El Picacho del Diablo
By: John Strauch
Thirteen San Diego County hikers set out to climb this Emblem Peak over the Memorial Day weekend. Carl, John, Nick Soroka, Carol Snyder, Charles Hummel, Kevin Woolworth, Bill Taylor and Annelene Rosen met Friday at the international border. We stopped for a late lunch at the new restaurant at El Miradot north of Ensenada and then proceeded on the long drive down Route 1 to the San Telmo turn-off. Bruce Kocka, with passengers Ted Caragozian and Mary McLain, had left earlier to do some Baja surfing. Richard Carey and Shelley Rogers also departed earlier and drove all the way to "The Shack" trailhead.
The main contingent regrouped at the San Telmo store and dropped off clothing, money and magazines for Carl's friends Alfonso, Thelma and Melissa. We drove to the park entrance, checked in with the ranger and shortly after dark arrived at Vallecitos Meadow where we met Bruce (complete with surfboard), Ted and Mary. The night was quite cold with temperatures dropping to twenty degrees. As the morning sun warmed us up we struck camp and drove to the trailhead where we met Shelley and Richard at around 10am. Carl conducted his traditional pack weighing (44 pounds high, 28 pounds low) and we then headed up the creek bed, gaining 1250', to the Blue Bottle saddle, where most of the group climbed Cerro Botella Azul and all had lunch. One question we were unable to resolve: did the peak get its name because someone found a blue bottle there or because of the rock pillar that has some resemblance to an old-fashioned milk bottle? Next was the 3000' drop to Campo Noche. Carol took a scary tumble but survived with a lot of black and blue bruises and a cut on her forehead. Ted twisted his knee and remained in camp the next day. We arrived at Campo Noche a bit after 5pm and found one unattended tent pitched there. While we were enjoying a campfire the tent's occupants, Patty Kline and Steve Nardi, arrived after their conquest of the peak. The night was much warmer here, a comfortable forty-five degrees.
On Sunday we arose at 6am and by 7 were on our way up the 3800' to the peak. As we neared the end of Slot Wash the group split. Carl led six to the south peak and the remaining five of us headed up to the main peak on the north. We watched as three new hikers appeared from the south. They turned out to be Bishop mountaineers John and Lois Fischer and a Las Vegas friend, who were finishing an overnight hike across Pinnacle Ridge. The south peak group then rejoined us and we had a leisurely lunch. This was Carl's seventh time on the peak, Richard's third, and the second for John, Annelene and Charles.
We arrived back in camp about 4:30 and all ended up in the pool to cool off and clean up. Ted had spent the day shoring up the dam and whittling wooden willow whistles (say it fast ten times). Carl prepared his traditional margaritas and came asada burritos. The Fischers joined our potluck and Richard recalled attending the Palisade School of Mountaineering in 1973, when John Fischer was an instructor there.
The hike out went smoothly with Ted and Carol doing fine. We departed from the Shack about 3:30 and regrouped in Ensenada for dinner at the Casamar seafood restaurant. We hit the Tijuana border crossing about ten and after a surprisingly short wait were home before eleven.
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