My First Solo 14er: La Plata
La Plata Peak from the trailhead
Climbing solo adds its own interesting sort psychological element. It is just you, your abilities, and your thoughts. I had never climbed a big mountain alone, and decided that my first should be one of the easier mountains. After considering several possibilities, I decided on La Plata. I've always like La Plata. It has good access, a beautiful approach, the Ellingwood Ridge to marvel at, and a summit that commands three-sixty views and is among the highest in the state. Plus I was going to be in the area.
It was early August and every designated campsite for many miles was full, so I decided to backpack a short distance up the trail and camp to set-up for a summit attempt the following morning. The weather, as usual, called for possible afternoon showers the next day, so I set my alarm for 4:00am to get a head start.
Tainted looking water on a side creek near the trailhead. I brought enough water for myself to avoid this
Looking up into the trees in camp
Enjoying Lake Creek as the sun starts to go down
When the hour arrived it was difficult to get myself out of bed. I had not slept well the night before. But once I got moving I actually enjoyed doing the rest of the approach hike at this pre-dawn time period.
Sayres Benchmark (13,738') in the early morning light
I reached the ridge around 12,700 at last and the sun was just starting to come up through the Ellingwood Ridge. The view from here of the ridge was dramatic. I can't wait to give that route a try.
Sun rising over Ellingwood
Looking north from the 12,700' saddle.
The next section of the route climbed the long northwest ridge to the summit. It was somewhat steep and some sections of loose climbing but was relatively easy. It was a crisp morning for August.The sound of the pika and marmot calling out kept me and my thoughts company. Soon the sun was fully out and the air began to warm.
Looking toward Independence Pass from the route up La Plata
After what seemed like an endless staircase where I made no progress upward, I came upon the upper reaches and was on the summit soon after. The view was breathtaking. After looking around in vain for a summit register, I tried to set the camera up on the summit cairn with a timer for self portrait. Only later did I realize I failed. After enjoying the views of Huron, the Three Apostles, Sayres, Elbert, Massive, and everything else for about twenty minutes, I turned back and began my descent.
Summit view to the west
The Ellingwood Ridge with Elbert and Massive
The descent was long and somewhat arduous. The approach always seems longer for me on the way out when there is nothing to look forward to but the end. My feet hurt and no one to complain to. i began to miss my usual climbing companions. By the time I got back to the tent, the last thing I want to do was break down camp. I took a half-hour nap then forced myself to pack everything up without slop or haste. Luckily it was a short hike from here and I was back at my car soon enough. Now onward to other places and other climbs....