By: Garnet Roehm
From the written and anecdotal record I found no evidence of this route being done before and the physical findings on the route showed the same. However if anybody has done this route or knows of it being done please let me know. The route is not a candidate for a standard DPS trip. However it may see subsequent ascents. The route has sections of high objective danger: specifically loose rock and an area of sketchy protection.
11-28-92: Attempt of Southwest Face of Indianhead: It was my second time on Indianhead and I was climbing with Bob Edman who was a California dept of Forestry Fire Captain who lived in nearby Julian area. "Let's try the S. W. Face!" It has a beautiful vertical profile as seen from the lower portion of the Montezuma Grade between Ranchita and Borrego Springs. Bob's rock experience was limited and my experience was sufficient enough that, after hoofing it halfway up the South Ridge and traversing a rope length out on to the face, I loudly cried "Uncle!" Bob reeled me in and after my muttering profanities about loose rock we finish the climb by the South Ridge.
6:30 AM: We are off and do the mile plus up to the palm grove on the super trail up Borrego Palm Canyon. From there we head directly north up the class 2 slopes out of the canyon until we can see the mountain face. Then we traverse the slope to the left to get into the large gully that doglegs up and left to the base of the S.W. Face, which we hoped to climb. (We didn't do the bottom or top of this gully so it remains to be explored as what could be a shorter or less bone-crunching alternative to the two routes in the DPS guide. The middle section of the gully however did have a couple short 4th class steps in it). As we roped up at the base of the face we scout a route that looks like it will go--at least as far as we can see. We also hoped that since the route was steep class 5 rock that it would not be as loose as my earlier encounter, thinking that most loose rock would simply fall off the face on it's own accord and of course it would have been nice to us and have done so before we arrived. I get honors for the 1st pitch and after 50' of vertical climbing I pause to tally the situation. The climbing so far was about 5.6 and I had gotten in three good pieces of pro and one questionable one. All and all not to bad except the rock was loose: I had removed about one quarter of my first choice handholds from the face and tossed them down away from Mau belaying below. I am a few feet above that so-so piece of protection and the good placement was 10 feet below that. There's what looks like a good placement for protection two or three moves up and with the rock quality is improving some, I make the moves, place the pro and breath a sigh of relief.
Conditions did slowly improve as we worked our way up the five plus class 5 pitches. Matt led the crux of the route on the second pitch, which was 5.7 move in a sort of a trashy chimney situation. The pitches varied from 5.4 to 5.7 and tended to the left all the way up. We discussed that since I had a section with sketchy pro on the fist pitch and the rock was loose in several areas, should this route have an R rating? We weren't sure as both of us considered ourselves conservative climbers and being such we always stayed clear of any R or X routes for areas that had guides. We figured in the end that in the interest of safety, yeah we better give it an R and see if subsequent climbers agree. After the fifth class pitches there was a couple hundred feet of third and fourth class scrambling to the false summit that tops the south ridge. We were both a little surprised that we made it to this point, as it was exactly where we wanted to end up. We sauntered up to the true summit and then descended the bone crunching DPS A route.
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