Cerro Pescadores, Pico Risco


By: Doug Bear


Cerro Pescadores & Pico Risco - Doug Mantle’s 5th DPS List Finish! Seven brave souls met in Calexico on Thursday March 20th and caravanned three vehicles to the starting point for Pescadores. Driving the dirt roads from Mexico Highway 5 can be confusing, and we had our share of it! We enjoyed a nice campfire dinner and slept under the stars. In the morning, all seven participants started out for and climbed Pescadores, even though only one or two of us “needed” it. The gluttons for punishment were Doug Mantle, Duane McRuer, Gene Mauk, Mary Motheral, Carol and George Hubbard, and Doug Bear. We proceeded on foot from the 4WD starting point at the mouth of (gap in) the wash near the northern tip of “7 Antennae Hill.” The 230 degree gendarme (actually a 25-30’ tall jumbo boulder) is visible from this starting point (very high up on the ridge) as well as the summit, which is behind and to the right of the “gendarme.” We walked the sandy, boulder-strewn wash (vehicle tracks in it for several hundred yards) for about one mile, and took a short break at the base of the ridge, which starts out as a steep, rough slope with nary a duck. We ascended the slope out of our shady wash, and into the hot sun. After a few hundred feet, the slope became a ridge, and descended 50’ into the first of three “notches.” The route continued along the ridge and descended into another notch. There were no ducks along the route until after the second notch, but there were faint traces of human passage. We continued to ascend the rough (rocky) class two ridge until we reached the “gendarme” boulder (see photo). Shortly after that, we descended 150’ per the peak guide to a notch, and finished the route up the “scenic gully” and to the summit as described in the peak guide. This remarkable journey marked the 30 year anniversary of Doug, Mac, and George’s first ascent of Pescadores (I hope I got that right!). We were all feeling the effects of the sun, as well as the roughness of the route, which included over 3,000 feet of gain. From the summit we picked out a dirt road that appeared to offer a more direct and less confusing drive to the starting point. After lunch, everyone descended at a pace he or she was comfortable with, which meant that Doug and I charged down to the cars. After guzzling some fluids, Doug and I drove a quarter mile to the start of the road we spied from the summit, and followed it out to Highway 5. It was MUCH better than the way we came in. On the DPS “dirt scale” it would be rated 2WD “good to fair.” Here’s the scoop: From the intersection of Mexico 2 and 5, go south toward the Rod & Gun Club per the peak guide. About 50 - 100 yards BEFORE Km Post 22 (—2.5 Km before the Rod & Gun Club) pull onto the shoulder, in order to investigate the feasibility of this driving option. There are some mounds of dirt blocking the entrance to a road. We squeezed by (many other vehicles had done it too) and drove 50-75 feet to a “private property” sign. Make a SHARP left here past another dirt mound, and enter the good to fair dirt road. Drive 3.1 miles (with no confusing intersections or turns) right to the mouth of (gap in) the wash. If you have 4WD, at 3.1 miles, the road becomes deep sand and you can follow tracks right up the wash another half mile (approximation). After our examination of the new driving option, we returned to share the good news with the rest of the party. We all drove out this “new” road and agreed it was much better than the traditional one. Essentially, if one can drive the first 50 yards, the next 3.1 miles are much better, less confusing, and do not require 4WD. After reaching the pavement, we caravanned to the turnoff for Canon de Guadalupe (good signs from Mexico Hwy 2, involving a U-Turn to the start of the dirt road driving). The beginning of the “excellent” dirt road is paved, but quickly gives way to 27 miles of irritating, vibrating washboard. About 27 miles in, a sign “Canon de Guadalupe” points where to bear right toward the campground, 7 or 8 miles further (the last two miles involve a sandy and rock-studded roadway). Pico Risco is very prominent these last few miles. We arrived at camp flustered and exhausted, but quickly put it all behind us, and enjoyed a wonderful evening. Saturday March 22nd, we arose and prepared for the big day Doug’s 5th DPS List finish climb of Pico Risco. Three party members opted to enjoy the campground facilities, which included a hot spring and beer store, and four mountain-toughened climbers - Doug Mantle, Gene Mauk, George Hubbard, and myself set off in the HOT sun for Pico Risco, a risky peak indeed. Doug had spoken with Greg Roach the week before the climb, and Greg generously supplied him with info regarding a better option for reaching the summit. Doug Mantle expertly led us to this excellent trail route. Basically, from the campground entrance, head east and cross the creek. Ascend a steep, loose (class2) bluff or slope and continue east to the sand and boulders wash. I would estimate this distance to be one kilometer. Follow the wash south, and pick up a well-ducked trail. I would characterize it as an “indian trail” since we concluded that it was probably used often in the past before the advent of the motor car. Anyhow, it is well ducked and easy to follow (once you have found it!). We followed this trail for, I’m guessing, four plus miles to the plateau and saddle at approx. 4,500’. The summit rocks are visible (approx. one km to the north) from this saddle (see photo). We were all beat (well, 75% of us!) at this point from the hot sun, and elevation gain coming on the heels of the previous day, but pressed on. From the saddle, we spotted a boulder on the slope to the north with a large white painted square (and cross on the other side). We dropped down 100 or 200 feet into a lovely sandy wash with pinon trees and walked beyond the painted rock above us on the slope, intersected the route from San Luis, then cut upslope 400 feet of gain to the summit ridge. We followed the ridge to the summit per the peak guide, climbing over, under, and between great boulders to the final summit slab, which involved an exposed three foot wide step-across move. Thoroughly exhausted from the 4,000 foot climb, we rejoiced and celebrated Doug’s fantastic, incredible accomplishment. After a half hour of lunch, snacks, and other delights, we began the arduous descent to Canon de Guadalupe Campground - on the trail route of course! We got a little separated at times, but everyone made it back in one piece. Another fine happy hour and dinner followed, and Gene presented Doug with a lovely card and book on the Sierra Nevada. It was all over so quickly, and Sunday morning found us caravanning back to Mexicali, trying to figure out the way to the border crossing! Everyone got across without any problems (we waited in tandem on the shoulder) and began the long drives back to our respective homes. Thank -you to everyone who attended for contributing to this fine list finish extravaganza . I hear Doug has at least 25 desert peaks for the 6th time! -Doug Bear (Thanks to my wife Shana for helping me with this document!)

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