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La Plata North Face Ski

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
On Saturday I decided to climb and ski the North Face of La Plata Peak. A
grand adventure in every sense of the word. Arriving at the trailhead at
5:30am I met Sam from Colorado Springs who
informed me that he would be climbing and skiing the route with his buddy
Tony. They started hiking while I was still packing, I hit the trail around
6am. Here's where my 'variation' on the standard route starts. Continuing
on the dirt road (South Fork Creek?) I hiked 2 miles past the turnoff for
the La Plata trail, finally realizing I was nowhere near where I needed to
be I turned around and went back the 2 miles and found the well-marked
turnoff for the La Plata trail. Was this really here before? OK. Time to
really start hiking, the Dawson's book says to hike 1 mile past the bridge
to 11,100 feet, leave the trail and head northeast to a step on La Plata's
northwest ridge. Since I didn't have an altimeter, I just hiked for a
while, then headed east into the woods. After some Colorado style
bushwhacking, I came to the step and found a faint trail, which I lost after
about one hundred feet, keeping my compass bearing between 90 and 110
degrees I made my way towards the La Plata basin. When the bushwhacking
ended at the river I found the trail again, at last the Ellingwood Ridge
came into view. "So this is the famous Ellingwood Ridge, eh" an
interesting adventure itself no doubt. There was still some snow on the
trail, but it essentially follows the river up valley. As I came upon the
main snowfield I met up again with Sam and Tony. We decided to climb this
thing together. There are three main chutes on the North Face. Due to the
recent new snow fall, there was a small direct action slide in the far left
chute. The middle chute looked the best for skiing and the far right chute
looked the easiest. Climb the far left chute. It's about 2,300 vertical
from the base of the snowfield to the top of La Plata, it took us about 3
hours. The far left chute peaks out on the Ellingwood ridge about 100
feet below the true summit it is an easy snow climb, maximum angle 45
degrees. We gained the summit around 1pm. After debating which way to ski
down, we decided to ski the middle chute, which ran right from the summit!!!
While Sam and Tony (thanks for the fried chicken!!) were getting ready to
ski, I couldn't wait anymore, time to hit the slopes!!! The turns at the
top were amazing, right from the summit, really steep, really narrow, really
exposed, on perfect consolidated corn snow. As I made my way down into the
main chute, there was a layer of 3 inches of new snow not well bonded to the
consolidated layer, certain it would not hold, I made two turns and cut left
behind some cliffs and watched the innocuous slide polish the slope like a
zamboni. 1,000 vertical feet later through the chute and into the main
bowl, 25 degrees and loaded with about 6 inches of powder!!! Powder skiing
in June, there's something to be said about that, not sure exactly what, but
something. Simply an amazing ski descent in real wilderness surroundings.
The hike out was easier knowing where I was going. Back to my car around 5,
a greeting from a cold beer, a true friend who waits on ice and asks not of
his purpose. The stats for my variation of the north face are 12 miles
4,500 feet of elevation gain, in 11 hours. If you choose to forego hiking
in the wrong direction for 4 miles you can knock about 2 hours off that
time. I would highly recommend this climb and ski to anyone who has nothing
to do for a day and wants to ski great snow in June.

4 days till RR...
post #2 of 8
You make me feel like the couch potato I am. Keep up the good work.

the ocean doesn't want me today
post #3 of 8
I was thinking about hiking LaPlata this weekend, but it sounds like lugging the skis along would be a great idea.....thanks for the report. Do you recommend snowshoes or are hiking boots ok?

What's RR?
post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
hiking boots are all you need, the snow is well compacted everywhere. I recommend climbing the north face as is described in the dawson's guide, it's a little more work, but you'll get solitude the whole day except on the summit. the snow chute that runs to just left of the summit is the best.
RR is short for Red Rocks as in 3 Panic show's this last weekend at Red Rocks. Skiing vs. Panic, fortunately I'll never have to choose because I never could.
post #5 of 8
I heard the shows were great last weekend, too bad I was out of town. Still some other good ones comming up at RR though. Is it possible to do this La Plata trip very early on Saturday and then hit RR for String Cheese on Saturday night??? I think I'm going to try it, but you know the wife is going to end up getting pissed when I'm way late for the concert.

I hope the north face route is described in Roach's book, because I only have Dawson's Volume 2, which doesn't cover La Plata. Maybe I'll go do some snooping at the bookstore tonight and look at Volume 1. I've been on the standard route during the summer with my wife up to about tree line, but I'm not sure if that's the north face route or not. I might have some questions for you once I look at the guide books tonight.
post #6 of 8

Personally, I love tennis, watersports and sweltering hot weather in the summer. It seems like a good complimentary counterpoint to the ski season and makes it all that dearer when the snow starts to fly... but I've found that some hibernating part of me has been living vicariously through your posts over the last month.

They have sparked in me an interest in Colorado which I've avoided for the past 15 years or so but spent plenty of time there in my yoot. Guess the list just got bigger...

I enjoy your impromptu style. Hope I get to climb and ski with you sometime
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
You heard right about the shows, they were ridiculously good.
Would it be possible to do La Plata and then go to SCI the same night, possible, yes; enjoyable, probably not. The roundtrip time of the NF on La Plata, if done without getting lost and taking minimal breaks would be 9 hours, IMO. The northwest ridge and the north face are not the same route, people do hike the northwest ridge and then ski the north face, it's certainly doable but I would not recommend it, not only are you breaking the climb what you ski rule, I would imagine that you really can't get a good view of the routes on the NF from the NW ridge, so you can't even ski what you see. Also, you could easily get sucked into a different drainage on the hike down from the La Plata Basin, and have a difficult time getting back to the trailhead.

That's all I have to say about that.

Cheap Seats, thanks for the kind words, I've always loved hiking and climbing and with our long snow season, to me it just makes sense to take your skis along for the ride!!! It makes the descent that much more fun. But that being said, I'm a terrible down-climber on snow My ski season is pretty much over though, I'm going back to RI for two weeks to do some kayaking and see another friend of mine succumb to the grip of the fairer sex.

post #8 of 8
Well, I attempted the north face of La Plata on Saturday morning. What a difference two weeks makes this time of year. I think there was far less snow on my attempt compared to yours. There really wasn't any snow field anymore at the bottom of the couloirs, the far left couloir that Dawson recommends as the best skiing was about half dirt and rocks, and the tops of the center and right couloirs were all rock.

I was pretty late getting in there and didn't reach the bottom of the couloirs until 11:00 AM. The snow was completely wet slop by then and getting direct sunhit....just no good at all. I did see some hiking and ski tracks, probably yours, that would have been good if I was there maybe 5 hours earlier in the morning. It was a very warm day.

So, after testing the couloirs and deciding against it, I ended up traversing, down climbing, and then climbing up to the northwest ridge. I bagged the peak from there. That face did look really good though....maybe next year.

Thanks again for posting your report, it led to me taking the much more entertaining route and it was a good try. That sure is a long way to haul crampons, ice axe, helmet, transmitter, ski boots, skis, and poles and never take any of them out of the pack....geeeeesh!
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