RT Length – 6 miles
Elevation Gain – 3655’
I made it to the La Plata Trailhead a little after 4am and was surprised to see someone getting ready to hike La Plata. As I was getting my gear together I heard him trek off in his snowshoes.
I started at 4:20am, excited to find the 82 open well past the La Plata trailhead. I briefly considered moving my truck, but quickly thought this wasn’t a long hike anyway: It would be nice to get in a few extra miles to make this hike a little longer.
The road was open, but there wasn’t a lot of parking available because of all the avalanche debris lining the roadway. Everything that could slide in the area apparently had slid at least once.
On a positive note, everything smelled like fresh cut pine. I followed the road for a mile in the dark and then turned right to begin the climb. This area had seen an avalanche as well, and even though they weren’t completely necessary at this point I put on my crampons and left them on for the entire hike. In the dark navigating the debris up the avalanche slide felt daunting, but in the light of day it looks pretty easy. Here’s the route I took
The gully was steep and filled with snow, so I just kept to the center and followed the gully. Even though this area had avalanched, as I neared the top of the gully I discovered it was loaded with snow ready to drop. I didn’t want to be here when the weather warmed up today!
The sun started to rise, and at about 13,000’ I started using my ice axe, following the center of the gully.
The steepest part was just below the summit ridge. Here is where my ice axe proved extremely useful and my calves started screaming. I just kept crawling forward, intent on summiting before the weather warmed the snow.
At the summit ridge the terrain became much easier. I stood up and walked toward the summit bump
This part was easy! There was a small section to climb
And I was on the summit by 7am.
The weather was absolutely perfect! It wasn’t warm, but it wasn’t cold either, and there wasn’t any wind! I was able to get a video on the summit, and actually stayed and enjoyed the view for a while
OK, now it was time to head down.
In the light of day I could appreciate just how steep the gully was
About halfway down I paused to take a video of the water I could hear flowing under the snow below me. Yep, it was time to get off this waterfall
I could see the effects of the avalanches all around me
After making it down the gully the last part to the road was easy, I just navigated my way around the solid ice towards the road.
From the road looking up you can see I just followed the avalanche slide up the gully
I made it back to my truck at 8:45am, making this a 6 mile hike/climb in 4.5 hours.
I decided to see just how far the 82 was open, so I drove down the road a bit in my truck. I made it 2.5 miles before the next closure sign, and saw evidence of multiple avalanches along the way.
With my morning over at 9am I decided to drive 4 hours to the next trailhead and rest a bit before my next adventure…