Pico Rasco, Cerro Pescadores, El Mayor Peak
By: Paul Lipsohn
Heading south from Mexicali through intermittent showers, passing numerous roadside puddles, I couldn't help but wonder whether we'd be able to negotiate Laguna Salada in another day or two. These showers proved to the end of a string of storms, however, and we enjoyed beautiful weather throughout the rest of the trip.
A total of six assembled at Campo Rio Hardy to climb El Mayor, so we headed south looking for a possible approach road. After about five miles we returned north to a "road" we had spotted earlier, and proceeded to drive to the end of the fainttracks at the northeast end of El Mayor. Leaving the cars, we headed up a wash to the first ridge, whereupon we were dismayed to find a series of ridges and valleys, all running northeast to southwest, separating us from our peak. Confronted with this evidence, we returned to the cars and drove south to Km marker 60, which put us on a road below the last ridge, and appeared to be the proper place to start. Since the hour had now advanced nearly to noon, an attempt at the peak appeared fruitless, so heading north for the umpteenth time we passed through La Puerta and entered the road to our campsite near Pescadores. (Heading south from Mexicali, turn right at Km. post 25, about five miles north of La Puerta. Follow the road in about one-half mile, then take the left fork to its end at a major wash.)
A lazy afternoon was highlighted near sundown by an invading horde of gnats and mosquitoes that drove most to cooking and eating inside.
Saturday morning I drove to La Puerta to meet the bulk of our group. Bolstered by 23 new arrivals, we returned to the wash and began our climb. A prominent boulder on the skyline ridge serves as a convenient duck for the route to the peak. We proceeded generally north up the main wash until its intersection with a major westward wash, then followed that wash about one mile, which put us in position to run the ridge to the prominent boulder. From the boulder, the peak is visible about two miles to the north. Since the group was widely separated at this point, the vanguard enjoyed a protracted lunch on top, with the rear arriving about 3:00 pm. In an effort to shorten the return trip, we elected to attempt a direct descent down the canyon separating the peak from our guide boulder. We were rewarded with spectacular scenery on this route, and had only a couple of easy detours to regain the wash, though we emerged considerably north of our ascent route. Regrouping in the now full moonlight, we followed our original wash to the cars, arriving about 8:00 pm. Following supper we caravanned around to Laguna Salada, then south, following the plentiful signs to the campground at Canyon de Guadalupe.
In the morning we were joined by three more climbers, now swelling the group to 31. From the campground a prominent triangular shaped peak dominates the area. Just north of this peak a rocky wash descends to the valley, which is the route of ascent. One would suppose that, once having climbed this peak, it would be impossible to forget it, but alas, such was not the case.
Following the wash to the top of the sandy plateau proved to be hot work in the warm sun, and our group again became widely separated. As we awaited their arrival on the plateau, I was suddenly seized with the notion that the peak directly to our left could not, after all, be the Pico Rasco. A hurried scouting trip up the wash revealed an interesting square-topped prominent peak 2~3 miles ahead. Thus reinforced, I returned to the group and confidently led them up this nice class 3-4 boulder scramble to the summit of a distinctly strange peak. Ruefully, we left a register on "Pico Fiasco" and gathering our stragglers, returned to the plateau, arriving below the now easily recognizable Pico Rasco.
At this point, I liberated eight of the strongest in the party to bag the peak, and started the rest down the canyon, hoping to make as much distance as possible before being overtaken by darkness. Unfortunately, the sun sunk much too soon and the canyon walls were too steep to allow the moon to be of much help, and we were thus forced to flashlights. This proved to be an interesting exercise, since only nine of the party were carrying usable lights--a gross miscalculation for one of my trips--.
Ultimately arriving at the cars about 10:00 pm, we were confronted with the problem of the hour. Somehow, the set of keys to Dave Gladstone's Volvo, entrusted to an herewith unnamed Oriental climber, had disappeared. Our, group was equal to the task, however. John "Fingers" Backus managed to pick the trunk lock, thus liberating the sleeping and eating gear, while others of equal talents obtained access to the interior via a wind wing, and soon had the engine running by dismantling the ignition lock. (Seems to me Australia was settled by such as these?) Now only one problem, that of the steering wheel lock remained. We postponed that one till morning and enjoyed our supper before consigning our tired bodies to the rejuvenating hot springs.
In the cold light of day, John "Thumbs" Backus proved unequal to the double tumbler, pick-proof steering column lock. I headed for Calexico to obtain a tow bar while others dismantled the tie rod assembly. On the return trip to the Laguna, I bumped into the entire party at the head of the Laguna. They had meanwhile dismantled the lock instead, obviating the necessity for a tow bar.
From this point, the exploratory of Centinela seemed rather superfluous, and the trip was called complete. All that remained was the struggle through customs in Mexicali (1-1/2 hours) and the long drive home.
I wish once again to offer my apologies to those following me up the wrong peak. Although the peak was a good climb, it doesn't quite compare with one "on The List."
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