LaPlata via the Southwest Ridge

LaPlata via the Southwest Ridge

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 39.02940°N / 106.4725°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Sep 3, 2007
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Summer

Getting there

To get to the trailhead for the Southwest Ridge route up La Plata Peak, head south out of Leadville on U.S 24 for about 20 miles, or north about 4.5 miles on U.S 24 from Buena Vista, and then turn west onto Chaffee County road 390. This county road is just north of the Clear Creek Reservoir. Head up the road, which follows Clear Creek, for about 12 miles, until you get to the town of Winfield. There will be a left turn in Winfield, but stay straight and then make a 90 degree turn to the right, followed by another 90 degree turn to the left. From here to the trailhead it is advisable to be driving a four wheel drive vehicle.

From Winfield go about 1.8 miles to a vague parking area in an open area at 39.9927N, 106.4680W. There is additional parking further up the road, but very limited so this is generally the best place to park. The actual trailhead is about a tenth of the mile further up the road. Don't take the obvious, though gated road, rather at the gate find the path that heads off to the northwest.

There are numerous places to camp along the way up from U.S. 24. Additionally you will pass the trailhead to Missouri Mountain, Mounts Belford and Oxford, and the trailhead to Huron Peak is found if you turn left at Winfield.

Starting up

Labor Day, 2007, I headed out 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 look like they are occupied and probably only as weekend get away cabins). 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.

Creek  valley along side trail

Looking towards the south offers up a view of the nice mountain valley of the South Fork of Clear Creek. The highest peak just to the right of the center of the picture is Granite Mountain (12,848 feet).

Looking south

A close up view of some of the forest along side the trail

Woods along trail

Entering the basin

Then the trail enters into a large basin at about 11,500 feet.

Nearing the basin
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 sank in over the top of my boot. In the middle of the basin there is an old mining cabin
Old cabin

Looking towards the north you still can't see the summit of La Plata, but this is the view.

Basin south of La Plata
Across the basin is a high end wall, which one has to climb up to get out of the basin and I’m thinking I’ve got to go up that?
I ve got to climb that?

But a little further up I can see that the trail goes up a gully on the opposite of the basin than that ragged rock face. This trail is not where Roach shows the trail to be, rather it is in the next gully to the west.

Trail through basin
The trail up the headwall is just left of center, and goes up from left to right.

Looking back across the basin towards the southeast and Huron Peak.

La Plata Basin and Huron Peak

Up the head wall of the basin

Getting close to the section of the trail that heads up the headwall

Up this way
Up we go
The trail goes up this wall on a trail that is small loose gravel, in which it seems I had to fight for every step taken because if I don't watch out I had 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.
Ridge at 13200 feet

The final push to the summit

But once I covered the half mile saddle, it was time for more climbing.
This climb was over small boulders and while there was a bit of a path at times, I basically looked for the next cairn to know which way to go. This took me to just under 14,000 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.

No sooner had I got to the summit I signed the register, took a few of pictures

View from the topLooking east down the Clear Creek valley
Ellingwood Ridge and Mount ElbertEllingwood Ridge and Mount Elbert
Looking NW from the summitLooking off to the northwest
Looking west from the summitLooking off to the west
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 thunder and lightning came my way. On the way up there are a few false summits that can be skirted around on either side.
View of the way back downLast false summit as seen from the summit
Red ridgeLooking west from near the summit of La Plata at a iron rich ridge. Definitely adds color to the surrounding gray mountains.
The hike down, with a couple of rest stops along the way took about an hour and a half.


The distance from trailhead to summit is listed as 3.5 miles in Roach's book, 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 actual travel time (when I was actually moving) as only about one and a half hours, which was the same time it took to come down.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-1 of 1

JoelSkok - Mar 19, 2013 9:58 am - Voted 10/10

Interesting area

I looked for this and read it because of some aquaintences in Fox Dell who consider it their "backyard" Beautiful pictures and and open looking rugged landscape. Not sure if it will rise up on my to do list as the cliffs at Haney Meadows are currently occupying my dreams. Thanks for your report, 10/10

Viewing: 1-1 of 1



Children refers to the set of objects that logically fall under a given object. For example, the Aconcagua mountain page is a child of the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits.' The Aconcagua mountain itself has many routes, photos, and trip reports as children.