El Picacho del Diablo

April 1957

By: Bud Bingham



(Ed. note: Seven years ago, Desert Peakers Bud Bingham, Vern Jones, and Barbara Lilley made the only known traverse with packs of La Encantada - Up Providencia Canyon, over the twin summits, and down Canyon del Diablo. As this was not written up at the time, and as the trip should be of interest to perspective explorers of La Encantada, we have asked Bud to describe the feat. Following is his account.)

We left L.A. the evening of April 12, 1957 and drove to the end of a rough dirt road about one mile short of the mouth of Providencia Canyon. As our pickup truck was equipped with extra large tires to negotiate sand, we drove about one mile cross country to the canyon mouth.

We shouldered our packs at 7 a.m. the next morning and proceeded up into Providencia Canyon. There was brush in the canyon, but it was not a real problem lower down. Several third to fourth class pitches were negotiated in this canyon without too much difficulty. We continued all day, and at 8 p.m., as darkness fell, we set up camp on a 6000 foot bench slightly north of the canyon proper, as this primary canyon appeared impassable with packs.

On the morning of the second day (5:45 a.m.) we continued our backpack in a southernly direction, crossing Providencia Creek, filled canteens with the last available water, and then made our way through nasty brush to the east ridge of the south peak. This ridge had brief 3rd and 4th class pitches which necessitated roping up our packs once. In one place it was necessary to climb a tree to gain access to a ledge to continue our conquest. We never could see far enough ahead, let alone see the summit, to know whether we were going to be successful in attaining our goal.

Following the east ridge with previously mentioned obstacles and deviations, we reached the summit about 5:00 p.m. The traverse to the north summit took about one hour with packs. At dark we were forced to bivuac 600 verticle feet directly below the north summit in a west facing chute. A tree provided a prop for our sleeping bags to keep us from rolling downhill. We were out of water and none was available. This west-facing chute drains into Canyon del Diablo slightly below Cedar Camp.

At 6:00 a.m. on the third day we started the descent of the steep chute with occasional brief third class pitches, but no serious problems. 1000 feet down it became apparent we must traverse out of the chute for about 1/2 mile to the south to avoid serious problems (too damn steep!). We were able to descend now over steep but easy slopes to Cedar Camp (around 6000'). Following Canyon del Diablo downhill was easy. There was not much brush as the canyon had burned out one year prior. The waterfall at the canyon mouth was not a serious problem as the pool at the base had partially filled with sand. Or problem was to climb as far down over the waterfall as possible by the use of friction, then jump six vertical feet into four foot of water. Packs were tossed down to a man in the water. At 7:00 p.m. we were back to the truck which had been shuttled over from Providencia Canyon by Jo Jones, Vern's wife.

Backpacking time for the three days exceeded 36 hours. The lengthy trip was inspired and lead by Vern Jones. Providencia Canyon and the east ridge certainly involves more physical exertion, more third and fourth class than the more popular Canyon del Diablo route, especially the east ridge and the thorny brush-wack getting to it from 6000 feet. One advantage that Providencia Canyon has is the route: it's much more straight forward and probably easier to follow.

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

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