El Picacho del Diablo
By: John McCully
Sue Holloway and Mark Adrian volunteered as fodder for the sixth annual attempt to day hike this monster.
We got a nice early start at 4:30 AM from the shack at Los Llanitos but things immediately fell apart when I led us straight into some extra dense brush. Since I've done the route 8 times this was quite unexpected. It was getting light just as we got to the waterfall at 6 AM, 45 minutes behind schedule. With hubris that almost defies belief I then followed some very good ducks that went North to Scout peak rather than East to Blue Bottle. Then to really grind things to a halt I decided to head straight over a bump on the directismo route to Blue Bottle, where we once again got to practice pushing through endless manzanita. As a result all these shenanigans we set a new record of 3:15 for getting to Blue Bottle instead of clocking in at 1:30 as expected.
Dropping down to Campo Noche only took a couple of hours but as if we hadn't already wasted enough time I decided to check out a new possible route on the right side of Night Wash and we spent another 20 minutes or so thrashing around on a buttress. Finally at 2:10 PM. we staggered to the top of the peak, all hope of getting back to the truck that day extinguished. After resting for almost an hour we dropped down to Campo Noche at 6:30 and bivouacked. The next morning we spent six easy hours getting back to the truck.
As a result of this experience all three of us have kicked in some ideas about how to cut down on the chances of getting lost. Here are the suggestions: The terrain between Blue Bottle and Los Llanitos is very tough to follow in the dark, and it comes in two flavors. Above the waterfall compass bearings are quite useful and the ducks can pretty much be ignored. Below the waterfall one needs to follow the ducks to avoid rocks and brush. If leaving before dawn it might make sense to get to the shack a couple of hours before dusk and scout out the route up to the waterfall, perhaps marking it with something that reflects light well. Then carry a huge flashlight as far as the waterfall where it could be stashed. Once above the waterfall follow a bearing of 75 degrees over to the drainage that leads down from Blue Bottle saddle. There's no need to clip the corner as tightly as is shown on Shad's map. Starting from the middle campsite at Campo Noche keep to the middle of Night Wash. There are ducks all over Night Wash, so don't feel like you're necessarily on route just because there are ducks. When first leaving Night Wash and dropping into Slot Wash it's probably best to keep to the left.
When coming back after dark from Blue Bottle one should emphasize using compass readings until getting to the waterfall. Then maybe 10 minutes below the waterfall where the skyline suddenly drops to the south leave the drainage for the trail in that direction.
Score so far for day hikes that I've been on: 1992 - Tanya Mamedalin and I did it in 15:45. 1993 - Erik Siering, Jim Fujimoto and Bob Sumner and myself in about 18 hours. The other guys all did Blue Bottle and Bob Sumner even did the South Summit. 1994 - I was out of shape and had to bivouac. Doug Jones would have gotten back to the truck in about 13 hours but chose to wait for me at Blue Bottle. I also managed to make a side trip to Scout Peak in 94! 1995 - Jim Brown, Maria Giles. We tried to do the Teapot route but couldn't find the key and turned around without getting to the summit. Below Blue Bottle I fell over a dry waterfall and had over forty stitches to my face. 1996 - Ron Hudson. Gary Craig and I did it in 16 1/2 hours. Jim Brown and Maria Giles got off route between Blue Bottle and the truck and bivouacked.
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