Cerro Botella Azul


By: Bill Clifton



Sierra San Pedro Martir (a short cut) Bill Clifton

As a general rule this peak is climbed on the second day from a base camp at Los Llanitos Meadows after backpacking across the La Tasajera Ridge from Vallecitos Meadows via the main trail (middle). There are two other trails across this rocky ridge, one on the west end (short trail directly to La Grulla Meadow) and one on the east end.

Over the July 4 holidays, while camping with the singles section of the San Diego Chapter, I suggested that we make an exploratory hike and see if we could climb Blue Bottle in a day from our camp, and got four volunteers. Since three of them were not sure of getting back to camp the same day, they decided to take their packs. One volunteer and I decided not to wait, so we jumped in my jeep and drove south on a bad road (only jeeps or pickup trucks should drive beyond the campsite) for about a mile and parked in a little flat beside the same wash that went by our camp below. Since our exploratory hike was so successful and we found ourselves back at camp by 4:00 the same day, I will describe in detail our route so others in the future may take advantage of it.

As the main observatory road turns east near the south end of Vallecitos Meadows and starts its climb up to the observatory, turn off to the right. There are large mounds of dirt piled at this junction (garbage pits for the observatory). Mile 0.

Mile 1/4. Observatory well (driving south) driven by a gasoline pump. Also above the road is a shed housing pine seedlings being used in reforestation of the barren area. Mile 1/2. Our campsite in a clearing surrounded by large Jefrey pines. To the right or west is a big wash with large willow bushes. To left or east, 1/2 mile up in a draw is a large concrete watering trough for cattle, with fine spring water flowing into it via a plastic hose. An excellent place to take a shower and get fresh water (except when the cows are thick or in mornings and evenings). This is the only good water I know of in the Vallecitos area. Mile 1-1/2. End of jeep road where we parked our jeep. From here we headed south and soon picked up duck marks and a cattle trail. Mile 3-1/2. A small clearing surrounded by a heavy grove of quaking aspens. Here one could go either to right or left continuing on south. Since I was dubious of climbing up to the eastern escarpment too soon, we decided to have a rest above the south end of the aspen grove. This break stop soon payed off as we began to hear voices and cattle crashing thru the aspen grove. We then knew if the Vaqueros were moving the cattle to a new pasture, they would find the trail heading south for us again. Sure enough, they went to right or west and then continued on south. After they were out of sight, Neil and I crossed thru the aspens to the west picking up the trail again and started to climb up to the east end of the La Tasajera Ridge. Mile 4. We begin to pick a small flowing stream of fresh water about 1/2 mile above the aspen grove. Finding this water was a pleasant surprise since water along the eastern escarpment is scarce, especially in July. Most of the water in summer is found below the western escarpment of Martir, as I found out the hard way, going without water the better part of two days in the Santa Rosa Meadows area a few years back. Mile 4-l/2 Summit of the Trasajera Ridge, elevation 8800 approximately near its east end. This ridge runs in a westerly direction from its junction with the eastern escarpment north of Blue Bottle to north of La Grulla Meadow, where it drops off. From the summit of this pass, which I shall call "Blue Bottle pass" one looks south and sees the southwestern ridge of Blue Bottle sloping off toward Los Lianitos Meadows. From the summit of the ridge we decided we would save time (east of pass it becomes very steep and rocky) by dropping below the pass about 1/4 mile and contouring to the east (losing about 200 feet elevation), crossing several draws coming from the north and getting in the main draw running down from the saddle just north of Blue Bottle. (We also found good water in a pool here.)

We climbed up the main draw to the saddle on the escarpment, then to the right or south, arriving on summit (Mile 5) at about 1:30 pm. After 1/2 hour rest enjoying the fine view of Big Picacho we headed back down and were back at the jeep in two hours. The advantages of this route are many (even J.R. didn't know that a trail went across the La Tasajera Ridge near its east end):

  1. It reduces Blue Bottle to an easy day's hike from Vallecitos Meadows. Ten miles round trip (approximately) from camp, eight miles round trip from end of jeep road.
  2. There is a trail more than two-thirds of the way.
  3. There is water at the beginning and several places along the way, even as late as July.
Caution: Don't make the mistake (as the three fellows who followed behind us did) of going to left at the grove of quaking aspens, as you will get up on the eastern escarpment too soon and have a rough half mile or so traversing south to get to Blue Bottle. Also, you will miss that fine stream of good water above the aspen grove along the main trail on north side of ridge. The mileage and elevation in this writeup are estimated.

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