La Plata Peak
Standard Route from Trailhead at Route 82
Friday June 22, 2007
I awoke at 3:00AM and got myself on the road by 3:40 under mostly starry skies. I drove up I-70 to the Copper Mt-Leadville exit and proceeded up route 91 to Leadville. Here I connected with Route 24 heading south and then turned right on Route 82 heading towards Twin Lakes. I should have checked my mileage at this point, but I spaced it out and then couldn’t find the trailhead. I then stopped in the small town of Twin Lakes where an older gal produced a map that clearly showed that I simply hadn’t driven far enough along Route 82. I righted my wrong and was soon at a very well marked “La Plata Trailhead”. However, the sign doesn’t state that you must park right there and walk in across the bridge along the road until you come to the sign-in log on the left. I signed-in at 7:45AM and started up.
The trail loses a little altitude and then crosses a steel & wood bridge where the water was flowing like a fire hose down through a narrow flume that could be heard from way off. The trail goes to the right and before long crosses a smaller creek at a log bridge, again the trail goes right and soon begins climbing rapidly and steadily up a wood & rock “stairway” that takes you high above the creek that can still be heard down below. The trail then winds through the woods well above the creek and before long comes to a big downed tree that must be climbed over as there no other way to proceed. The trail is very well defined and soon begins to flatten-out as it proceeds further left away from the creek in a valley of sorts. The weather was partly cloudy and the sun still hadn’t risen above the peaks to my left.
The fact that the sun hadn’t quite reached where I was yet was good as it kept things cool as I now started climbing up out of the valley along some rather short switchbacks that climbed up above tree line and then to a long traverse heading directly up the right side of the mountain with the ridge up on the left. The valley and the creek were now well below and the scene was quite beautiful with the sun rising above. The sun now shown brightly and things started to heat up as the day was getting hotter by the minute.
After the traverse and a few more switchbacks the trail comes to a large, square block of a rock and here the trail was covered with snow in places but I could see above and beyond where it continued. I stayed off the softening snow to the right and advanced up the trail onto the right side of the ridge itself. The small wildflowers were spectacular with yellow, red, orange, blue, purple, and white with lots of green and maroon as well. Small reddish birds were on the snow feeding on little bugs of some kind and many marmots and picas reside way up here too, wild America at it’s best!
The trail becomes a bit less defined up here, but there were cairns spaced apart that lead the way up continuing to the right of the ridge as it climbed higher onto the mountain. Switchbacks then took me much higher up and here I met and spoke with a young Dad and his son on their way back down. We conversed and they gave me some sound advanced notice as to how and where to proceed. They told me to stay off the snow and just to the right of it as I climbed up the ridge and to stay left as I got higher up near the summit. Good advice as I proceeded slowly yet steadily higher and finally to a summit with a large cornice of snow as the actual highest point. With building clouds all around and thunder with rain to the south, I summited at 11:40AM with the sun still bright overhead. The reddish birds were on the summit too.
I wasn’t able to find a summit log, although it may have been under that mound of snow right on top. Anyway……………the sights and views were awesome as I took a few photos, had a bite to eat & drink, and stayed about 20 mins. The weather from the west was approaching fast and carried some more thunder & rain as I made ready to head back down.
I saved many steps by glissading down in a few areas, but the snow was getting softer as I made my way down and I plunged through in a couple spots which put and end to this. The weather was changing fast with the sun hidden and rain drops blowing in from the west, I put on my raincoat and just kept moving down more quickly now to get back below tree line. I stored my coat as the fast moving shower blew over and gave way to more sun as I passed back through the forest and back to the creeks. I just made it back to the car by 2:38PM as another thundershower started to rain.
My 1st climb of the year and my 27th 14’er…………Sweet!!