El Picacho del Diablo, Cerro Botella Azul


By: Wynne Benti


Private Trip

Our group of six, Ron Young, George Toby (who had just celebrated his 73rd birthday), Roy Magnuson, Bobcat Thompson, Scot Jamison and myself met early Friday morning at the home of Joe & Betty McCosker near San Diego, where we consolidated everyone into two vehicles. We briefly visited with Joe and Betty who gave us some of their fine homemade bread. We were on our way to Baja around nine-thirty.

The ride through Baja along the coast was beautiful and pleasantly uneventful. We stopped along the road to the eat the lunches we brought, then continued on to San Pedro de Martir Parque Nacionale. Turning left on the signed road to the Meling Ranch, we drove the lengthy dirt road, passing through small inland communities, to its end at the shack at Los Llanitos. According to various thermometers brought along, the first night’s temperature was in the low forties. The sun set at about 6:30 and when night came on, the sky filled with millions of stars--the heart of the milky way. The wind picked up and throughout the night, played havoc with the Pondersoa pines.

Saturday morning, with loaded packs we started up the drainage below the shack, following it up onto the plateau. We had lunch at the base of Blue Bottle, which was climbed by those who had not previously had the honors of doing so. Side-hilling along the base of the peak, we arrived at Blue Bottle saddle and began the steep descent into the canyon over rugged, boulder-strewn terrain. When we reached the canyon bottom, we could hear the running water of the waterfall at the mouth of Gorrin’s Gulley. The drainage was an obstacle course of rocks and boulders. Old stinging nettles clung to life, full of sting. Before sunset, we arrived at Campo Noche.

When night fell, the wind picked up again. No moon, so the canyon was pitch black. After dinner, we basked in the glow of our headlamps until we heard what sounded like a person rummaging through someone’s belongings. Realizing that all six of us were together, we realized that we had a visitor. A ring-tailed cat swiped cousin Bobcat’s entire package of muffins and most of his chocolate, as well as my package of trail mix. Before retiring, we either hung our food from tree branches or brought it in the tent. Several times during the night, Bobcat was awakened by that ring-tailed cat trying to swipe his bag of food off the branch upon which it was hanging. Around midnight, Bob hauled his food into the tent.

Next morning, off at about a quarter to eight to get the Big Kahuna. Most were carrying three quarts of water. We fought our way through the manzanita and boulder-choked gullies. The weather was perfect--the wind had died down yet there was an occasional breeze. On-on up the mountain, through Night Wash, Slot Wash and eventually Wall Street. What seemed never-ending finally reached its conclusion on the summit around 2pm, overlooking the gulf and the San Pedro Martir Range. We spent only a short time on the summit before turning around and heading back down. The descent was somewhat faster than the ascent. With aching knees and strained muscles, we arrived back at Campo Noche just after sunset.

After a night’s rest, with only one or two visits from our ring-tailed friend, we were up at dawn and off again, back up the canyon around 7:30am. Back over the boulders, crawling over logs, wading through manzanita, oaks and stinging nettles. At one point, as we peacefully ambled along all hell broke loose, as we stepped over a hive of pissed off bees, which decided to go after me! Bees were stinging anb flying everywhere, even in my hair. Bobcat even had to pick one out of my hair.

On-on again. Slow but steady to the top. The packs seemed to feel heavier than they did on the first day. Finally made it to Blue Bottle Saddle where we had lunch. From there, we followed a ducked drainage back across the plateau, where we ran into a NOLS group on a 90 day Baja survival outing. They were as surprised to see us as we were to see them.

We arrived back at the cars at 4:30. Somewhere a long the trail, Scot and Bobcat had come up with the brilliant idea of going to Ensenada for dinner and some margaritas. Unable to convince Roy, George & Ron to drive another five hours on dirt roads and narrow Baja highways after dark, we said good-bye. With Scot “Mr. Baja” Jamison at the wheel, drove to Estero Beach Resort just south of Ensenada. Though the restaurant was closed for “la fumagacion de cucarachas,” we were served dinner and margaritas in the bar where we had a great view of the moonlit ocean and the white-capped breakers rolling into the bay. Next day, back to the McCosker’s in San Diego and eventually home.

My first experience climbing in Mexico eight years ago (Cerro Pescadores and Pico Risco) was overshadowed by our subsequent “ambush” by the machine gun-toting Mexican Army during our exit of Pescadores. Since that time, I dreaded returning to Baja. This climb of El Picacho. . . this marathon event, certainly changed my mind about Baja. It was the best of the Baja peaks. Thanks to Ron, George, Roy, Bobcat and Scot for a wonderful trip.

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