Trailhead Elevation: 3,923 ft.
Summit Elevation: 14,336 ft.
Distance: 8.49 mi.
Elevation Gain: 3,611 ft.
Start Time: 7:20am
End Time: 2:39pm
La Plata has been my go-to warmup peak for big mountain races in Colorado. You might figure I look at it as my lucky charm for running success, but that isn't quite the case. I used La Plata in 2016 as an acclimatizing peak before I ran the Pikes Peak Marathon. It helped with the altitude training, but I nearly wrecked my quads while running down the mountain. Nonetheless, I wanted to use it again here in 2019 to help me acclimatize before the Run Rabbit Run 50. I intentionally went slow on the ascent and descent. My quads survived nicely. However, I somehow came away with a small bit of soreness in my calves from the steep climbing on the southwest ridge. Despite our battles together, I do love this mountain and regard it as one of my Colorado favorites.
Having been up La Plata's northwest ridge standard route three times now (once in winter) I decided it was time for a change. My brother and I have been making some preparations to make an attempt on the Ellingwood Ridge, but that's still another year or two away. Looking for more of a hike than a technical climb I opted to give the southwest ridge route a try. I'd heard many other hikers speak of its beauty and as a wonderful alternate route. There is generally good trail for most of the way and not hard to follow.
|A look at the rockiness of the very end of the 4WD road.|
I flew into Denver on a Tuesday night and arrived out in Buena Vista at about 1am. By 6am my father and I hit the road for Winfield and on to the West Winfield trailhead for this particular route. We were looking to get started shortly after sunrise. The road into West Winfield proved very tame and need good clearance but not necessarily 4WD. We parked at the typical parking area about 2 tenths of a mile before the actual end of the road. It is generally spoken that most folks don't drive that last bit of the road due to its exceptional rockiness and practically speaking, its just not necessary.
The first mile or so of the hike works its way uphill through mixed meadows and forest. It really is a pleasant mostly scenic way to begin the way. We took our time enjoying it and keeping a relaxed pace. The weather was cloudy but no threat of storms so we felt pretty good about the forecast ahead.
|Early on the trail|
|Beginning to near treeline|
|The skies are opening up a bit for us|
|The most muddy section we encountered|
|Looking ahead at the route to the southwest ridge|
|Looking at the beauty behind us. Huron Peak is in the clouds on the left|
|A look at the route to ascend to the southwest ridge. Some trail is visible in the lower half. |
The route works up through the middle of the frame into the steep dirt gully just left of center at the top.
|Lower parts of the slope to the ridge|
|Messy trail through small bushes on the slope|
|Just an example of how loose and nasty this slope can be.|
Some trailwork to make this more sustainable would be of immense benefit in the future
|Scoping out the mess from around 12,500 on the slope|
|Looking back at Sayres Benchmark (13er) from the saddle|
|Looking ahead at beautiful terrain and the slope heading to Point 13870|
|Working up the rocky slope piecing together trail segments|
|Atop Point 13870 looking ahead to the summit|
|Nearing the summit, the standard route joins the southwest ridge route in here|
|My father about to join me on the summit|
|Southeast La Plata|
|To the north with Ellingwood Ridge in the foreground, Mt. Elbert behind|
|Amazing view to the west, love the red rock on the one ridgeline|
|Loved this area on the southwest ridge with the colors in the tundra grasses|
|And more color|
|Huron in the middle, Missouri and Belford behind to the left|
|A look down the steep area below the ridge|
|Great views over the marshy meadow|
I have a track and waypoints from the hike all contained in a KML file that you are welcome to download and use (at your own risk).