By: Bob Cates
Indianhead is located within the Anza-Borrego State Park, approximately 5 miles west of the community of Borrego Springs. The Borrego Palm Canyon 7-1/2 topo map identifies the peak and places its summit at an elevation of 3960+'. In Jan. 1973 Ron Barnes, Carl Stude and I ascended Indianhead. I was so favorable impressed by this climb that I decided then and there to eventually return with a DPS exploratory party.
Our party numbered 12 as we gathered at the west end of the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground. The leaders were quite pleased at having such a large and able group for a mere exploratory climb. From the parking area we could see the 'peaky' summit standing only a scant 2-1/2 miles off to the northwest. Although climbable by many routes, I decided to repeat the direct high 3rd class route used the previous year. It lies on the crest of the south spur of the mountain, most of it being visible from the desert pupfish pond marking the beginning of our exertions.
Setting forth at 9:00 am, we managed to work up quite a sweat just hiking along a self-guiding nature trail (several participants read hurriedly as we passed numbered posts). In a little over a mile we arrived at the lush native palm oasis that gives the canyon its name. The deep cool shade and jolly burbling stream running through the heart of the grove make this a delightful place to visit in its own right. Here we fortified ourselves for the steep climb of over 2700' in the next mile.
Ascending the slopes directly north of the oasis quickly proved to be a mistake. Tempted into the coolness of a shaded couloir, I soon found myself dislodging fist sized boulders onto the climbers below. We soon extricated ourselves via a short high 3rd pitch. This brought us to the crest of the lower portion of the south spur. (To future parties I would recommend visiting the oasis and then returning .l-.2 miles down-canyon before ascending to the south spur. It's hotter, but safer from rock fall hazard).
The south spur presents relatively clean rock and we made rapid progress along it, everyone scampering over several high 3rd class pitches in wild abandon (Although we did not use our rope, I recommend carrying a short belay line to anyone attempting this route). In addition to fun rock, we were treated to the sight of 3 bighorn sheep bounding about on some distant crags. About 200-300' below the summit, ledges were taken to the right, leading across steeply inclined slabs to boulder and soil covered slopes. We stayed below the serrated crest (which is climbable but involves wasted effort) and traversed upward toward the northern most point which forms the summit.
We obtained excellent views, particularly of the Borrego Sink and the whole length of the Santa Rosa Range (beautifully snow-capped on this occasion), Our relaxation after lunch was so complete that soon 12 vultures, one for each body, were circling overhead. Stirring for raincoats (protection from aerial bombardment) gave us away and they quickly lost interest in living victims. The descent route followed what, would probably become the standard 2nd class route of ascent. We dropped to the saddle east of the summit and then into the large canyon that leads back to Palm Canyon. It involves lots and lots of boulder hopping. Reaching the nature trail was like hitting smooth pavement after 50 miles of dirt road. We reached the cars at 4:40 pm.
It was generally agreed upon that the peak was worthy of list status. Some concern was expressed about possible disruption of the bighorn range and subsequent disp1acement and/or diminishment of the sheep population. The leaders would like to express thanks to the participants: Paul Lipsohn, Fred Bode, Dick Akawie, Bernie, Lu and Jon Petijean, Daryl Kuhns, Chris Libby and Jim McPherson. We were delighted to lead such an outstanding and cooperative group.
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