Carrizo Canyon, Cerro Chato


By: Bob Michael



Fourteen assorted Desert Peaks-, Backpacker-, and Scruf??? type met the morning of 28 December on the northwest outskirts of ?????. John Robinson had promised a wilderness backpack with true ??????? flavor, and we weren't disappointed.

From San Felipe, we caravaned westward towards ????? of Big Picacho. About 15 miles west of town, we came upon a ??? fork; as the left fork said "Private Road, No Trespassing", we ??? for the right side. This latter road leads generally toward Canon de Providencia then, very near the base of the mountains, a 4wd track turns south. The track is essentially obscured where it passes the of the big westside canyons, which have been scoured by the awesome effects of last fall's hurricane. Some of these channels have dangerously soft sand traps, and the route is absolutely limited to 4wd only. One of the vehicles was having some trouble with its front hubs, which refused to lock in four wheel. Ron Fracisco finally got tired of pulling this vehicle with his Scout, and deftly performed a successful repair job on the balky hubs in the middle of a wash.

Some 20 or so miles of boondocking south of the Cajon ???? area, we turned up into Canon Aqua Caliente on a rough track which ????? off at the jacales of a few cowherds who manage to scrape together a living in this remote place. We drove the better part of the mile up canyon and had lunch. We then hiked a couple miles up the canyon to the hot springs which give the canyon its name. It was good to get some exercise after riding all day, but the springs were a bit of a disappointment, hot, but small, and without any place to take a dip. (If there had been any soaking pools constructed in the canyon bottom, they had been completely erased by the hurricane.) Canon Aqua Caliente, at least its lower part, does not seem to be one of the more scenic of the westside canyons. The lower part is flat and wide, and no palm trees were seen.

Four miles south of the entrance to Aqua Caliente is the mouth of Canon Carrizo. We camped in a clearing that appeared to be an old adobe brick yard. Next morning we backpacked four pleasant and leisurely miles up the canyon to a campsite at 3300 feet, gaining about l000 feet. Having heard many stories about the wild and fearsome Baja canyons, I was expecting man-eating brush and third class climbing with backpacks. Instead, we had an easy, at times sandy hike past stands of rustling blue palms and obscenely gnarled cardon cacti. The canyon was mostly dry, and what water there was, was scummy and stagnant-looking, but one natural tinaja above a little waterfall 15 minutes below camp held cold, fresh water. As we arrived in camp about 10 AM, peak-bagging tigers were treated to the rare experience of a lazy afternoon relaxing around camp. For this refugee from the dreary Colorado winter, it was a chance to lie back and let the desert's sweet peace flow through my mind and body.

Next morning we did the straightforward climb of Cerro Chato, 6447' (highest in the southern half of the San Pedro Martir), about 3 miles straight west from camp. We climbed a fairly steep ridge which rose straight from our sleeping bags to join the summit plateau at about 5500 feet. From here, it was a gentle up-and-down ramble to the base of the peak, a steep, somewhat cruddy hill of densely brush-clad pink rhyolite erupted atop the granite tableland. The view from the breezy top included Big Picacho, the southern end of the high forested plateau, the Gulf, and jumbled unknown ranges stretching south into the haze of distance beyond the wells of Canon Matomi. We placed a register as possibly the first "gringo" ascent. There was plenty of time left in the day to backpack out to the cars.

Next morning we were treated to a fiery, prismatic "tequila sunrise" as the day broke through layers of low clouds. The mountains to the west were shrouded in mist and drizzle, which dampened the enthusiasm of most of us to stay another day and explore Canon Berrendo to the south. We left behind a few diehards who were thinking of staying and whooping it up New Years Eve in San Felipe. Not wanting to plow through the sand traps again on the way out, we "trespassed" on the private road, which is not only much better but shorter. Periods of unaccustomed heavy rain accompanied us on the highway back to Mexicali. We were grateful to John for his uncanny ability to forecast the weather so far in advance, and schedule his trip accordingly.

Bob Michael
Brown Bear Mountaineering Club
Boulder, Colorado

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