By: John Robinson
"Great White Throne"
Magnificent Caņon Tajo is the deepest and most spectacular of all the gorges that slash the precipitous eastern escarpment of the Sierra Juarez. In its upper reaches, canyon walls tower over 2,000 feet above the shaded bowels of the chasm. Rising just west of the canyon-head is a huge granite monolith that resembles, though on a slightly smaller scale, the Great White Throne of Zion National Park, A close-up view of this great rectangular dome was the objective of Frank Sanborn and myself this second weekend in 1967.
Early Saturday morning we crossed the border at Mexicali and proceeded west on Mex Hiway #2, then south over the vast alkali expanse of the Laguna Sa1ada, a poor man's Bonneville Flats. From well out on the Salada this great white throne is visible, and dominates the western skyline. A sandy road leads about two miles into the wide canyon entrance; from the end it is about a nine mile hike to the canyon head.
A five-hour backpack took us to a splendid palm-shaded campsite near the canyon head, almost directly under our objective. In these upper reaches Tajo is at its spectacular, scenic best. Sheer cliffs of white granite contrast sharply with crumbling walls of dark metamorphic rock. The cascading all-year stream darts over and around huge house-size boulders that have fallen from the canyon walls. Lovely pools of clear water reflect the surrounding palms. These stately fan palms, both Washingtonia and Erythea crown the canyon bottom and dot the slopes above, providing a luxuriant tropical backdrop to nature's primitive scene. Arising at dawn we scrambled up 1500 feet to the base of the Throne. We were amazed to see tall palms growing up the slopes, far up, some right at the giant's base. One full-sized Erythea (the Blue Palm) is wedged in a narrow crack high on a vertical wall, at an above-4000' elevation. We searched in vain for a route to the top, but only class 5 and 6 cracks and narrow ledges were sighted. Perhaps the west side might offer better possibilities. We hope to explore this further on a future trip, probably from the Sierra Juarez tableland.
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