September 14, 1999 - Northwest Ridge
September 14, 1999 - Attempt
Trent and I took a shot at LaPlata in mid September; you know that month when the weather is just great all the time? Right. We overnighted at the head end of the Clear Creek Reservoir and parked at the trailhead on the road to Independence Pass. The route from there goes up the dirt road for just a bit before cutting through the fence and along an obvious path to cross the creek, flowing through a deep crevice. We headed on up the gulch, below the large avalanche track and took the switchbacks to the saddle at the base of the Northwest Ridge.
We had a few sprinkles on the way up the wooden steps (climb LaPlata and you’ll see this well done stretch of erosion control) and just a bit later passed a group of local kids coming back from the saddle, a weather turn around they said. I figured we might be going up against a touch of rain and fog but once at the saddle, we were looking at snow and a good bit of wind. Trent in the meantime was hurting from a blister and mentioned, after about 15 minutes of crappy weather, that his boots were giving him a fit. We stopped and he shed one boot to look and the decision was made, we were down bound. Oh, sure a bit of tough it out discussion on his part but why bother when the peak will be there later and the boots are really cutting. Smiles of resignation all around and we headed for the car. Of course, the weather at the car was sunny, but as I said, LaPlata was not going anywhere.
November 14, 1999 (Summit)
For any readers who climbed in 1999, this was that wonderful, warm November when there was still no snow on the 14’ers. I wanted to score LaPlata before the close of the season and given that I had just been laid off, a mid week climb was more than appropriate. I camped, parked, and made it to the saddle just as before but this time under a clear sky. The climb up the Northwest Ridge then became an interminable slog, just an off day I am afraid. Nevertheless, I kept up the pace, albeit slow, and made it to the top of LaPlata via that ridge that just does not want to stop or even give you a real sense of where the end is before you get to about 14k. I was solo on the summit and after the usual snack, headed on down to the car and back toward home.