La Plata Peak is the 5th highest summit in the Rocky Mountains and is known for it’s distinctive Ellingwood Ridge . For a winter attempt the standard winter route was used but I was turned back at treeline by wind. For the summer season I chose the southwest ridge trailhead, making for a beautiful hike. There were remnants of old mining tracks on the hike, and Huron Peak and the three Apostles provided a great backdrop.
Trailhead: West Winfield (southwest ridge)
Round trip: 8 miles / 12.9 km
Elevation: 10,778′ -14,336′ (3,558′)/ 3,285 m – 4,370 m (1,085 m)
Note: The West Winfield trailhead is small and very hard to reach, even during dry conditions due to the rough 4X4 road.
Once at the trailhead head directly north and cross a small creek and turning west for a bit. Following the steep trail you reach treeline at about 12,000′. Here the elevation levels out and you navigate through a large bog overgrown with willows.Expect to get your boots muddy here. Past the bog, you can see the steep trail which climbs to the ridge. Be careful here because of the loose rock and lack of traction, especially on the way down. Once on the ridge, the trail turns northeast and traverses the cliffs you viewed all morning. The trail steepens considerably again and gains 1,000′ in a very short distance, boulder hopping all the way to the top of the ridge. Once on the ridge, continue climbing over two false summits. The trail joins the Northwest Slopes standard route (#1474) for the last 20 feet.
The trail that goes through the gate to the right of the start of the Southwest Ridge leads to the Tasmania Mine, one of the more prolific mines of the Winfield District.