Peak(s):  La Plata Peak  -  14,344 feet
Date Posted:  09/05/2010
Date Climbed:   09/04/2010
Author:  caverdude
 Ellingwood Ridge- La Plata Peak   

My buddy Ian McMillan and I had wanted to do the Ellingwood Ridge on La Plata for several months, especially after getting a good look at it from Mt. Elbert. We drove to the trailhead early Saturday morning and started our hike just before 7am. The trail junction for the Ellingwood Ridge route was pretty obvious, just a short distance beyond the log stream crossing (2nd stream). We followed the somewhat faint trail as it traversed the hillside to a point where a better looking trail headed up toward the ridge. Unfortunately, this trail was not the correct one and after wasting 30 minutes, we headed back down to the faint trail and then bushwacked east, crossing the 3rd stream (La Plata Basin Gulch). After rereading the beta, we stayed just to east of the stream until we hit the obvious narrow ridge, which led to the bottom of the boulder field (11,200ft). The boulder field reminded me a lot of the Long's Peak boulder field, but steeper.

At the top of the boulder field you are on the bottom end of the Ellingwood Ridge and the "grassy slopes" are pretty obvious as shown in this photo.
Grassy slopes and first good view of La Plata Peak

At the top of the grassy slope the real fun begins! The first part of the ridge is easy route finding over and around the rocky towers. Ian is a very strong free climber (leads 5.11 trad) and even though I haven't been doing much rock climbing lately, my climbing skills are still good for 4th/easy 5th class. We kept wondering about the "3rd" class rating of the ridge, since you would really need to stay well below the ridgeline to keep the difficulty at that rating. Ian pretty much stayed up top during most of the ridge traverse, while I climbed within ~ 150ft of the ridge top. As such, we both encountered lots of very exposed 4th class and one to two 5th class down climbs. We carried no climbing gear so we had to rely on technical skills (climbing and route finding) to negotiate the numerous rock towers on the ridge.

Rocky towers about 2/3 along Ellingwood Ridge

About 2/3 along the ridge, the top of the ridge looks like it will "cliff out" on you, but it's really not a bad traverse and has very easy 4th class downclimbing. The knife blades on this section looked like Kelso Ridge, but were much more sustained and a fall would have serious consequences.

View of La Plata Peak from ridge

Excellent views of East La Plata and La Plata Peak

Ian enjoying the top of the ridge

Still a long ways to the top

We were glad no thunderstorms were looming, since it took a long time to climb the rocky section of the ridge (we spent 4.5hrs above 13kft traversing to the main La Plata Peak). It was amazing how long it takes to traverse this 2-mile long ridge. If you did it roped or went with partners who were not confident in their climbing abilities, you could easy find yourself bivying on the route. After 7.5hrs from the time we left the trailhead, we finally hit the summit.

Summit pic

We met a very nice woman on the summit (Kate from SLC) who fed me some awesome zucchini bread and took a summit photo of us. We took a short food/water break on top, then headed down the NW Ridge route back to the truck. It took us 9.5 hrs to do the whole trip, which isn't too bad considering neither of us had ever done the approach or climb before. This ridge is definitely a must do for anyone who enjoys traveling rock ridges unroped.

View of lower section of Ellingwood, from La Plata summit

View of upper section of Ellingwood, from La Plata summit

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 5 6 7 8 9 10

Comments or Questions
Big, bold, and beautiful
09/06/2010 01:40
caverdude: Marvelous climb of this formidable classic route! Your guts, commitment, and alpine skills together produced a mighty memorable adventure. Way to stick to it in the face of the challenge, dude! Climb on...

09/06/2010 04:05
Hey 14erFred,

thanks for the comments on what has been my most exciting CO 14er adventure thus far. I can't wait to do more routes like this one, so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

   Not registered?

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

Please respect private property: supports the rights of private landowners to determine how and by whom their land will be used. In Colorado, it is your responsibility to determine if land is private and to obtain the appropriate permission before entering the property.

© 2022®, 14ers Inc.