Centennial Celebration Trip Report – Ellingwood Ridge of La Plata

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CMC Climbers on La Plata Summit - Ellingwood Ridge Success!
Rick, Clare, Doug, Wesley, Tilden, and Slava
Climbers on the Summit of La Plata (14,336 ft)
CMC Centennial Celebration Climb of Ellingwood Ridge of La Plata

As the Compass Newsletter Editor, I have done my best to highlight other’s achievements and provide their intellectually stimulating material for the readership. I purposely avoided the limelight thus far, as this periodical should not be my personal platform.
Pretty Wildflowers Near North Fork Lake Creek Wildflower on Ellingwood Ridge Ellingwood Ridge Wildflowers Pretty Plants on Ellingwood Ridge
However, I can’t possibly release this month’s Compass without submitting a trip report for a recent CMC Centennial Celebration experience I had as Trip Leader. Our success on the Ellingwood Ridge of La Plata was a direct manifestation of a united committment to bag the summit in a safe and mutually inclusive mode.

I was impressed how our talents came together at the critical moments along the ridge. Throughout the day, at various times, we were each challenged and tested by the sustained and unrelenting ridge. We overcame hiking in the dark, treacherous choss, surprise cliffs, menacing gendarmes, graupel, thunder, lightning, rain, dehydration, altitude headaches, blisters, a nasty gash in a calf muscle, and some very whacky conversations!

To check out our albums:
*** Doug Oatis:Pictures
*** Rick Casey:Pictures
*** Slava Lototskyy:Pictures and Video
*** Clare Reda: Pictures and Video (Published next month)

Following is my trip report, with Pictures in Chronological Order:

An Alpine Start
We left at 4am from the trailhead, to begin the hike. The alpine start is definitely a must for this climb!

Co-leader Rick Crossing the Creek
We crossed a stream on stacks of logs. (Good thing we had practiced this crossing the day before!).

Doug Says "It's Scree-licious!"
At 5:37am, we reached the scree slope. Doug is pointing the way forward. We took a small break here to have a snack and apply sunblock.

La Plata From La Plata Basin
Our first real glance of our destination!

Wesley With La Plata in Alpenglow
Wesley (From C-Springs, aka Black Sheep) With La Plata in Alpenglow

Rick and Tilden Climbing Scree
Tilden and Rick Tackling the Scree

Doug and Slava Climbing Scree
Slava and Doug Prove They are Scree Machines

Tilden Beginning Ellingwood Ridge - Closer Up
Tilden on the Start of Ellingwood Ridge

Slava Ascending Ellingwood Ridge
Slava Ascending the Steep Slopes

Descending Another Gendarme
Tilden Enjoying the View While Rick Descends a Gendarme

Rick is Dwarfed by Gendarmes
Rick Lost in a Sea of Rock!

CMC Climbers on Ellingwood Ridge
Tough Guys!

Doug Ready for the Next Challenge
Doug After One of the Easier Downclimbs

The Most Difficult Maneuver on Ellingwood Ridge
The Most Difficult Move was on an Exposed Traverse
Tilden Just Past the Crux, Slava Mid Crux
Special Thanks from Me to Doug and He Knows Why!

La Plata and La Plata East
Two Hours From the Summit…Clouds Forming…Will We Make It Before We’re Drenched…or worse?

CMC Climbers Ascending Ellingwood Ridge
This was the BEST part of the Climb. We ALL loved this little section of Ridge. Totally Fun.

Climbers Ascending Ellingwood Ridge of La Plata
Yet Another Slog to a Gendarme

Wesley on East La Plata
Wesley On East La Plata (30 minutes from La Plata Summit)

Doug on East La Plata
Doug In the Same Spot as Wesley…Boy were we ready to SUMMIT.

Tilden on Summit of La Plata
Tilden on the Summit, At 1:30pm

CMC Climbers on La Plata Summit - Ellingwood Ridge Success!
We Made It!!! I didn’t quite have enough time to get the thumbs up…But Rick had me covered!

Clare on Summit of La Plata
You can see the whole Ridge behind me…

Rick Escaping La Plata's Summit
Rick Descending Just In Time

We were all frazzled by the thunder and lightning. The graupel also made us nervous. However, we stayed calm and executed a plan. People travelled at least 50 feet apart from one another, but always had a “buddy” so nobody got stranded in the event of a strike. It was tricky descending those wet rocks with the thunderstorm surrounding us. It was also important for everybody to stay focused, keep hydrated, stay warm/dry, and descend as quickly as possible.

Three Wise Men Descending La Plata
The faster folks went ahead down the trail. They waited every 500 feet of elevation loss, until they could see the slower folks coming. That way, we never got too spread out, in the event of an injury or problem.

Peak 12,801 From La Plata Standard Descent
About 3 miles from the TH, several people were completely out of water. So, Slava whipped out his water filter and we were able to alleviate the dehydration. Many thanks to Slava for the foresight to bring the filter. We had just about everything else planned out, but this was one of those “saving graces”.

About 1 mile left to go, we were drenched in a complete and utter downpour. I couldn’t see, it was coming down so hard! I worried about muddying up Slava’s vehicle…and Wesley offered to let us all pile into his beater. See, we had teamwork right up until the very end! Slava said no problems to the mud…but we still did our best to shake it all off.

Victors of Ellingwood Ridge of La Plata
Here We are Back at the Trailhead!

Here are some Ascent GPS statistics, courtesy of Slava.
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Our Ascent Topo and Profile:
GPS Topo Climbing Ellingwood Ridge of La PlataElevation Profile - Ascent of Ellingwood Ridge of La Plata

Descent GPS Statistics
GPS Statistics from Ellingwood Ridge of La Plata

Our Descent Topo and Profile:
GPS Topo Descending La PlataElevation Profile Descending La Plata

After the hike, Slava, Tilden, and Wesley went on to other things while Rick, Doug, Dennis (my husband), and I went to Buena Vista to catch the tail end of the Centennial Celebration Festival. Unfortunately, we arrived at 7:15pm and things were pretty much winding down. We did get some beer and listened to the bluegrass band, but I was famished. After 1.5 beers, I was ready for food.

We headed off to the Buena Vista Brewery and ate dinner. I cleared the plate, much to the surprise of the waitress. We also met some other climbers who had scaled Harvard and Columbia, so conversations centered around…Mountains of Climbing Past, Present, and Future. One thing we all agreed on, even Dennis, was that Mr. Ellingwood is one hard core Mountain Man!

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