Cerro Pescadores, Pico Risco
By: Sue Holloway
A few months ago I compared notes with several other DPS members and found that we all "needed" Pescadores and Pico Risco. We quickly agreed on the date, marked our calendars and hoped that weather issues wouldn't force us to postpone our plans.
I looked at the Auto Club's Imperial County map and decided that we could spend Sunday night at Heber Dunes SRVA near Calexico and caravan across the border early Monday morning. I assumed that a county park would be well-marked and easy to find but that wasn't the case. I arrived just before dark and the only reason I figured out where to turn was because there were some vehicles towing off-road vehicles and driving on the road coming from the park. (There was no signage indicating the park at all!) Since I had cell phone service, I left my phone on which was a good thing because about 6:30 or so Bob Hoeven called. He'd been driving back and forth on Heber Road and couldn't find the park. I ended up driving back to Heber Road so he could see where to turn in. After visiting a bit, Bob's friend and passenger, Ron Eckelmann, set up his tent and we all retreated for the night as it was very windy. I left my phone on, hoping that Ann and Dave Perkins would call as they were to meet us at the park also. (Note: To find the park, drive 8.3 miles east of the town of Heber on Heber Road. Just before you get to a large grove of trees, turn south on an easy to miss road. If you drive over a canal, you've gone too far. The park would be very noisy during the day but is a decent place to just camp for the night before proceeding across the border at Calexico.)
Our pre-arranged departure time from the park was 6:30 a.m. and that's when we finally connected with the Perkins' who actually had found the park but, in the dark, passed the area where we were camping. Crossing the border was quite easy and we used Doug Bear's driving instructions from when he climbed Pescadores with another group in March 2003. (We all agreed that the driving route he described was straightforward and y~y easy to follow. The only thing we would modify is that the turn-off from Hwy. 5 is 5-10 yards (rather than 50-100 yards) before Km post 22.) Since we all had 4WD, we drove another mile or so past the 2WD area and started our climb from there.
The route, as described in the peaks guide, went well and our roundtrip time was 8 hours. (That included plenty of breaks and a lengthy lunch on the summit.) It was cold and windy for most of the day so we were always trying to find sheltered areas but at least heat wasn't an issue. Once we were back to the cars, we drove to the 2WD parking area where there was a well-used fire ring. In no time at all, Bob had a fire going and we were all enjoying happy hour. Ann had made a big pot of chili so we all enjoyed chili and cornbread for dinner later. It was a beautiful evening. . . .clear skies with the lights of Mexicali twinkling in the distance and what seemed to be a million stars overhead. There was virtually no wind once the sun went down and that all made for a perfect evening in the desert.
We were up bright and early Tuesday morning as we were to meet John Strauch (who only needed Pico Risco) and his friend, Cindy Couty, between 8-9 a.m. at the dirt road turn-off in La Rumorosa. We had to stop for gas so we were a few minutes late meeting them. We began the kn~ drive in to Rancho San Luis. For the most part, if you follow the signs to the "Ponderosa", you won't go wrong. Once you pass the "Ponderosa", follow the signs to Laguna Hanson and before you reach it, it's easy to see the well-marked turn-off to Rancho San Luis. Though the drive in is long, the road is in excellent shape.
Our plans were to climb Pico Risco "if we had time on Tuesday". Otherwise, we'd get up early Wednesday morning and climb it then. Though we didn't get to the trailhead until noon, most of us were anxious to get the peak climbed. So, we quickly took our food and clothing donations to the family at the house and Dave (who speaks a little Spanish) explained to them that we were parked by the gate and wanted to camp there after our hike. (Though I'm not sure they fully understood what we were doing (not to mention why!), they were very grateful for the bounty of things we gave them and we encountered no difficulties whatsoever while we were there.)
By 12:40 p.m. we headed off, with headlamps stashed in our packs. In our haste, we took the bearing and headed off without really carefully reading the instructions in the guide. So, we got tangled up in the bushes a couple of times and, after more effort than really necessary, we got to the saddle where the peak comes in to view. From there, we got to the saddle south of the peak and then went up the ridge. Now, I'd done this peak before and it certainly would have been helpful if I had remembered a thing or two about this part of the climb but, unfortunately, it was as if I was looking at the jumble of boulders for the first time! I quietly slinked to the rear of the group Dave and John explored a couple of options while Bob tried yet another possibility and Ron a fourth. It was now 3:30 and, even though the summit was very close, it was far from being 'in the bag'. Finally, John found the key and we were all quickly at the base of the summit block. After the step-across, we didn't spend much time on the summit block; we all just signed the register and got down all the boulders. It was a little after 4 p.m. when we were back at the saddle south of the peak. From there we continued our descent and then easily spotted the obvious ducked route that we had missed on the way in. Our pace was fast as we were all anxious to get back before it got totally dark and we succeeded in that, reaching the cars at 5:30.
Around the campfire that night, we all had reason to celebrate. John had now done all the Mexican peaks, Cindy and Bob had climbed 2 of the 4 and Ron, Dave, Ann and I had climbed 3 of the 4. We enjoyed another beautiful evening of good food and conversation after a successful climb.
The next morning we left at 8 a.m. for the close to 3 hour drive back to La Rumorosa. From there we continued in a caravan to Tecate and it only took us a few minutes to all get across the border though the officials did inspect inside the Perkins' camper.
My thanks to everyone for such a great trip!
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