El Picacho del Diablo

July 1993

By: Carl Johnson


In the middle of July, Dennis Richards and I backpacked-hiked to Picacho del Diablo. Last year I had said that 5 times to the peak and a broken foot in the group, was enough for a little while. However, I got a lot of calls from people wanting to do the peak and I decided I wanted to see it again this year. Oddly enough when It came to actually going, there was just the two of us (22 people had set out for the peak at the end of May with the Desert Peeks Section). Dennis had been up the peak two times before with me and made an excellent hiking partner. We decided that this was a perfect opportunity to see some different areas and routes. To start, we backpacked to Scout Peak and two other peakettes for a very different view of Picacho del Diablo. We next took a "short cut' directly to Campo Noche, over 3000 feet 'straight down' around one after another vertical solid rock cliffs, loose boulders, and manzanita fight that was so thick we had to walk on top of it. The "short cut" turned out to be extremely difficult and very time consuming, I do not recommend it for anyone! Campo Noche is a very special place with a deep, white sand on the bottom, pool, a small waterfall flowing into it and a rim of orange flowers and giant cedar trees. The next day we day-packed to both South and North Peak. Just as we were getting ready to leave North Peak the clouds started to build up and we 'high tailed" it off the peak. Within ten minutes the clouds opened up with thunder and lightening and soaked us with rain and hail. All the way back down to Campo Noche (four hours, very carefully) it rained and the whole mountain was a mass of waterfalls, what a sight!. We had to spend much of that evening drying out, but we still had time for my traditional Picacho del Diablo margaritas and cane asada burritos. The next day, with extra water in case we needed it for that night, we hiked out of the canyon to the top of Cerro Botella Azul, almost 3500 feet. We then hiked south toward Tres Palomas stopping at a peakett with a fantastic view of the wide, rock covered Canon Teledo. About the time we were ready to set off for Tres Palomes, the clouds started rolling over the Palomes and the thunder and lightening returned. Due to the approaching rain, prospects of more thick brush, and by this time some pretty tired feet and legs we made our way back to the trailhead. Tres Palomes will have to wait until another time! All in all this was one of the toughest backpacks I have ever done, but it was still wonderful! I have never seen the stream in Canon Diablo-Campo Noche running with such a continuous flow of water nor had I ever seen a lake in Santa Rosa Meadow before (about 15 miles to the south). As usual we did not see any other people except on the main observatory road (which is presently in great, regraded condition). About 70 people in about 8 different groups had signed in on North Peak and about 10 people had signed in on South peak since last year, including one person who had done Botella Azul, North and South in one day and a group who had done Pinnacle Ridge. I think I prefer enjoying the mountain at a little more of a "leisurely" pace. Stopping at me Meling Ranch, I was sorry to hear that Aida Meling was in the hospital with more health problems, I wish her a speedy and full recovery. In San Telmo, we stopped and had a wonderful (for me at least, as Dennis graciously put up with my bad Spanish) visa and lunch with my friends who live there. The people of San Telmo are truly very amiable and I encourage persons going to the mountains to support them. I am looking forward to my next trip to the area.

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