El Picacho del Diablo


By: Ron Bartell


Left LA at noon on Friday and got to within 2 miles of the trail head by 10:30 pm. Near Ensenada were searched for drugs by friendly machine gun toting Federales wearing United States Marine Corps (USMC) fatigues. Park entrance gate was closed but a ranger appeared and let us in at 10PM. Left a grateful $10 tip.

Starting from the park entrance station the route to the trail head was as follows: An open gate at 8.6 miles. A sign saying Vallecitos Meadows at 9.2 miles. A sign saying Parque Nacional at 10.0 miles. The first observatory sign appeared at 10.1. Just past the second observatory sign (10.2) was a 120 degree turnoff to the right onto a dirt track. Dirt track became briefly indistinct at 10.4 near a shack. The trail head was at the bottom of a very shallow wash at 12.3.

Started hiking Saturday at 7AM up the canyon shown on enclosed topo. Trail was fairly easy to follow most of the way to Blue Bottle, although we occasionally lost it. Going in we passed over the top of Blue Bottle and briefly lost the trail. Coming back we discovered that the trail crosses at the bottom of the saddle a few hundred feet north of Blue Bottle. From this saddle to the bottom of Gorin's gully there are ducks every 10 feet or so. At one point this ducked trail crossed a gully full of snow that was a little dicey. We had missed this snow when going in by having gone over the top of Blue Bottle. We got to Campo Noche at 4:30. Some brush and stinging nettle in the canyon bottom made for slow going the last mile to camp. We took some pretty hefty breaks going in, so probably could have done it in 7 hours (coming out took 7 hours from Campo Noche, involving more uphill but less route-finding). As it gets dark after 7 this time of year one might start marching in as late at 11AM, although this wouldn't leave much margin for error.

On Sunday we headed up Night Wash at 7AM, reaching the summit at 11:30. Left for the south summit at 12:20. The primary problem in getting from the north to the south summit is a pinnacle about a third of the way toward the south summit. From the little saddle just south of the north summit we dropped down a bit to the west and traversed toward a dead tree which marked an approach to the notch separating the north summit and the pinnacle. This led up to a big sloping slab at the north baSe of the pinnacle. Ron tried the ledge to the west of the pinnacle, but it had a fair amount of exposure and didn't seem to lead anywhere. The ledge around on the east side looked exposed until we were actually on it. Ron belayed us chickens. We later agreed that the belay was unnecessary. Once beyond the pinnacle we traversed around to the southwest of the south summit and on up to the top about 2PM. We then worked our way down to the base of Wall Street (some third class), getting back to Campo Noche at 6:30. Julie King, Steve Crooks and George Tucker joined us about 7:15, having come up via Diablo Canyon.

Getting out on the third day was a snap. We left camp about 6AM, arriving at the saddle north of Blue Bottle at 10:15, the car at 1PM and home by 11PM.

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