserable. Towards the top it begins to get grassy and the ridge begins. For the first half of the ridge my friend and I were kind of dissapointed because it was just not as exciting as I expected it to be. Eventually we continued to progress along the ridge we started to hear a little bit of thunder and knew we had to hurry up if we wanted to descend back to tree line on the standard route before the thunderstorms hit. The climbing on the second half of the ridge was thrilling and required careful route finding in order to stay on safe terrain. It was strenuous and we were both tired but I was really struggling. The night before I woke up with a horrible pounding headache that I had never had before in my life. I got some sinus medication and went back to sleep. The next morning when I woke up I felt fine but brought the meds with me in my pack. Whatever that headache was it came back and really made things difficult for me. After the crux section we were about 50 feet below the summit of East La Plata when it started to seriously hail. It got to the point where it was hailing so hard that there were a few inches of hail sticking on the rock and loud thunder and lightning. We took refuge underneath a tight overhanging boulder. My partner really felt that it was the right decision to find a way down in the storm and I disagreed but was willing to give it a chance. He stood at a small col between two gullies both in the opposite direction of the car. (which in a life and death situation really does not matter)He said this is option A and option B, they were two extremely steep gullies that had a coat of about 6 inches of snow on it. I almost told him they are both a death wish and it would be smart to wait under the overhang but I decided to give option A a chance. We began descending and it was horribly dangerous. Very steep and very slippery, we continuously kept falling and self arresting with our arms out to collect rocks, dirt and hail to slow us down. After about 150 feet of descent my partner who was leading down, yelled up that it was too steep to descend safley and wanted to know what we should do. The second after that in between the almost vertical walls of the gully there was a huge bright and extremely loud lightning bolt that hit very close. I yelled back down to hid underneath another overhang that was slightly roomier. We climbed up and situated ourselves, we had to cuddle because we were soaking wet and cold. After a few hours of waiting the storm cleared and the sun came out and we scrambled back up the gully through a river of melting hail. We summited East La Plata and then traversed over to the true summit of La Plata. We took a few pictures and headed down drinking our celebratory summit beers. This was a special summit for both of us. We quickly descended in again worsening weather. Eventually we were running back down to tree line away from the lightning which again was very close. Once back at treeline the sun once again came out as La Plata knew we were going to get away with it. She wasn't happy about it but in the end she allowed us to pass through. Once back at the TH I enjoyed a feeling of satisfaction unlike any other, the feeling that an epic is over.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Stream Ford, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb
Ascent Statistics
    Route:Ellingwood Ridge
Descent Statistics

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