El Picacho del Diablo
By: Igor Mamedalin
[a private enterprise]
Suzanne and Tanya needed it, Jay Holshuh and Sue Leverton needed it, and Bruce Turner needed it! So, Terry Turner and I consented to lead these novices up Diablo Canyon to claim the coveted summit of Picacho De Diablo. Saturday morning we met at Crucero La Trinidad, junction of Baja 3 and 5, about 85 miles south of Mexicali. Heading west on 3 we followed the dirt roads on the AAA Baja map past Rancho Santa Clara to shack at road's end. Finding the end of the road 'unsafe' for our vehicles and Rancho Santa Clara too far away (some Baja explorers advise on leaving cars at the pay parking lots of Rancho Santa Clara for protection), we backtracked about a mile and headed north on a spur road and then into the desert where we 'hid' our vehicles. Six packs of beer were strategically placed around the vehicles as a peace offering to ward off evil spirits during our absence (or, to make their task merrier if they, nevertheless, chose to exorcise our trucks of their contents). With all requisite rites performed, we headed north across the short stretch of desert to The Canyon.
The waterfall at the mouth of the canyon provided an opportunity for refreshing dips as we ferried our packs over the rock ledge. A heavy gauge rusting steel cable was in place secured to bolt by a couple of rotting slings! Proceeding up the canyon, the day's heat bore down on us obliging us to take numerous dips in the cool pools enroute (later we learned that the 'lower' deserts reached over 1050 that day). This slowed our progress as we made camp less than a quarter of the way up the canyon. That day we encountered two other small groups of 'gringos' exploring, not climbing, the canyon.
The next day we progressed up the canyon to Campo Noche after caching some of our supplies for the return journey half way up the canyon. The water in stream bed dried up about 500 yards short of Campo Noche; however, at Campo Noche the stream reappeared as a small trickle - good enough for us. Monday morning we headed up the standard route, best described in Robinson's book, toward the peak. Along the way we were tempted into making two premature sprints for the peak up wrong gullies rather than diligently following the plethora of ducks marking THE route. Reaching the summit by 1 PM we discovered that a bronze plaque commemorating a climber has been placed on the summit (the translation of which has been published by Jay in Sage #208). While recounting past climbing adventures on the summit, it dawned on Suzanne that this was her DPS Emblem peak and none of us were prepared to properly celebrate her achievement! The day was clear and the views from the summit were good. After lunch we descended back to camp arriving there quite tired. Tanya did a wonderful job keeping us on course and following the ducks - she has since been named 'Duckman'.
Tuesday morning we found the skies overcast and an occasional drizzle fell wetting the rocks as we precariously made our way down the canyon. By the time we reached the half way point where we stashed some of our food everyone was in favor of stopping there and seeking shelter from the inclement weather. After building a roaring campfire and setting up various forms of shelter we sacrificed Terry's authentic mountaineering T-shirt (dirty and torn) to appease the deities in charge of the weather. Apparently the gods were pleased since no rain fell that night and the next morning came up sunny and warm. While finishing the last stretch of the canyon we stopped for another dip and photo opportunity (this photograph of our bottoms was featured at this year's banquet).
After successfully negotiating the waterfall we returned to our cars finding them safe and intact with the warm six packs of beer untouched at their stations. I guess our method worked? Or, all of the spirits were in town celebrating Easter and the Baja 200 race? Yes, as we drove across the dry lake we countered many desert vehicles raising dust as they were pre-running for the upcoming race. At this point Tanya was auctioned off to Bruce and Terry for the return home (and school) via Ensenada; meanwhile, Jay, Sue, Suzanne and I headed for San Felipe in search of a motel and hot showers. Motel rooms were hard to come by - the Baja 200 was in town! We managed to negotiate a room at the Vagabond Motel (at New York prices), took turns taking hot showers, and then regretting all night long for staying in a motel - along with all of the yahoos.
Next morning we headed south past Point Estella and camped at an isolated spot right on the beach (the established Mexican beach camps were full with the overflow of the off-roadies from San Felipe). Friday we move our camp past Puertocitos discovering that the 'new' graded washboard road south is actually worse on the car than the old jeep road used to be. Saturday we returned to San Felipe to witness the tail end of the Baja 200 race and to eat fish tacos on the boardwalk. In the evening after the roads cleared we headed north through Mexicali to camp in Anza Borego. Sunday we returned home. Altogether it was a wonderful spring vacation with friends down in the Baja mountains, desert and beaches.
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