El Picacho del Diablo


By: Ron Grau


We used a leisurely 5 day time period from Wednesday 10/27 through Sunday 10/31. 1 went with Neal Scott and Garnet Roehm. We met at Garnet's house in Vista at 7 AM.

Our trip required that we obtain the new Mexican Tourist Permit. We crossed the border at Otay-Mesa to avoid the TJ crowds. The new procedure requires stopping at Mexican immigration to fill out a form, then one must go to the nearest bank (400 feet away) and pay 150 pesos (about $15), then back to immigration to show proof of payment, and obtain the final stamped form. The total time took about 45 minutes. Ironically, no one in Mexico asked for any paperwork of any kind. We were just waved through all checkpoints and arrived at Vallecitos in the San Pedro Martir about 6 PM. Wednesday night was cold, about 25 degrees. One can no longer drive down to the shack.

Due to the cold, we slept in Thursday morning and got a late start. It is a longer hike (about 6 miles) from Vallecitos. The route finding was a little confusing as everything looks alike. We arrived at Blue Bottle about 2 PM. We had an uneventful, but somewhat rushed hike to reach Campo Noche before dark (arrived after 5 PM).We encountered no other people on the hike/climb.

It was warm at Campo Noche, in the 50's. On Friday, we left Campo Noche when it was still partially dark, about 6:30 AM. We had some route finding problems going up Slot Wash. We missed the turn off for Wall Street and continued up Slot Wash. We reached a headwall that involved some 4th and 5th class climbing. Garnet is an excellent rock climber, and he led the route. Fortunately, we took a 100 foot 5.5 mil rope. We had to climb 2 pitches; 20 feet of 4th class and about 10 feet of 5th class. From that spot, we could walk up to the summit ridge, but we arrived at the mid point between the north and south summits. Some 3rd and 4th rock scrambling got us onto the true north summit at 2 PM. We were excited to be on the summit of Big P, but we had the same problem as the prior day; to get to camp before dark. We descended the standard route (Wall Street-Slot Wash-Night Wash) arriving at Campo Noche at 5:30, just at twilight. God, I would not want to bivouac on Big P!!! I was exhausted. Big P is truly one tough peak.

The second night at Campo Noche was considerably cooler. We did not have any problems with the ring tailed cats getting our food.

Saturday morning, we slept in, leaving Campo Noche at 9 AM for the climb out of the canyon. With a slow but steady pace we arrived at Blue Bottle saddle at 2 PM. However, for the third day in a row we had the same problem; a race against darkness. On the hike back to Vallecitos, we had some route finding complications, arriving at the cars about 6 PM. We popped a few cold beers and some chips for a celebration. With Big P, I am not sure if one celebrates getting the peak, or that one just survived without any serious injury. Maybe some of each. We went to one of the camp spots, made dinner, and continued the party. The night was again cold (my water bottles froze), but we had a fire and the spirits were high. Garnet has done alot of climbing in Alaska, including a successful accent of Denali. One of his goals is to climb a significant peak every year until he turns 50. 1 asked him if Big Picacho counted as a significant peak. His insightful response was that "he had never climbed so much 3rd class with a full pack". Yes, he considered Big P a very significant trophy. Neal needed the peak to finish the DPS list on Whipple in December. So he also was ecstatic. On Sunday, we left Vallecitos about 9 for the drive down the 60+ mile dirt road. We stopped in Ensenada at La Paulona for lunch. We carivaned for the whole trip, but got seperated in TJ. We crossed the border at Otay-Mesa and arrived at home about 9 PM;. Neal at TJ with only about a 7 minute wait. I was glad to be home in one piece. I can't remember a trip in which I was so exhausted. I did Big Picacho in 1998 and again in 1999. Will I do it again in 2000? No Way! Ron

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