El Picacho del Diablo

Jul 1998

By: Ron Jones



I first climbed Big Picacho in February 1964 on a three day private trip from the east up Canon Diablo which I organized following a failed DPS trip during Thanksgiving 1963. Since 1964 I have made 14 successful climbs of the peak by five different routes or variations. My last climb was 35 years later from the Western Plateau in July of 1998 with Ron and Ellen Grau and Ernie Spiehler. This climb of 1964 is well documented in SAGE #76 then called DPS Newsletter) for those who have files of the back copies. John Robinson, then Editor of the Newsletter, gave six pages to several routes up Big Picacho. Arkel Erb, Gordon MacLeod, (both among the strongest and best climbers in the Angeles Chapter in those years), Ruth Karimi (soon to become Arky's wife), Mike McNicholas (an incredibly strong climber from Britain), Jim Powers and San Diego climber Pat Donegan were my companions on what was a first climb for all of us.

Recently I have noted several climbs of Big Picacho where for one reason or another, the route up Wall Street (then only recently pioneered by my old San Diego friend, Bud Bernhard) was not used and the right fork of Slot Wash was chosen instead. Two of these climbs required significant cl 3-4-5 climbing. On page 9 of SAGE 76 there is a clear drawing taken from my slide, of the fork in the Slot Wash where Wall Street branches off to the left. In 1964 our group also missed the Wall Street route and took the right fork. This is the route (perhaps the first use of this variation) mentioned by John Robinson as an easy route in his book on climbing in the San Pedro Martirs.

Our group used the right fork and encountered no difficulties and then descended by the Wall Street route. At that time I wrote that Arkel and Gordon and all of us felt that the Wall Street route "would be more difficult to ascend than our route on the (right) ridge and therefore we would recommend the right or ridge route".

I've looked again at my original notes and the 1964 article and this is what I wrote at that time. We had seen Wall Street and not recognized it and we chose the right fork:" Fifteen minutes up the (right) fork we ascended the ridge to the left ( which divides Wall Street and the right fork)" We considered this climb to be cl. two and our group of seven never considered using our rope... " We followed the ridge between the two forks of Slot Wash and... crossed (to the right) of the pinnacle at the top of the ridge. A few minutes later the seven of us were on the south summit, the first party to ascend (this peak) since April 17, 1962". (had we crossed to the left of this pinnacle we should have been at the north or true high point.)

On top was the original register and bronze canister placed by the Norman Clyde party of first ascent. I read the register and "there had been a total of 162 ascents recorded in the register since 1932. It took three hours and forty minutes of climbing to gain the south summit from Cedar (oak) camp". We then made the "thirty minute traverse of the ridge between the south and north summits, negotiating several third classes pitches en route".... "The register on the north (higher) summit was damaged by ice and water several years ago and now is not as complete as the register on the south summit." Incidentally, I (Ron) have in my possession much of the original high point register.

The point of my writing this note/report is to state that there is a viable route to the summit of Big Picacho via the right fork and then up the ridge on the left side of this canyon. HAPPY TRAILS

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