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2009 Vacation - Hardrock 100

Matt Mahoney's 2009 Vacation - Part 5 - Mt. La Plata

On Mon. June 29, I climbed Mt. La Plata, 14,336 ft. La Plata is the fifth highest mountain in Colorado.

I camped in the ghost town of Winfield in order to apprach from the south. Actually, Winfield isn't really a ghost town since there are a few people who still live here like the pioneers, in log cabins without electricity or indoor plumbing. Winfield is 12 miles of bumpy dirt road from the nearest town of Granite, between Leadville and Buena Vista. Winfield is also the 50 mile turnaround in the Leadville 100. The elevation here is about 10,300 ft.

I started at 8:00 AM. I probably could have driven my rented Kia SUV over the first 2 miles of 4WD road, but I didn't mind the walk. The total distance is about 10 miles round trip this way.

The last 1/4 mile of road is very steep and rough. Most people will park at the bottom and hike this bit. I reached the end of the road and the Collegiate Peaks wilderness boundary at 10,730 ft at 8:45 AM and took this picture on the way back.

The trail climbs steeply to treeline (11,800 ft). You can't see the mountain until this point. The summit is the rounded area, center. The trail climbs a low section of the west ridge on the left up a steep, eroded trail of slippery gravel.

Abandon Ye All Hope of Dry Feet through the Willows.

Looking back at the willows from the ridge. In the distance in the center of the picture is Mt. Huron and the Three Apostles.

The false summit as seen from 13,200 ft. You can't see the true summit until you are almost there.

The route up the false summit is a maze of false trails amid steep, loose rocks. All the dead end trails are marked with cairns. I never did find a continuous route up or down.

Above the false summit, the grade eases, but route finding through the loose, jagged rocks is still not easy. It is easier to walk across the snow unless you start postholing. It took another 30 minutes from the top of the false summit for me to reach the true summit, here.

Me on the summit.

Behind me is Ellingwood Ridge, which I climbed in 2004. Further behind me is Mt. Massive (the 4 humps) and Elbert (pyramid shape).

Another view of Ellingwood Ridge.

The return trip took about as long as the climb due to route finding and tricky footing over the loose rocks. I reached the summit at 11:15 AM and stayed for 45 minutes. I returned to Winfield at 3:10 PM.

I did figure out how to keep my shoes dry through the willows coming back. The mud is variable depth. In most places it is a few inches before your foot is stopped by a buried rock, but in one place I was surprised to sink up to my knee.

To part 6