Guess what? We finally conquered THAT mountain this weekend!
If y’all remember, we tried to to hike La Plata a few weekends back and ran into a minor snag when we …um…hiked the wrong mountain. Luckily, that set us up perfectly this weekend because we knew exactly where the trailhead was 🙂
|Ellingwood Ridge– I’d like to try this climb one day!|
Originally, we planned to head up on Friday night but Cindy and I both ended up working late. Instead, I awoke at 3:45 on Saturday morning to head to the hills. We arrived at the trailhead, just outside of Leadville, around 8am. It was a little later than I would have preferred, but what can you do…it just meant we had to be speedy hikers!
The first portion of the trail ran alongside the stream and had a fairly steep incline straight away. In fact, the trail was so steep that trail crews had installed 2×4 logs in order to create steps. Colorado crews only do this if the slope is steep enough to erode, so this was a sure sign that my quads would be screamin’ the next day.
We meandered through the trees for a few miles before we hit tree line and popped out into the sunshine. In Colorado, tree line is usually around 12,000 feet so this is always a good gauge of where you are on the mountain. The trailhead was at 10,000 feet, so we knew we had covered roughly half of the elevation gain.
Luckily, or unluckily, for us, the rest of the hike was equally as steep. In fact, for an “easy” 14er that is considered a walkup, this was a strenuous hike! The switchbacks were helpful, but my legs were definitely feeling it. It was around this time that the five of us — Heidi, Chris, Cindy, Craig, and myself — started to separate from each other on the trail.
You see, a unique factor about 14ers is that everyone truly needs to hike and climb at their own pace. Altitude effects everyone differently, and if you make someone go slower or faster than they need, it can really screw with their stride and endurance. I adapt to altitude better than most people, so being at high elevations does not have much effect on me. Because of this, I ended up at the front of the pack with the three pups, and we took off through the talus fields.
The talus field got a little tricky to navigate just because I needed to make sure all of the pups were out of the way of other hikers. Additionally, I had to assist them a few times so that they could clear some of the bigger rocks. It was slow going for 30 minutes or so, but the pups conquered the boulders with skill!
With about 5-600 feet left until the summit, we all started to notice that a storm was blowing in around us. I looked at the clouds carefully and decided that while it may rain on us, it truly did not look like a lightning storm. Colorado is known for apocalyptic storms above tree line, so we definitely wanted to remain safe. However, the majority of the other hikers decided to turn around and headed back down the mountain.
With the gray clouds looming, I picked up the pace a bit so I could get to the summit and get off as quickly as possible. The pups kept up with me and picked their way across the remaining talus…all the way to the summit!
I hung out on the summit for a bit and waited for the others to arrive. Cindy and Heidi arrived next, so naturally, we had to take a celebratory “the girls beat the guys to the summit” photo 🙂
Craig and Chris arrived at the summit shortly afterwards. Often, it is enjoyable to hang out on the peak, eat lunch, and take in the views, but not this time! We got our obligatory group photos, took a few panoramic shots, and booked it back down. I wanted to get below tree line STAT!
The hike down was a lot longer than any of us remembered, and it really started to stress our bodies. In fact, the hike seemed never ending!
Even worse? With roughly two miles to go, Tals started limping pretty severely and it got to the point where she would not even walk. I told everyone to go ahead because Tals and I were going to be super slow.
I quickly realized that while Tally was able to limp on the uphills and the flat portions of the trail, she literally could not go downhill. On the super steep downhills, like the previously mentioned wooden stairs, she would sit down and look at me, holding her paw up in the air for me to see. I was wicked tired at this point, but as y’all know, this dog is like my child! I didn’t know what else to do, so I scooped all 65 pounds of Tally into my arms and carried her down the stairs.
(Note: this is why I can never weight 200 lbs! Her additional weight on my body WRECKED my knees!!)
We all finally arrived back at the car, and I was more exhausted than I have been in a long time. Carrying her for the small bits had really shredded my knees, and I couldn’t even imagine how her poor little paw felt. Once we arrived at our campsite, I sat down to look at it in order to evaluate what she did. I was concerned that she had broken something, so I wanted to check it out.
Luckily, nothing is broken but she did an awesome job of shredding her little paw. She managed to rip off all the padding on her front right foot, so it is all exposed and tender. Cindy and I used our first aid kit to clean it, apply Neosporin, and wrap it with a bandage, but Tals is still a pain in the ass, injured or not. She spent the majority of the night in my tent licking and tugging at her foot until she could remove the bandage. Punk.
Overall impression? La Plata is a beautiful mountain and an awesome hike for beginners because there is absolutely nothing technical or difficult on this peak. However, make sure you are in good shape because that elevation gain will get ya! Overall stats for the mountain were 9 miles round trip with 4,336 feet of elevation gain. Yup, we averaged 1000 feet per mile gained. ZOIKS!