El Picacho del Diablo


By: Dick Beach


For this weekend vacation, 25 people showed up at the roadhead. I am sure the rain discouraged another 20 from coming. Co-Leader Ed Lane had gone down a week earlier to clear the trail and to set fixed ropes over the rough places. It seems it was raining the week before and it looked like there was no real weeather clearing as our group approached the trek date. We all carvaned to the trailhead where we met Ed.

Beginning Thurs morning we spent the day hiking seven miles up Diablo Canyon. Everyone spent a fine Thanksgiving in a rainy mist. At 7 AM Fri we got under way and made Campo Noche that afternoon. There it rained all night, but not enough to discourage the climb.

Saturday morning greeted us dark and gloomy with rain. Twenty-five started out enroute for the final morning ascent. In Wall Street chute, about 600' below the summit, tragedy struck, when SPS Emblem Member Joe Darrow suffered a fatal heart attack. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for one hour was of no avail. The place was marked where he passed out. The group then buried the body, because of the difficulty of egress. The enthusiasm of the climb was broken, as thirteen of the team returned to camp. Others pressed on to the peak. The clouds and rain were so bad that no one could see the peak. The ridge between the two summits was finally attained and eleven persons found the true summit, staying only long enough to enter their names in the register. We returned via the Wall Street chute to be greeted by a large camp fire.

Sunday morning came early and wet, and all began their packout to the cars. People had some trouble finding their cars, since it was already dark, but thanks to Louise Werners' group and their car horns, we all reached our cars. But the event was not over! We had to cross Diablo dry lake - only to find it too muddy to cross. Only a few dry sleeping bags were present. Monday morning greeted us with sun, which allowed us to dry out our gear a bit. The Mexican rancher showed us a route out, though in spots everyone had to get out and push. Once out on the paved Hiway 5, the home drive was without problems.

The 1967 Picacho climb will be a long-remembered occurrence.

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