El Picacho del Diablo
By: John McCully
Last year Patty Kline asked me to lead a trip to do Big Picacho this spring and a few days later SASE's began to appear. Big P doesn't get led often on a "open" private trip, the demand for such a tripe being quite strong. Eventually we settled on 22 participants with me leading a fast group. This fast group split into smaller groups for different occasions and Bill Bradley, who was a mainstay of the Sierra Club during the 70's but who hasn't been seen much in the last few years led a slow group. I must say that I think Bill has the patience of Job.
Most people set out from the shack at Las Llanitos at 8 AM on Saturday, with five of us starting after 11AM. By 6PM or so everyone was ensconced in Campo Noche. Barbara Reber twisted her knee going in and decided to take Sunday off so that she would be in good shape for the haul out. Bill led a slow group on Sunday that consisted of George Toby, Ron Young and Patty Kline while the rest of the folks started out with me. At about 8,300 feet, signs of food poisoning that had appeared the night before brought me to my knees. This was apparently the result of eating some mayonnaise laden bacon sandwiches that had become ripe in the Mexican heat. Have you ever had the tourista and wondered how in the world you were going to make it all the way from the bedroom to the bathroom? Imagine that feeling 2,000 feet above Campo Noche. Everyone else went on and I spent the next seven hours descending a thousand feet. By late afternoon the fast group caught up with me and Beth Epstein gave me some hard candies to suck on. Since my blood sugar was pushing zero the candy made me feel like an animal and the last thousand feet only took an hour. I've now acquired a couple of hundred of those tiny restaurant packages of mayonnaise to use for my sandwiches.
Dan Richter led the remaining 16 people up the North summit and then Greg Roach, Mark Adrian, and Bob Tomlinson went over and did the South Summit. They weren't sure how to get down from the South summit so they then went back to the North summit. Everyone in the fast group was back to camp by six. The slow group turned back a few hundred feet below Wall Street and got back to camp before seven. All the talk around the campfire was about the 3,000 foot gain to get out the next day. Paula Peterson decided to lighten her load by burning stuff she was sure she wasn't going to need on the way out, like socks, gloves, shorts and fuchsia underwear. It was decided to divy up the contents of Patty Kline's pack and I went around brow beating some of the young and not so young animals with us into carrying it.
The next morning three groups set off to return to the cars between 5.30 and 6. The slow group got out about 5PM, the others between 12:30 and 2. The road from Valcinitos Meadows and the shack is definitely 4WD this year, although Charlie Knapke managed to get his 2WD with limited slip differential all the way in to the shack. Tom Sumner tried to cross a horrendous gully with his 2WD and got stuck up to his gunny wells. An hour or so with a "pull along" wench got him loose only to see him bottom out once again in some deep ruts. By this time we had gotten real good at moving Tom's truck around and it only took a half hour using a Hi Boy Jack to get him out. The line at the border was quite short, some people getting out in 12 minutes.
Participants were Andy Klest, Barbara Cohen, Charlie Knapke, Devra Wasserman, Dan Richter, Steve Nardi, Tom Sumner, Ken Cerniglia, Mirna Roach, Greg Roach, Beth Epstein, Glo Minaya, Asher Waxman, Bob Tomlinson, Mark Adrian, Paula Patterson, Barbara Reber, George Toby, Ron Young, Patty Kline, Bill Bradley, and myself. All but the last six made the peak.
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