El Picacho del Diablo
By: Ron Hudson
We estimated this hike at two days, but three proved to be necessary. We used the fancy map (Centra Publications at 4705 Laurel Street, San Diego, CA 92015, probably $5), John Robinson's book Camping and Climbing in Baha, and the AAA Baja map to figure out our route.
We started at 6 PM on Sunday night and reached the last water at the ten level waterfall at 4200 feet at 11 AM on Monday, after a total of 6 1/2 hours of walking (10 1/2 camping). We carried and used about 4 liters of water each in getting from this waterfall to Campo Noche, otherwise there was always water available between the mouths of Providencia canyon and Diablo Canyon.
Three routes are possible from 4200 feet. A) Continuing up Providence Canyon over multiple class IV pitches. B) Up a ridge to the right (Norman Clyde's 1937 route). C) Up a ridge to the left (the easiest). I barely managed to talk Ron into route C. The brush was quite intense, but easier than standard issue San Gabriel. Frequently we would confront a choice of industrial strength brush or class IV rock. I always opted for the brush and Ron would go for the rock. We camped Monday below a difficult pinnacle at 7600 feet on the South East ridge. The next morning it went on the right, although I came near to slipping off a leaf covered ledge when Ron reached down and gave me a hand.
We reached the south Summit at 11 AM on Tuesday morning. It took a total of about 18 hours of walking to get to this summit. We spent Tuesday night a couple of miles below Cantpo Noche. By 11:15 AM on Wednesday we were at the waterfall at the mouth of Diablo Canyon where I ruined my altimeter by losing my grip on the cable and falling into the water. Unfortunately the car was at the mouth of Providence Canyon, and we didn't reach it until 4 PM. It might have been faster to use the desert roads to walk to the car rather than staying close to the mountain, which involved multiple gully crossings.
Ron was scheduled to catch a plane back to San Francisco at 6:30 Thursday morning and I was anxious to get home. The plan was to drop Ron off at a motel and have him catch a taxi to the airport early the next morning. I phoned and reserved a room 7 miles from the airport using my AARP discount at one of the nationwide motel chains. Taking possession of the room proved tricky as by this time I had taken on the appearance of a homeless person dying of some outrageous disease of the legs (I had worn shorts through all the brush). I borrowed a pullover from Ron to hide my tattered shirt but various pieces of cloth still hung out the sleeves and the waist of the coverall. My hair was uncombed and I' hadn't shaved in four days. Forgetting my appearance I strode into the motel and began to talk to the receptionist as if I was wearing a three piece suit. Pulling out the baggie with my credit cards in it proved too much and she became quite flustered and disappeared into a back room, reappearing with a security guard. He was amiable enough, and after a conversation about my mountaineering adventures in Mexico I was allowed to register. Ron then used the room and got home Thursday without further incident.
We almost stepped on two different rattlers. I had Ron belay me twice on high Class III, once near the top of the South East ridge, a second time near the North summit as we were crossing over from the South summit. -John McCully
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