It’s a two and a half hour drive from the house to the La Plata trailhead and an 1800 foot elevation gain to 11,800 feet in just under 2.5 miles before the senses are overwhelmed by alpine heaven. La Plata Trail in the northern portion of the Sawatch Range in Colorado along highway 82 a few miles west of Twin Lakes is a destination I will definitely revisit.
Today I didn’t summit La Plata Peak, seen left in the title image. I couldn’t find a hiking partner on Easter weekend 2015 (go figure), so I started late at 8:30 a.m. and made it past tree line to a gorgeous basin with full view of two of the highest peaks in Colorado (Mounts Elbert and Massive) and several 13,000 foot peaks including Ellingwood Ridge and Sayres Benchmark. Bull Hill A, Lackawanna, French Mountain, Casco Peak, and Mount Champion can all be seen looking north east from here as well. The grueling path to get to this place makes it that much more breathtaking.
The trek from the trail head is easy while crossing South Fork Lake Creek twice until the trail begins to follow La Plata Gulch. The final creek crossings is a steel reinforced wooden bridge that rests between the edges of two boulders cut deep and smoothed by the fresh mountain runoff. This time of year ice formations in the rushing water make it worth a pause. From this point the trail gets steep and doesn’t offer much reprieve until breaking tree line.
This is a great trail for training. Summiting is a bonus. However, especially if hiking alone be very aware of avalanche dangers. There are several ways to reach the north west ridge, some of them have less 'avy' risk than others. I'll wait until the snow melts off more before taking on the class 2 trail to the summit. I can’t wait to see the view from the top.
The descent was interesting. The crust on the snow and the steepness of the terrain made my snowshoes perform more like skis. It only took a couple slides for me to abandon that idea and just go down with my microspikes. Remember, as the temperature rises, the snow becomes softer and post holing more frequent, which can make for a long frustrating end to a great day. Getting down before mid-afternoon is advised in the early spring.
Incidentally, La Plata, like many Colorado peaks is a reference to the early mining days. La Plata means silver in Spanish. It is located in the La Plata mining district.
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