El Picacho del Diablo
By: Tina Stough, Joe Stephens
In quest of del Diablo, Joe and I crossed the border at Tijuana about 8 a.m. Friday morning and headed to Ensenada and then on to the Observatorio Road, identified by the Rancho Meling sign. It took us about tres horas to drive in the dirt road--we had no trouble crossing the rivers in my 2WD truck--all the way to our parking spot more than a mile further in the road from the normal "trailhead," which was barely marked by a duck. Senor John McCully had a write-up (May 14, 1989 trip) describing parking just beyond the log across the road, but the log now seems to be gone or is much farther down the road. We had a good place to park off the road and were a short distance from the trail, which parallels the road for the first mile or more. We picked up the trail--faint at times but generally well-ducked--to Blue Bottle Saddle, where we camped. We had a great campsite at the saddle and could look at our route up the peak for the next day. We had packed in the water we needed for dinner and breakfast.
Saturday we left camp about 5:30 and headed to Cedaroak Camp, filling two water bottles each there. Three might be better--we were pretty thirsty by the time we got back to the stream. We only had a few nettles and a little brush to deal with since we soon crossed from Cedaroak Camp into Boulder Wash. A few hundred feet up this wash we spotted the Teapot, a prominent bulging rock high on the ridge to the left which has a "nose" giving the impression of a spout. We turned left into the gully that follows up and behind the Teapot, as described in John Robinson's Camping and Climbing in Baja p. 85 (presently out of print). The route goes straight up this gully and crosses the ridge. As we went up, we sometimes exited right onto somewhat exposed but not very difficult slabs. From the notch above the Teapot, we contoured over to the 8' tree snag which Robinson describes, going low where the climbing became difficult and cost us some time. On the way back we found a mucho better route that stays fifty to one hundred feet above the prominent snag. We picked up ducks just above the snag, climbed up the ridge briefly and then bushwhacked down into Slot Wash, where we followed the normal route, taking the freeway offramp over to Wall Street and up to the summit--well-ducked and easy to follow with two pairs of eyes (neither of us had been here before). We were on the summit before noon and hadn't been moving particularly fast with the rough terrain and various breaks. Thanks again to Joe for navigating. On the way back we generally retraced our steps. As we dropped down to Boulder Wash from the Teapot, we tended to exit to the right--more into brush rather than left onto the slabs, following a few ducks here where the gully was too steep at times. We finally reached the stream again and loaded up on lemonade. The grind back up to Blue Bottle went methodically--I was very grateful that I was only carrying a daypack. We were back to our campsite at 7 p.m. and began hiking out a little later. Camping again at the saddle would be the sensible thing to do, but we were hoping to be back in San Diego the next day for Joe's 1:30 flight home. Darkness fell and we ended up camping again about an hour from the truck and were soon out the next morning--missing Joe's flight, however.
We liked this route since it avoids carrying a full pack into Canon del Diablo and bypasses the nettles and brush between Cedaroak Camp and Campo Noche. Leaving LA between 5 and 6 a.m., climbers will have time for the drive and the hike in to the first night's camp, enjoying the scenery and watching out for the potholes on Baja highway 1 and the hungry, extroverted burro on the Observatorio road, who had his head all the way in the car from the driver's window to the passenger's seat, going for apples, gear shifts, and open soft drinks! Camping at Blue Bottle again the second night still allows one to get back home at a decent hour the third day. John Robinson's description and Jerry Schad's map ("Parque Nacional San Pedro Martir Topographic Map and Visitor's Guide to Baja's Highest Mountain"--from the Map Centre in San Diego  291-3830) were very helpful. Muchas gracias, Senor McCully, for suggesting the camp at Botella Azul.
Sage editor's note: The log across the road was removed several years ago, I now know such things don't make good landmarks. 4WD vehicles now usually follow the road to the shack at Las Llanitas which is shown on the map Tina mentions. The map can also be obtained by sending $5 and a SASE for 2 ounces to Jerry Shad at Centra Publications, PO Box 191029, San Diego, CA 92159. Water can usually be found about 1/2 mile West of Blue Bottle saddle.
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