El Picacho del Diablo
By: Dale Van Dalsem
Fourteen of us met at the Los Llanitos turnoff from the observatory road, 58 miles of bone-jarring gravel in from Hwy 1, 85 mi. S. of Ensenada. Scott Sullivan, Dave Petzold, Carolyn West, Vic Henney, Sue Wyman, Ursula & Don Slager, Eddie Nunez, Tom Moumblow, Bill Gray, Steve Smith, Lloyd Brown, Judy Ware, and Dale Van Dalsem were there. Bill Oliver, Barbie Hoffman, Larry Tidbal1, and Scott Jamison were hiking up the canyon from the east, having gone in a day earlier. I led the vehicle caravan a bit too far south, past the high point in the road and into the Los Llanitos drainage. We wandered east & northeast & hooked up with the ducked use trail & followed it to the Blue Bottle saddle, where we dropped packs & did the 450' gain to the summit of 9680' Cerro Botella Azul, Baja's second-highest peak. We followed the ducked, contouring route to the easternmost gully & descended the class 2-3 route toward Campo Noche.
About 1100' above Campo Noche, Don Slager fell & split his forehead open. He bled copiously before Ursula, more accustomed to working on non-bleeding patients (she's a pathologist!), got him bandaged up. We found a good campsite there for Don, Ursula, and Bill Gray, who volunteered to stay with them. I felt badly that the trip had started on a poor note, but Don seemed O.K. The plan was for the three of them to hike out on day 2 while the rest of us climbed El Picacho Del Diablo. We gave the three of them most of our water; we'd have plenty in camp.
We finished hiking down to Campo Noche, getting there about 4:30, despite an hour or two delay. The Gang Of Four from the East had been lounging about for a couple of hours. That night, very strong winds discouraged a fire & we set alarms for 5 A.M.
Saturday A.M. we awoke to 3 inches of snow on the ground and very uncertain weather. Would we have more injuries on slippery, snow-covered rocks? Would the snow be deeper at 10,154 than 6200' Campo Noche? Would more snow fall? Would the cars be snowed in? Would Slagers & Bill get out O.K.? Was Don really O.K.? Best case, the climb to the top & back would be 10-12 hrs instead of 8-9 hrs. Then the Sunday hike out would be 10+ hrs instead of 7 hrs, followed by a 10-11 hr drive home.
Abort. Try it again Memorial Day!!!
We caught up with Slagers and Bill almost back to the top of the Blue Bottle ridge. Missed the traverse trail & went all the way to the ridge and almost climbed Blue Bottle again, on a day when the MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE WAS 20 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT!!
Leader floundered a bit on a short cut to the road & cars, but we came out fine & all vehicles made it out O.K. about 6 P.M. We camped Sat night about 4 miles before reaching Hwy 1, just after San Telmo, near a bridge, and had a leisurely drive home Sunday. No Magna-Sin (unleaded) in Colonet, but there was in San Vicente. One should top off the tank in Ensenada or further south. Magna-sin now 1250 pesos per liter, or $1.50 per gallon, still cheap by world standards, but high for us.
Caveat: The Auto Club Baja book speaks glowingly about all the time one can save by driving East from Tijuana, past the airport, to Otay Mesa border crossing. WRONG! The two lines from Otay Mesa stretched nearly a mile. We drove back to the 32-lane main border crossing and were through in 45 minutes - Then got sent to secondary inspection because I said "Nothing to declare" and Ranger Rick opened our ice chest & some cool Tecates were staring him in the face. Ranger Ralph in secondary inspection was looking for something more mind-altering than Tecate, so he let us skate, but DECLARE ALL YOUR BEER & OTHER BOOZE, FOLKS!!
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