July 14, 2016

La Plata Peak 
Northwest Ridge

GETTING THERE: From U.S. 24 south of Leadville, take Colorado 82 west towards Twin Lakes. Drive 14.5 miles on Colorado 82 until you see the marked trailhead and parking area on the left.

ROUTE: Photo #1 shows the route seen from Colorado 82. From the parking area, walk down South Fork Lake Creek road (dirt). Walk over the bridge (Photo #2) and continue on the road for about 1/4 mile to find a trailhead sign on the left - Photo #3. Walk east into the woods and continue on the good trail. Hike through the forest and cross South Fork Lake Creek on a great metal+wood bridge - Photo #4. Turn sharply right up from the bridge, walk another 1/3 mile and cross La Plata Gulch on a small log bridge. Turn right and reach a small clearing almost 100 yards after the bridge crossing. In the clearing, there is a smaller trail that heads off to the east - be sure to stay right on the main trail. Continue south along La Plata Gulch. Between 10,400' and 10,700', the great trail has log and stone steps (Photo #5) that make the steep climb through the forest enjoyable. Above 11,000', hike along La Plata Gulch (Photo #6) for a bit before the trail begins to climb left, away from the gulch. Near 11,400', climb steeply up a gully with a series of small switchbacks - Photo #7. Near 11,800', the trail straightens out a bit and traverses south across the hillside - Photo #8. Climb briefly to a small, level area near 12,300' where you will find a 6-foot by 6-foot square boulder near the trail. Walk through an open area before turning left and climbing a steep pitch leading to the northwest ridge - Photo #9. Once on the ridge (12,750'), you are still 1.25 miles from the summit and the hiking becomes more difficult. The remainder of the route is on a trail that weaves through the rocks on or just below the ridge crest.Photo #10 and Photo #11 show a couple of different views of the terrain above. Your next goal is to bypass a large buttress on the ridge. Hike to the base of the buttress and follow the trail as it turns right and climbs around to the west side of the ridge. Taken from a lower elevation, Photo #12 shows the west side of the ridge. This is the most confusing part of the hike because the talus makes route finding a bit difficult. Follow the trail as it eventually turns left (east) and climbs back to the ridge. If you lose the trail and feel you have gone too far along the west side, turn left and climb directly up to the ridge crest. Reach the ridge crest near a flat spot at 13,500' - Photo #13. The summit is visible but steep hiking remains and the trail may be hard to follow, with some variations - Photo #14. If you cannot find a trail, stay on the ridge. Near 13,800', the trail becomes more defined as it ascends the right edge of the ridge. Above 14,000', curve around to the west side again and reach a point near 14,200' - Photo #15. Turn left and follow the trail to the summit - Photo #16, Photo #17 and Photo #18.

Difficulty: Class 2
Exposure: 2 of 6
Trailhead: La Plata Peak
Start: 10,000 feet
Summit: 14,336 feet
Total Gain: 4500'

RT Length: 9.25M