Pico Risco


By: Bob Greenawalt


It had been a hard 30 washboardy Mexican miles along the Laguna Salada as we approached Canon de Guadalupe with intentions of tomorrow's ascent of Pico Risco, on the starry evening of Dec 12, 1991. Abe Siemens and I had come west from the day-before's exciting climb of Cerro Pinacate in the colorful Sonoran desert. Yesterday's summit scored Abe as a one-more-to-go List Finisher.

The environment remained calm until we were stopped by a closed gate at Guadalupe Hot Springs--end of road and traditional takeoff point for the eastern advance of Pico Risco.

Through the darkness, three barking dogs heralded our arrival and rushed to the vehicle. We soon found them to be happy dogs, after their first duties of nightwatchmen had been fulfilled. Upon exiting the car, I found two of the three to be mature males of suspected semi-lab Retriever heritage, and since black matched, appeared that they were probably brothers. The third, still quite a pup, a different variety and color, remained continually wary and semi-cowered a safe distance from the center of activity. Within headlight range, a young caretaker came from out of the night and we agreed on the stipulated $10 per car per day fee. The gate was opened and we were directed to use our choice of perhaps a dozen campsites in the delightful hot springed, palm grove.

We chose a layout complete with frond-thatched cabana with its two adjoining concrete-lined hot water pools, which is evidently usually reserved for large groups. Also we found ourselves to be one of three parties—all gringos--in the primitive resort that night. Having no electric power at Guadalupe, the two Mexican tenants retire early.

The two dogs, Oso y Bonito, stayed with us constantly, and as we placed our sleeping bags on the ground, the hounds chose to occupy them before us. The feel of goosedown in that crisp Dec air made their night! After our camp chores were finished, it was a fight for me to get the dogs out of the way so I could get into my sack. with constant tail wags, they would not leave, and my face was being licked more times than I had washed it in several desert days. All through the quiet-sleepless night the two dogs were either on top of us or next to our heads, They had, indeed, found friends!

Dawn came normally, a fine day was in store, and we were ready for a not-too-early start for the peak, as we first went around inspecting the many unique hot pools. Oso was determined to not let us go without his tagging along. All morning he did not follow us, but was usually in the lead up the steep, rocky, brushy, trailless, and cactused slopes. Each time we rested the hound would come and relax at our feet, and enjoyed every food handout afforded him. More than once we remarked about what a faithful and trusting animal we had with us. Several times he would bark, when on precarious ledges. Once near the top, where the rock summit blocks prevent four-legged access, Oso chose to wait for us while we clamored over giant boulders, jumped the final rock cleavage gap, and signed in at the top. Upon our return to his post, he needed some arm aid at one position. Going back down seemed quite easy, though I saw Oso make one daring jump from a slight rocky cliff and told Abe that it must be rough on his forelegs in such plunges, We both agreed Oso probably knew much more about the local scene than we did, since several previous register entries mentioned upstairs dog accompaniments.

Along about 3:30pm, we figured we had better high-step it as darkness was due in less than two hours. Oso was not with us. I called, and perhaps two hundred feet higher on the mountain, Oso, standing on a ledge, was barking. What now?

We pondered his seeming dilemma for a few minutes, and decided he would find his way without our help, so we advanced toward camp. As dusk approached, we were more concerned since no Oso followed, and when we arrived back in camp, amid the better part of an hour's darkness, still we were sans perro. I immediately aroused the caretaker and advised what had happened. During a two-hour pool soak, and all through the night at intervals, I contemplated Oso's return. It did not happen.

The next morning, in my best Spanish, I tried to relate the story with the 96-year old grove owner and he seemed touches and saddened as he told me that Oso was one of the best dogs he ever had. I suspect Oso took too broad a jump and broke his legs or else may have been caught in between big rocks. It is a cruel terrain!

As we wanted to try for Cerro Pescadores this day, we reluctantly left Guadalupe about 10am. What we should have done was to have gathered the other two dogs, and retraced our steps. They could have probably found their kind. Now he was left alone for the coyotes! It has bothered me ever since! I will never forget the look on the dog's face as he barked for help, and we forsook him--not a pleasant memory!

A several-week later DPS climber advised me that there were three camp dogs at Guadalupe, one of which was black.

Oso, I'11 always remember you and Pico Risco--you brightened our lives in the few hours we knew you!

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