La Plata Peak has been my arch nemesis a little bit this summer. First, in May, there was the ill-fated attempt with Heather and Heidi when we all completely missed the trailhead. Then, a few weekends ago, I tried to hike La Plata again with my friend Britt when we ran into vehicle issues and had to bail. Understandably, this past weekend, I was pretty committed to making a La Plata summit finally happen. Third time’s the charm, right?
Britt arrived at my house this past Sunday at 5:00 a.m. and we set out for the trailhead. After a Starbucks run in Idaho Springs, we arrived at the trailhead at our goal time of 7:30. The hike up La Plata was just over 4.5 miles, and I figured if we hiked at least a mile per hour, we would summit by noon with no problems.
Unless you live in Colorado, I’m assuming you’ve never even heard of La Plata Peak. When we parked at the trailhead, I was surprised by how full the small parking lot was. I was even more surprised when I saw the high number of Nebraska and Iowa license plates (foreshadowing!). I mean La Plata is a pretty steep hike, with 4,500 foot of vertical gain. If I didn’t live at elevation, La Plata Peak would not be my first choice for a 14er to hike. Mount Sherman would be more like it!
We headed up the trail, following the Paula strategy for hiking 14ers. I like to hike continuously through the forest and take the first major break at treeline. Along the way, we started running into several small groups of men. Just before treeline, one of the groups finally explained to us why there were so many men on the mountain: the Band of Brothers. Apparently the Band of Brothers is a Christian men’s organization, and every year some of the groups get together to do the Peak Challenge and hike a 14er. Basically, Britt and I had the fortune of hiking La Plata Peak with 200 of the brothers. Lucky us!
The brothers were actually great hiking companions. Britt and I had an unfair advantage over the brothers, you know since we live at elevation and all. We passed a lot of them along the way, but they were still incredibly inspirational. I spend my weekends playing in the mountains and the hike up La Plata Peak was challenging even for me. I can only imagine how the brothers from Nebraska were feeling!
Once we reached the final ridge full of boulders, I went a little ahead of Britt. Again it was really fun to have the brothers around! I kept telling everyone I saw how awesome they were doing because La Plata is not exactly a walk in the park. At the final push to the summit I passed a group of like ten brothers. As I was passing them I said, “All right guys, this is the part where we separate the men from the boys! No pressure.” I think they appreciated the humor!
The summit of La Plata Peak was party central, thanks to the brothers. It’s not a super popular 14er, and I think on a typical Sunday there would be 10 people on the summit at any given time. On this Sunday, there were about 50 people on the summit when I arrived.
The Brothers’ awesome manifesto at the summit.
I think that Britt and I had a two-way relationship going with the brothers – we loved them but they loved us too! At the summit one guy even asked if we wanted to take a picture with the Band of Brothers sign. That was a rhetorical question, right?
La Plata Peak, 14er #13.
While hiking to the summit of a 14er is a challenge, hiking down a 14er can be equally as tiring. I knew La Plata was going to be a rough hike down simply based on the elevation gain. Luckily, the brothers pulled us through again. Britt and I hiked by a great group of guys for awhile that decided I looked like Anne Hathaway and insisted on calling me Anne for at least half a mile. Anyone that wants to call me Anne Hathaway is good in my book. Britt’s yellow Camelbak was also quite the hit, and we were definitely well known among the brothers by the time we hiked down.
At the end of the hike, Britt and I walked back into the parking lot. All the other brothers who had already finished were sitting there waiting for the rest of the group. As Britt and I walked across the parking lot, they started clapping for us. Ever had 75 men clap for you when you finished a 14er? Yeah that’s how Britt and I roll.
A sign back at the parking lot.
After leaving the La Plata Peak trailhead, Britt and I headed to Leadville for some much needed food. Along the way, we decided that the Band of Brothers had really made the hike for us. We ran into less than 10 other hikers not with the brothers, and it would have been boring without all the men.
I now have unrealistic expectations for every other 14er ever – what do you mean there is not always going to be a group of men clapping for me and calling me Anne Hathaway when I hike?