The Ellingwood Ridge Route on La Plata Peak is an extensive, complex, and truly inspiring ridge. Nearly three miles in length, this ridge contains numerous gendarmes (rock pinnacles), exposed ledges, blind corners with countless cliff outs, and steep gullies full of extremely loose scree... not to mention that the route finding is heinous.
I had been longing to attempt this route up La Plata for quite some time... and with the peak basically located in my backyard, it was about time I stepped up and committed.
After a summer FILLED with strenuous days in the mountains, and next to no recovery, I thought it would be a good idea to give my body a week-long rest. However, three days into my “rest,” I found myself scrambling across the Ellingwood Ridge.
I didn’t encounter another soul while climbing the ridge. I felt so alive and at peace as I moved through the humbling terrain in complete solitude with the uttermost respect for the mountain. Spotting a nice line across the ridge, I stayed mostly to the east side and crossed over to the west once or twice for a better route. I cliffed out two different times and ended up having to turn around and manage some pretty gnarly, exposed Class 5 down-climbing, but that’s to be expected on this ridge... it’s nearly impossible to keep it
Class 3 unless you exit the ridge all together by staying extremely low on the east side. I wanted to avoid losing elevation as best I could while still keeping the climb at about a Class 4 level, so I stayed somewhat in the middle. I tried to run whenever I possibly could, and the final talus slope up to the top of La Plata Peak was fairly runable, so I hauled up that last section, finishing the ridge in about three hours. I was greeted by a boatload of people who were a bit startled when I popped up out of nowhere on the opposite side from where everyone else had approached the peak. After pausing for a few moments, savoring what I just accomplished, I proceeded to run down the standard trail filled with joy and gratitude for one of the most amazing days I had ever spent in the mountains!