La Plata Peak
Follow the 82C forest road across a bridge. North Fork Lake Creek is beneath you. The trail begins shortly after the bridge as the road reaches a 90 degree turn. The trail is on the left. You’ll reach South Lake Fork Creek just after leaving the road. Near 0.5 miles, the trail forks. Keep right, traveling almost directly south. The trail on the left takes Ellingwood Ridge and involves advanced technical climbing.
You’ll follow a pretty straight trail until treeline, which starts breaking around 1.8 miles, 11,100ft. The trail will become switchbacky and much steeper here. Always stay on the dirt and don’t cut onto the grasses. This terrain is incredibly fragile. The trail remains defined as it switches higher onto the ridge, and then starts taking you south again.
The home stretch becomes increasingly rocky, and maintains a class two difficulty. You may have to use hands or poles to balance as you step over certain rocks. The summit looks over Twin Lakes, Mt. Elbert, and much of the Sawatch Range. Enjoy the views and all the wildflowers along the way! Return back the way you came.
Climbing your first mountain or 14er is an exciting and rewarding experience! You’ll get the achievement of seeing the world from above and the feel-goods of the endorphins from the exercise. However, the mountains aren’t a walk in the park, and getting down is mandatory. Some situations require extra caution and a little know how. With a bit of preparation, you’ll be able to get to the summit and back safely.
Whether you are training for a race or simply indulging in all the wilderness has to offer, there are a variety of factors, some constant, and some changing, that are likely to have an impact on your journey. Knowing these factors can help ensure your safety and get you back to the trailhead safely.