Pico Risco, Cerro Pinacate


By: John Backus


Sixteen people were on hand at Canon Guadalupe campground this Saturday morning for the climb of Pico Risco. After the usual formalities, we started out, accompanied by the large black dog that presumably belongs to the owner of the area. From the campground the route follows a ducked trail west toward the mountain along a plateau, then descends into the canyon bottom. Just before the first high waterfall, a side canyon comes in from the left (south); the route goes up this, necessitating some scrambling to get out of the main canyon. This side canyon curves around to the west, under the peak. The best route here is fairly high, along the bottom of the cliff bounding the south side of the canyon, rather than among the waterfalls and boulders of the stream bottom. Continuing around the peak to the point where the canyon joins the plateau and walking along the stream bed is pleasant. After a few hundred yards of this, start up the peak, which is on the left, approaching the summit from the south along the ridge. Pass the Window on the left, cross over to the east side, explore until the "jump-across" is located, negotiate it, and you are on the peak, Everyone except the dog made it, and he was waiting for us just below the summit. We were all back to camp before dark.

Sunday morning we drove back across the Laguna Salada and gassed up at the new service station on the highway at the turnoff, then started toward Sonoyta, We hadn't gone more than a mile when we came to the scene of an accident; a truck carrying three men and two boys had gone off the road and smashed up against the cut at the side of the road. The two boys and one of the men were apparently fairly severely injured, so we did what we could (not very much, in the circumstances) until an ambulance arrived to take them to Mexicali. We resumed our journey to Sonoyta, arriving in the middle of the afternoon. After stopping for gas, beer, etc., we drove down Highway 8, found the turnoff, negotiated the wash, and found the roadhead just at dusk. Landmarks and mileage's for this roadhead are given on the accompanying map.

Monday morning we started for Cerro Pinacate. Except for the lava bed at the beginning, and the great quantities of cholla everywhere, this is not a difficult mountain, and has a spectacular view of craters to the north and the Gulf to the south, We were back to the cars by 2:00 o'clock to get everybody back across the wash and out to the highway. Back at Sonoyta we ran into a problem: only a few people had Mexico tourist permits. When we crossed into Mexico at Mexicali, we asked and had been told we didn't need them where we were going. Unfortunately the official at the Sonoyta check point said we did need them, and some time was spent discussing the situation. However, persuaded by some Spanish-speaking members of the party, the official finally decided to let us go on our promise never to do this again. Moral: don't climb Pinacate without Mexican Tourist Permits, whatever they may tell you at the border.

Exhausted by these proceedings, some of the party took off in various directions, while the rest of us drove a little way west of Sonoyta and camped. It being New Year's Eve, a sort of celebration took place. On New Year's Day we drove home, to the accompaniment of high winds and snow in the Laguna Mountains.

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

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