El Picacho del Diablo
By: Paul Lipsohn
The idea of escaping the long boulder-hopping route to Big Picacho was spawned several years ago while dodging rattlesnakes at the 3000' level in Diablo Canyon. The plateau had been thoroughly explored, Gorin's Gully had been ascended (and descended), and the route from Campo Noche was long established. Little remained but to put the three together.
Easter week-end was selected as having perhaps the best weather, and a group of 16 was soon collected for the unofficial trip. Our rendezvous at the Observatory Road and Mexico #1 was duly accomplished, and we caravaned to the road end beyond Vallecitos by 10 am. Armed with an excellent map from John Robinson, we were soon headed down the trail. Despite this accurate aid we (I) managed to bypass the correct canyon and take the rather more devious route, eventually passing Tres Palomas, before emerging at the base of Blue Bottle about 4:30 pm. The short night's sleep, the circuitous route with full packs and the unexpectedly high temperatures prompted the group to the unanimous election to camp on the ridge next to the only snow bank on the plateau rather than attempt the tricky descent to Campo Noche.
Saturday morning dawned bright and warm and here a second poor choice was made. Losing sight of the priority for Big Picacho, it appeared we could do Blue Bottle (about 200' above us), shoot down the ridge and climb Tres Palomas and return to camp by noon, leaving plenty of time for the trip down Gorin's Gully to Campo Noche. Needless to say, the trip to Tres Palomas was considerably more involved, with the group reaching the peak about 1 pm, the return trip placing us back in camp at 4:30 again. Since we figured a minimum of 3 more days to get the big one, all but 5 declared themselves unable to devote an extra day to the effort, and ruefully decided to pack out in the morning. Our return to the cars was uneventful and we arrived in L.A. in due time, having refuelled from the Teakettle dinners in one of Ensenada's best.
I subsequently learned to my relief, that the offshoot 5, led by Jim Jones (John Burke, Earl Kesler, Bill Maslow and Eric Bloland) had successfully completed the trip almost as planned and arrived back in L.A. about 4 am on Tuesday. This route appears to be a feasible route and probably can be done in three days--one long one-- with about the same mileage and gain, but without the hazards of lengthy boulder-hopping and rattlesnakes.
Our group enjoyed the beauty of the plateau as well as the accomplishment of bagging both Tres Palomas (too bad this one didn't make the list!), and Blue Bottle (a VABM, no less!)
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