Picacho Peak


By: Bob Sumner


(Private Trip)

Eight not-so-eager peak seekers met Saturday morning at 8:00 AM: Dan Richter, Devra Wasserman, Jim Brown, Maria Giles, Barbara Cohen, Jim Raiford, Lisa Sandsness, and Bob Sumner. The adventures began the night before. First, Jim B and Maria encountered a deep sand stretch on the "excellent graded" Picacho Rd. They spent two hours digging out their low-slung 2WD by hand, and arrived at the trailhead exhausted at 3:00 AM.

Meanwhile, Jim R and Barbara were puzzling over the latest peak guide instructions. They ended up in an orchard at 1:00 AM where Jim's battery died. They pushed the car for two hours trying to reverse their route, while at the same time being sprayed by very low flying crop dusters. They gave up and slept until 5:45 AM. Daylight revealed that they were in the middle of a lettuce field. While walking to some nearby houses to get help, a good samaritan came by, drove them back to the car, and jump-started it. They joined the group right on time.

The mosquito-infested trailhead motivated us to get going by 8:45 AM. However, Jim R decided to get his car out while he could. So the remaining seven of us hiked across a very warm desert floor (95+), up the semi-shady wash, and on up to the saddle west of the peak. Multitudes of orange butterflies and blooming ocotillos were enjoyed enroute.

The scramble up the chute went without incident, and soon we were at the notch. Here we donned harnesses and quickly proceeded to the first ladder. All took a belay on this flimsy but welcome aid. We set up a fixed line at the jump-across, and continued up to the second flimsy ladder, which we also belayed. The short exposed pitch to the false summit was easily mounted by all. Here we found a toilet containing a register. Some of us perched atop this porcelain throne and were photographed for posterity. The now summit-hungry group quickly rappelled off the false summit and scrambled up to the real one. We signed in and had a snack but didn't stay long: no shade here. We prussiked back up to the false summit, belayed the down climb, and rappelled past the ladders. Shouts of joy echoed off the walls as we returned to the notch.

The shady north wall had provided welcome relief from the sun, but we warmed up again descending the chute. Here we had an unfortunate mishap. About 150 feet above the bottom of the chute, Devra stepped on a loose 2' by 3' boulder. Legs and boulder tangled, fell, and slid toward an 80' drop-off. They stopped, but the boulder landed hard on Devra's knee. Lisa quickly lifted it up so Devra could get out. No broken bones were detected, and she was able to walk out under her own power, albeit painfully.

The sun slid behind the peak as the heat-baked group hiked out. Everyone devoured cold drinks upon returning to the cars. The sand-strewn road didn't slow us as we now had a new objective: The Sizzler in Yuma. Our bellies quickly filled as we pondered the plan for the next day.

Sunday, Jim B, Maria, and Barbara opted for Indianhead, which they conquered in the now familiar 95+ heat. Dan, Lisa, and Bob hiked the cooler climes of Cuyamaca and Stonewall Pks, while Devra rested her swollen purple knee. Later examination revealed it to be a very badly bruised knee: no permanent damage. A memorable weekend that we won't soon forget.

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