La Plata Peak, as seen from Mount Elbert's summit.La Plata Peak
, I couldn’t stop picturing myself climbing it since the first time I saw it from Colorado’s highest fourteener’s summit, Mount Elbert
. It loomed up like a castle to the south. Its eastern craggy ridge and its steep north face took me to its flanks in a second for a while.
As soon as I got back from Elbert’s summit I drove on Colorado State Highway 82 and headed west to Independence Pass summit
. The view from up there was awesome. The last sunrays hit La Plata’s western ridge and turned it into orange color. I felt so lucky of being up there, sitting in my truck having a drink and munching on the whopper I got early in the morning before the climb. I just summited Mount Elbert on my own a few hours ago and now I was enjoying of the best sunsets I could ever wish for in the Colorado Rockies
I got home late that night and started browsing for more information about other Sawatch Range
mountains and La Plata Peak more specifically. The climb seemed interesting; a long hike through the forest, the approaching and a nice long climb by its western ridge up to the summit.
I couldn’t wait any longer. I found myself planning for my next adventure for the following week right away.
La Plata Peak from Colorado State Highway 82.
Going For It
So, this was it. I got early from work that night, a week after I dreamed about climbing it. I organized my gear and got ready for my long drive from Denver to Leadville from where I had an amazing view of the northern Sawatch Range lit by the full moon. I could see clearly the large skyline of Mount Elbert
and Mount Massive
in the dark far in the distance. For a moment I changed my mind and thought about heading towards Massive, but my plans were already set and I kept driving southwest towards Twin Lakes
Once I passed the town of Twin Lakes
I continued on driving for about 8 miles west till I got to “La Plata Gulch Trailhead
”. I parked my truck and started heading southeast as it was described in my map. Shortly I found myself going in the wrong direction. The trees were dense and the trails were not well beaten. I think I hiked for a couple miles towards La Plata Basin, when I noticed I changed my course. I turned back right away and hiked back those almost couple miles in the darkness.
I got to La Plata Creek thirty minutes later. It was dawn by then and I was able to see clearly a nice log bridge I couldn’t see before in the darkness. After I crossed it I found a very well-marked trail heading south and uphill. I followed it till I got to a nice basing called “Lake Creek Valley
”. Personally that was one of the most beautiful valleys I’ve ever seen in my life.
I kept hiking up through the thick pine forest and always following the trail which steepened gradually as it approached to the northwest ridge of La Plata. Once up there, at the ridge I found hard snow. There were no visible paths after this point, but I kept climbing up on the ridge and towards the summit which didn’t look so far away.
North Face gully.
Got to a couple of sub summits and stopped for a while to admire the steep La Plata’s North Face.
On the western ridge with the summit in the background.
There were a few nice gullies and I thought about traversing east for a while in order to gain access to the closest gully and climbing it. At the same time I thought that I’d like to do it from the basin instead of from half way up. I also thought one has to stick to his plans, mostly in the mountains, so I kept heading by the ridge. Those gullies were so tempting!
My very expected summit came into a view finally after I gained the final ridge which became flatter and flatter as I was approaching myself to the summit. A few more steps and I made it!. I was on top of La Plata Peak
(4,364 m / 14,313 ft), the fifth highest mountain in Colorado.
La Plata Peak summit (4,364 m / 14,313 ft). La Plata Peak as seen from Independence Pass Summit.
I got an awesome view from up there. The mountains, the endless chain of mountains to the west, and the mountain that made me dreamed about climbing La Plata not too far to the north, Mount Elbert. I sat down for a while. Nobody else was there, only me and my thoughts and happiness. I couldn’t ask for more. The weather threatened with changing so I started heading down by the same route taken by me.
Once I got back to the trailhead, I jumped on my truck and headed again to Independence Pass summit to admire and enjoy once more of the beauty of the Colorado Rockies
and its amazing sunsets and of course, the joy of an accomplished new dream.