Route: Northwest Ridge
Summit Elevation: 14,336’
Trailhead Elevation: 10,000’
Round-trip Distance: 9.50 miles
La Plata stands as the fifth highest peak in Colorado – I set my sights on solo climbing this peak due to its relative ease of access and the difficulty of the climb. This is not a simple ‘walk-up’ mountain with several difficult sections that would offer a decent challenge.
At 13,500’ I wondered what could have caused me to leave behind my gloves. Even in the middle of the summer these peaks are cold and the wind was biting. There were several small snow fields at this altitude. At this altitude the air was thin and breathing was difficult. The summit was now visible but I knew some steep climbing remained.
The DescentThere is something both psychological and physiological that makes descending a mountain much more difficult than climbing it. I felt strong and could have kept climbing to much greater heights – but the moment I began descending I was in pain. My Scarpa boots (comfortable on the ascent) were now causing my feet severe pain. Scrambling down over the talus gave me a sharp pain in my left knee that would not go away for the remainder of the descent. For some reason I have an aversion to trekking poles but found my self wondering if they would be useful while descending to help support weight on down steps. I plan on looking into that.
As I reached the tree-line the clouds opened and I was soon trekking through pouring rain. I was again glad for my shell (and being prepared). How much further? My altimeter told me I still had some good elevation to lose. I was tired and began talking to the ants during my frequent stops, amazed that my path and the path of this lone insect had crossed here on this mountain. Had any other human looked down upon this tiny life as it scurried through the pine needles or had I been the first?
I finally reached the trailhead shortly after 1:15pm. It was a good climb and I was proud to have reached the summit. I sat in the rain waiting for my ride and looked back at the summit – it was different now that I had climbed it.