El Picacho del Diablo


By: Erik Siering


You really have to love boulders and brush to enjoy this one. Some years ago, I spied-the three distinctive beautiful pink-white granite pyramids of Tres Palomas ("Three Doves") from El Picacho del Diablo (DPS' Big Picacho). Situated on the edge of the Sierra San Pedro de Martir plateau in Baja California, they overlook the sheer eastern escarpment. Cerro El Pico del Diablo is the given topo name of the middle, highest summit. When I dropped from our group's test this year of the Pinnacle Ridge route on Big Picacho, I impulsively went for Tres Palomas from our camp at Blue Bottle Saddle.

Lacking a route description, I pursued the course shown on Jerry Schad's otherwise excellent "Parque Nacional San Pedro de Martir" map. After crossing Cerro Botella Azul (aka Blue Bottle Peak, 9680') the route flanks the rocky crest, then ascends a granite peaklet and the first Paloma before attaining the center apex. I appreciate Schad's work, but I doubt that the author experienced this reconunended route. It is a mess.

Beyond the peaklet, the ridge deteriorates into a roller coaster gauntlet of immense third class boulders and thorny brush. Although it bypasses the gendarmes, just to the west isn't much of an improvement. And east of the ridge is quite steep. Difficulties ease only briefly on the north Paloma. I climbed third class diagonally across the western face of the principal peak to the summit.

Flogging this route from camp to the top consumed five hours. My return went better as I steered far west for the broad, grassy drainage up to Cerro Botella Azul. Over a mile longer, but without boulders this is much less tedious. Despite being slowed by the midday heat, I was back to our camp site in four hours.

The climbers' register atop the boulder-strewn highpoint dates to 1973. A spiral-bound notebook in a glass Tang jar, placed by Gordon MacLeod and Barbara Lilley. Other noteworthy entries include those of Bud Bingham and John W. Robinson. At least two DPS exploratory trips have been led. Some climbers had to make repeated attempts to reach the summit. The last entry was eight years ago in 1992. [I later gleaned entertaining trip reports from Marty Goodman (Sage #220, July 1992) and Ron Jones (Sage #197, August 1988) that recount their efforts on Tres Palomas... more on boulders and brush.]

Excellent views make the isolated promontory of Tres Palomas a worthwhile objective. The southeast aspect of Pinnacle Ridge and the twin summits of Big Picacho towering over Canon Teledo directly below are breathtaking. But I'd left my camera at home!

Stats: from Blue Bottle Saddle 8 miles, 3000 ft gain, 9 hours roundtrip.

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

DPS Archives Index | Desert Peaks Section