Sombrero Peak, Jacumba Mountain


By: John Linden



Twenty-seven HPS types wearing their seasonal DPS hats showed up at 7:00 AM at the Bow Willow Campground roadhead for the sombrero soiree. March is too late for these peaks, and the weather was a little too warm. Hardly any snakes were encountered, and only one rattler, Norm Schmidt reputedly doing a neat Teaberry Shuffle over him. The flowers had been very profuse when we scouted the area in February, and the display was just as good for the main event.

The peak can most easily be bagged by aiming for the high conical summit visible on the north side of the west-running Bow Willow Canyon. Don't be misled by the nice sandy wash. It repeatedly ends up in jazzy looking palm groves. These can be rated as class 3 orchards with ticks, and you fight your way thru knee deep palm fronds and climb over and around huge rocks. Don't be a hero; stay on the rock, brush, and cactus covered slope on the right side of the canyon, and when in doubt go up. It is only about two or three miles to the summit as the Old Crow flies, but since we were only drinking warm water, it seemed more like four or five miles. The summit is only class 2, but could be more if you are particularly inept; and kind of fun. All of the group made it. I credit this to careful screening of the participants, some scary roadhead talk, and some very slow leading. (If you want to see some fast leading, catch my act on a bus trip!)

True to the finest traditions of the LUGS (Langsam und Gemuetlich Section), Betty and I had our ice cold beer on the summit. We then took a whole hour to savor the summit. When the natives started to become restless, I wisely decided to lead them down. On the way down we stopped to rest in the shade of a palm grove. This was curtailed when we discovered it was lousy (ticky?) with ticks. We were back in camp by 3:00 with time for more refreshments. We then moved on to our next camp after stopping in the great southwest metropolis, Ocotillo, to get gassed up and to procure something to get gassed up with later.

Jacumba would make a good peak for the HPS list, but the three mile round trip and 1100 foot gain hardly comes up to DPS standards. The route is right toward the far end of the visible ridge across rolling country, and a steep class one climb to the ridge. However, on this peak it is the road which tests the true desert rat. It is rough, and has many decision points. Have you ever strained yourself pushing somebody's car out of a rut while you were backing a caravan out of a wrong turn while some joker stands by and cuttingly asks if you know where the mountain is? Do we have any special awards for peakbaggers who have successfully participated in 'X" number of outings without being tempted to lead or help others in need?

Anyhow, we got to our campsite where we had dinner and celebrated St. Pat's by drinking green rum drinks (what was that, Kay?), telling Polack stories, and wondering when those ugly, fast moving clouds would dump on us and douse our fire. I had planned to tube tent it, but the wind was brutal, so I decided to live like a genuine tourist (circa 1945, before campers and trailers), and I pitched my old umbrella tent. It did look weird on a Sierra Club outing, and Betty promptly named it the JACUMBA JILTON. (Jacumba, like Jacinto, is not a Scandinavian word!) After driving my pegs into bedrock, and putting huge boulders on top of them, I sacked out. About 1:00 AM I awoke. It was rough outside and getting worse. At 5:00 thepole tore thru the tent top. As the Jacumba Jilton slowly sank. into the west, I went thru my Laurel and Hardy routine. I got my fingers pinched, a flailing metal arm belted me in the eye, and I finally had to retreat. The Toyota reclining sea wasn't nearly as bad as I had remembered it. I finally got to sleep in time for Doug Hough to awake me at 7:00.

It was an ugly morning. Our Sunday arrivals came, and we took off at 7:50 wearing everything we owned. Betty waited for the Stein family, but caught up with us going up the ridge. We were all on the summit by 9:15, and were in no mood to linger as it was miserably cold and windy. Norm and Maureen Schmidt got their DPS emblems, but the champagne was deferred until we returned to the cars. Then the wind quit, the air warmed up, the sun came out, and it looked like a nice day to go hiking; but by this time the bubbly had weakened our moral fiber and our plans to climb Whale kind of died. A few die-hards led by Jack Grams of the San Diego chapter took off to climb North Peak, and I herded the rest of them back out of the boonies to the paved road, where they either got home or are still circling around somewhere in San Diego County.

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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