Pico Risco


By: David Campbell


A rainstorm that stalled off the California coast and then headed south into Mexico delayed our start of this trip to Baja California and cut our time from three to two days. But on 12/19/93 we started, with John Otter and Jack Archibald in one 4WD pickup and Mary Ann and I in the other. Most of the remaining clouds seemed to move south before us as we drove through San Diego to Tijuana and then took the nice toll road along the coast to Ensenada. From there we followed Mexican Highway 3 east to Ojos Negros where we got onto the dirt road to Laguna Hansen. After ten miles or so we began to encounter many large, fairly deep puddles in the road and were glad for our high clearance vehicles. Arriving in the national park, "Parque Nacianal Constitution de 1857" we also saw a lot of snow on the ground. We set up camp east of Laguna Hansen about 4:30. This area is forested with tall Ponderosa pines and the lake was full of water and very scenic. A few other people were camping in the area, but none very close. After dark as we were concluding dinner, we were treated to a sudden chorus of coyote howls; from all directions! It was below freezing and we went to bed early.

Monday, we woke to cloudy skies. We drove north along the dirt road a couple of miles. Just where we expected a signed side road to Rancho San Luis, instead was a signed side road entitled "Kancho Alamar". Thinking this must be it, we drove 4.5 miles east before realizing it wasn't it. After this delay, we found the Rancho San Luis sign 0.1 miles further north! The seven mile road to the Kancho was badly deteriorated and we used 4WD on the last part of it. We also took a left turn near the end leading to a wrong ranch, but got directions from two men there and finally got to Rancho San Luis. After meeting the local dogs, we donated some clothes and food to the elderly man who owns the ranch and at 3 a.m. finally started the climb. We planned to follow the route described in the DPS Road & Peak Guide. There were high clouds, but they were gradually clearing.

One friendly dog, which appeared to have a lot of golden retriever in him and one cat from the rancho accompanied us. We had some trouble at first finding the "horse trail" leading toward the landmark hill at 94 degrees compass heading, so after a while the cat gave up on us. Eventually we began finding ducks marking the right cow trail and our progress improved. After we turned left (N) near the landmark hill, we found that the next section of use trail goes downhill (not up), through a wash leading to the saddle where Pico Risco is first seen. Otherwise, the route was as described and we soon were walking down a sandy gully heading north alongside of the summit ridge. We turned east to climb the 300 ft. or so to the ridge's saddle south of the summit area.

From there we went north along the ridge until we reached the large boulders blocking the way and detoured left along their base, climbing through one easy "tunnel" still on the east side before crossing through a ducked "keyhole" to get to the west side of the ridge. Continuing north, we regained the ridge and crossed the fairly broad "knife edge" section. Soon we unknowingly passed the summit and began to encounter an ever more challenging route requiring some significant descents to the right and then left of the ridge top. The latter involved a 5th class descent. It was by now fairly obvious we had gone too far. John and Jack were in the mood for some rock climbing and went on to the final peak at the north end of the ridge, where they confirmed there was no register.

Mary Ann and I began working our way back south and before long found the "step across" to the slanting summit block and the register! Getting there turned out to be anticlimactic after our off-route climbing, but we were delighted to find the summit and called out the news to the others, who came back and joined us there. It was about 12:45.

As we left the summit boulders we were greeted by the perro amble, who was delighted by our return. The hike back to Rancho San Luis was pleasant, but uneventful, and we were at the rancho by 3:30. We said goodbye to the dog, who had been a pleasant companion all day, then began the long drive home, arriving in Simi Valley near midnight.

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides

DPS Archives Index | Desert Peaks Section