By: Tom Ferguson
The Real Little Picacho - private trip
I've climbed "Little Picacho" on 3 DPS trips and inevitably someone points north to the next peak and explains that the peak we have just climbed is actually named "Picacho" and that the peak to the north is the true "Little Picacho". We have come to call the DPS listed peak "Little" to differentiate it from "Big Picacho" in Mexico. After this explanation someone always wonders out-loud what type of climb the true "Little" is, but no-one knows.
Late Saturday afternoon Carl Brodene and I decided to drive to the Arizona border and find out what Little Picacho had to offer (I never claimed I wasn't impulsive!). We drove to the dirt road a mile past the usual Picacho trailhead, We then followed this road to White Wash. Our first attempt was the major gully on the east side of the peak. It looked like a sure thing until it turned into over-hung rock that crumbled when touched. That was our first warning.
We traversed to the northwest corner. The correct approach, found on the descent (typical), is to continue driving southwest up White Wash until the 600' level. No, I'm not suggesting an ecological no-no, the road (shown an the topo as a jeep trail) has been improved and continued up the wash. From here climb the north ridge (class 2) until you are faced with vertical rock. Turn to the right and go around the corner onto the west side. At this corner will be found one of the only non-overhung routes on the summit block. Climb a diagonal gully until you can climb up and right to the next vertical wall. This would be easy class 4, but the amount of loose, rotten, rock requires a few protection placements. Turn left and go around the corner back to the north side, then descend slightly to a totally unprotectable ledge (class 4) that traverses northeast until you see a wall with a shallow cave. Climb up a few feet to the base of the wall. Climb to the left of the major crack until you can enter the cave. This wall is quite bad rock, and is much worst to the right of the crack. Exit the cave (slightly over-hung) to the left and continue up easier (but increasingly rotten) slopes to a relatively flat area. The summit is now in view. This last section would be 5.2 on good rock, on this crud it was "quite interesting". There was no register or easier route down visible, so we left a register and started to descend our route. This turned thrilling when I chose the wrong handhold and pulled a large rock loose, It first fell on my shoulder and broke in two (I told you this stuff was rotten). The rock then hit my right hand and foot, causing me to fall and Carl to get some belay practice (thanks Carl!!). A lot of blood and bruises made for a slow return to the car. It was necessary to leave slings and carabiners at 4 places on the way down.
While I've heard a lot of interest in this peak I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. This was the worst rock I've ever done any technical climbing on. A hard hat, ropes, a selection of 6 medium chocks (the smaller tocams or friends work real well on bad rock), a few R.P. stoppers, and a lot of slings including a few long ones is the minimum gear you should carry. Frankly the view is as good and the rock worlds better on Picacho peak.
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