La Plata…done right!

Saturday’s Workout Wanda: A 9.5 mile hike…up and down a mountain! A full 4,300 foot gain!
Sunday’s Workout Wanda: An 8 mile bike ride to/from work + 3 mile walk with Mom & Becky.
Monday’s Workout Wanda: A mile long walk with Becky & Chris.

Almost exactly one month ago we headed out on our first Colorado camping endeavor and what was supposed to be our first 14er summit. Instead we followed the wrong trail and ended up bushwhacking our way up a very steep 12-teener. Oops. At least the camping part was successful!

Even a failed attempt at a 14er was fun and it gave us the confidence to head up Bierstadt by ourselves – our first successful 14er summit! Totally worth the “failed” attempt at La Plata.

La Plata

We are rather stubborn and were not willing to give up on La Plata so our Saturday started before the sun ever reddened the horizon and involved a 2.5 hour drive down to Twin Lakes. We were headed to take on La Plata, again. And this time we knew where the correct trailhead was so our chances for success basically sky rocketed!

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We loaded up our packs and headed off on our merry way with the dogs chasing after anything that looked or smelled like it may someday resemble a critter of sorts. I’ll admit, I was a bit jealous of their energy…we had a 9.5 mile round trip hike ahead of us with about 4,300 feet of climbing!


And although it was a 4.75 mile hike to the summit this trail didn’t waste any time getting to the uphill. With Bierstadt we had a mile of easy going. With La Plata our first mile involved steep stairs. The night before I had read trip reports and had gotten nervous about the hike…this steep climb so soon into the hike didn’t help settle any of those nerves!

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…90% sure this is not La Plata, not high enough, but scenic none the less…

After a short breather of hiking through the shady trees on an easy slope we headed into the switch backs. According to Heather these switch backs were nice and could have been harder. I still thought they took forever and started to make me dizzy, they were pretty tight switch backs!

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Once we got up the switch backs we were above the tree line and headed for what we hoped was La Plata. The exact summit location wasn’t really visible from where we were, or at least it wasn’t screamingly obvious to us. Luckily the trail was obvious so we had no issues trekking onward.

I spent 97% of the hike hungry and daydreaming about food. Considering I’d eaten the leftover half of my lunch wrap from our trip to Winter Park the day before I knew it wasn’t because I’d slacked on breakfast…instead it probably had something to do with skipping dinner. I don’t think I’ve ever snacked so much on a hike before in my life. I was so darn hungry!


Unlike our hike up Bierstadt my brain didn’t start throbbing once we hit 13,000 feet, instead it felt pretty good. My body was tired but my brain was on track. This 14er was turning out to be quite a bit more fun than my first. Well, for me at least. Chris, on the other hand, was fighting with the altitude. His head was hurting and he wasn’t exactly having the best time of his life. But he kept on trucking and didn’t give up!

By the time we got up into the boulders it became obvious who was loving the altitude and who was not. While the altitude didn’t completely wreck me it basically rejuvenated Heather. That girl is a freaking mountain goat!


The dogs were also having the time of their lives! They would run from the front of our group to the back then up to the front again. They’d tear off ahead of us then come trotting back. If a pika or marmot so much as blinked in the boulders they would take off sprinting without a chance in the world of catching it. When we came upon snow they would jump into it and eat it to cool down.

Those crazy dogs burned more calories in our hike up the mountain than I do in a full year! Of course, they were also the first ones to fall asleep on the gravel by the cars!

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The closer we go to the top the more breathers we took…and the less inviting the clouds looked. I don’t know a lot about clouds in general but I do know that being on the open face of a mountain when a storm hits is not a good plan. Rain is bearable, lightening is deadly. Most Colorado mountain storms have lightening so that was a valid concern.

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As we continued our way up the clouds hung around but further off in the distance and no rumble of thunder was audible. I was a little nervous but the experienced 14er-ites around me were still headed upward so on I went. Besides…we were so close!

We lucked out and we made it to the top without incident. I think we were all prepared to start high tailing it down the mountain if need be but the clouds stayed at bay. Once we neared the summit the wind picked up, pushing the clouds away. With every bend I swore the darn summit relocated itself further away. This last stretch took for.freaking.ever!

Of course Heather beat us all to the top but Cindy and I were not far behind. Oh yes, the girls most definitely did beat the boys to the top! Half the reason I kept moving was because I couldn’t let one of the boys catch up and ruin the “girls win” photo op at the top!


We hunkered down to eat and before long the boys arrived! Shortly after the boys settled in to eat we heard the first rumble of thunder from the far off clouds. Food was shoved in mouths, photos were taken and we started back down toward the safety of the tree line.


The storm never really arrived. We did get a bit of rain and snow spit upon us but nothing major and most importantly, not more thunder or lightening! As usual the downhill was the hardest and it seemed to drag on forever.

I completely this hike in a pair of old Mizuno running shoes. Not recommended, but doable. On our first attempt at La Plata I had Merrill hiking shoes but they killed my ankles on the way down so I returned them. These Mizunos weren’t doing my any favors but they were less painful than the Merrill’s.


However, I learned really quick why legit hiking shoes are recommended. I could feel every sharp rock edge through the sole of the shoe and my grip left a lot to be desired! Next time I’ll hopefully have a fancy pair of hiking shoes to test out!

We continued to drag ourselves down the mountain wondering just how much further we had to go until we came upon the car. Chris wanted his brain to stop pounded and I wanted to take my shoes off! The downhill really does take forever; however, you have a little more time. There is no rush to be the afternoon storms and your only reward is the chance to sit down. I got to spend more time gazing off into the distance or scoping out the wildflowers!


Unlike the hike back down Bierstadt my quads weren’t killing me. Sure, I wanted to be done but my legs were not trying to fall off. Due to my less than grip-tastic shoes my downhill hike involved lots of slipping, sliding and eventually random bursts of running. I’m sure it was entertaining to watch, which is why I spent extra time hanging out in the back!

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Toward the end Tally started favoring one paw and the going got slow. Not that I was about to complain, I was feeling incredibly slow myself and was happy to blame the dog for my inability to keep up! Eventually we made it back to the cars. The dogs immediately went to sleep and I headed right for whatever food I could get my hands on.

Heather, Cindy and Craig were camping on Saturday night but my lucky self had to work at 6am so we headed back to Denver. That drive seemed to just drag on. Chris was trying to sleep off his brain ache and we were either without cell service or no one wanted to answer their phone. It was a long drive…

Our second attempt at La Plata was a success. We made it all the way to the summit, didn’t break anything, didn’t get struck by lightening, had a lot of fun and got some cool pictures. We can now officially check one more 14er off our list. Only 53 left to go!

Random PSA: If you are planning on spending 8+ hours outside in the high altitude mountain sun while wearing capri running tights I highly recommend putting sunscreen on your calves. Not that I didn’t or that I have a ridiculous sunburn line just below my knee pit or anything like that…


La Plata…done right! — 13 Comments

    • My poor, silly looking legs! Clearly didn’t think that through!

      And I hope Tally gets better fast! Did they have any good answers for you? I’ve seen some pretty fancy colored duct tape you could use to keep some booties attached to her feet…bet that would go over well! Hope she gets better and hopefully La Plata wasn’t her last 14er…!

  1. How fun! I’ve only hiked 14ers with running shoes on, but maybe I just have thick, gross skin on my feet to keep me from really feeling anything haha. Also, I highly suggest taking an old ski pole or something. It’s kind of annoying to carry up, but that sucker is a god send on the way down when I’m tired and just want to run and get it over with….without crashing onto my face and rolling down anyway.
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    • I did a lot of funny run-like leaping down the mountain, which made the little water left in my pack gurgle, which made me have to pee…it was a vicious cycle!

      We’ve talked about getting those telescoping poles – we rented snowshoes one weekend and they came with the poles. We ended up hiking our boards up Berthoud without snowshoes but with the poles – they helped a ton! I can see how they would keep you upright! Adding to the wish list…

  2. Yay! Glad you were able to summit your first 14er finally. I’ve only done 2 (Grays and Torreys in one day) and it was really challenging. It’s no small feat to climb a mountain like that. I’m hoping to do another one sometime later this summer.
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    • Its definitely a challenge, but not really something you “train” for, exactly. If you’re a pretty fit person its all about the mental just-keep-moving once you get to the top…or at least that is what I’ve deduced in my extensive experience! 😉

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