Forum Index > Trip Reports > Picacho del Diablo 10,154' - Nov 17,18,19, 2014
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Gimpilator
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PostSun Nov 30, 2014 5:32 pm 
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Picacho del Diablo (Peak of the Devil) is the highest point of Baja Mexico and is considered the toughest ascent on the Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section list.  The terrain is rugged, steep and route finding is difficult.  The standard route drops down 3000 feet into a rocky canyon before climbing back up to reach the summit.  Success rates are relatively low.

trailhead
trailhead

It took us most of a day to drive from Laguna Beach California to the trailhead in Sierra de San Pedro Mártir National Park.  When we crossed the border into Mexico, we were waved through without even stopping.  We paid our fee inside the park and proceeded to car camp.  The temperature was nearing freezing when we set up camp at the 8000 foot trailhead located on a high plateau.

observatory telescope (visible upper left)
observatory telescope (visible upper left)

The following morning we followed the faint path up a narrow sandy wash through pine forest.  The path was intermittent.  We made our way around and through some rock piles and then crossed over a minor pass, descending slightly.

Blue Bottle summit register
Blue Bottle summit register

The first goal was to find our way to the saddle west of Cerro Botella Azul (Blue Bottle Peak).  We ascended another wash and followed cairns through dense clusters of manzanita.  At the head of the wash we passed through a narrow slot and then we were at the pass.  The peak was finally visible!  It didn't look exceptionally hard, or far distant, but I did note that there was a steep drop down into the canyon, which was separating us from the summit.

Heather scoping the peak
Heather scoping the peak
Peak of the Devil
Peak of the Devil

We made a brief ascent of Blue Bottle Peak 9646'.  I was half expecting to find a blue bottle on the summit but instead there was a summit register jar with a blue book inside it.  Close enough.  The main peak was even more impressive looking from this sub-summit.  Greg mentioned the fact that we were only a few hundred feet lower than the main summit.  This got me to thinking about the futility of our spending the next several day toiling to reach that point, but such is the neurosis of peakbagging.

descending
descending

We returned to the saddle and made a slowly descending traverse eastward into the canyon, passing above cliff bands.  We were careful not to descend before we reached the main central gully.  The upper gully was not challenging and I was thinking that the peak might be overrated, but lower we came into large boulder piles and rock steps which required careful scrambling.  We avoided one large step by following a ledge system far to the left and then back down to the right.

rough terrain
rough terrain

As we neared the bottom of the ravine, the varieties of undergrowth changed and increased in density.  I began to feel like I was on a jungle expedition.  The boulder hopping was relentless, and might have been enjoyable except for the weight of our overnight packs.  At the bottom we found ourselves in a creek drainage.  We passed one small campsite and then further on came to Camp Noche.  It had a combined capacity for roughly 10 tents including a campfire ring.

sketchy slab traverse
sketchy slab traverse
photo by Greg Slayden
photo by Greg Slayden

The campsite was rumored to have night visitors in the form of ring-tail cats.  I doubted it, but we hung our food anyhow.  The following morning we got an early start.  I was stoked to be carrying my ultra-light day pack.  The route to the summit supposedly ascended the slope right above camp.  There was no hint of a trail, so we just started bushwhacking uphill.  We soon picked up the route marked by frequent cairns.  It was steep but usually not hard to follow.  We gained elevation quickly.  We exercised special care while passing a wide range of defensive desert plants, including but not limited to cactus and yucca.

4th class spot
4th class spot

Nearly half-way up, we crested a rib at the head of the first gully.  From that vantage we could see what was ahead, a wider gully, less steep but choked with dense vegetation.  It was lined on either side with walls of complex rock formations.  At the top there were a number of rocky points.  It was impossible to say which one might be the summit or if it was even visible at all.  Around this time, my camera battery died and I found that my spare battery was also dead.   mad.gif  So much for making a video.  Jill was generous enough to offer to loan me her camera to document the rest of the trip.

the large brush choked gully

We descended slightly into the big gully and the followed cairns up along the right side.  We lost the route briefly by ascending too high along the right side.  Descending 40 feet put us right back on track.  The cairns led us into the middle where there were a few 4th class crux moves up slabs and rock steps.  Then along the left side of the gully we came to the base of the dihedral friction slabs.

dihedral friction slabs
dihedral friction slabs

dihedral friction slabs
dihedral friction slabs
dihedral friction slabs

In my research I hadn't been able to determine just how steep Wall Street might be.  It was a deep notch gully.  I had assumed that it might be the most challenging part since it was mentioned and photographed in most trip reports.  This was not the case.  It's renown more likely stems from it's photogenic nature and the brief intermission from intrusive brush.

chockstone bypass ledge in Wall Street
chockstone bypass ledge in Wall Street

Above the dihedral we came to the top of the big gully and traversed to the right.  For a moment we were unsure of what was next.  Cairns were lacking.  Heather and I scouted around and we eventually decided that we might ascend a steep slot with high walls blocked by a chock stone.  I later found out that this was Wall Street.  There was a nice ledge with some exposure leading around the right side of the chock stone.

near the summit
near the summit

We climbed out of the slot and came into easier ground at the crest of the main ridge.  Heather scouted ahead and I heard her shout with joy when she reached the summit.  We all joined her there.  It was thrilling to have a view of the Sea of Cortez as well as the Colorado River delta.   hockeygrin.gif   We couldn't quite see the Pacific Ocean as it was somewhat hazy on that side.

Heather on the summit
Heather on the summit
summit
summit

Most of the signatures in the register were in Spanish of course but after some searching I did find a few names I was familiar with, Grant Meyers and my friend Duane Gilliland.  We spent nearly half an hour up there before making the return trip to camp.  We arrived just before dark.  Heather and I had discussed the possibility of making it a two day trip so we could return to the car on the second day, but that proved to be wishful thinking.

the south summit only slightly lower
the south summit only slightly lower
Sea of Cortez
Sea of Cortez

That evening we were eating dinner in the dark with headlamps, and then I was the first to spot it.  A ring-tailed cat!!!   eek.gif   One of the most amazing and graceful creatures I have ever seen in the wild.  It was circling around us on the edges of camp, obviously attracted by the smell of our food.  I tried in vain to photograph it, but the flash delay on my camera caused me to miss the shot.

descending the chockstone slot ledge
descending the chockstone slot ledge
back at Wall Street
back at Wall Street

The next morning we packed up camp and retraced our steps back up out of the canyon.  Once again we got slightly off route in the wrong gully and had to back-track slightly to correct the error.  We followed cairns most of the way back to the upper saddle, but some parts were clearly different than the way we came down, so there must be a few sections where you can go more than one way.  It took most of the day to get back to the car and I was exhausted when it was over.  Thinking over the last three days I decided that Picacho del Diablo wasn't all that difficult in any one section, but carrying overnight gear for extended periods over steep rough terrain eventually takes it's toll.

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http://www.summitpost.org/user_page.php?user_id=25744
http://www.peakbagger.com/climber/ClimbListC.aspx?cid=2650&sort=elevft&u=ft&j=-1&y=9999

Keep climbing mountains and don't slip!
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Paul M
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Paul M
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PostSun Nov 30, 2014 6:50 pm 
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Nice trip Adam. Looks like you are making great use of your time down south.
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MtnGoat
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PostSun Nov 30, 2014 8:53 pm 
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Man that looks dry. Did you haul all your water for the better part of three days?

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Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
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Redwic
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PostMon Dec 01, 2014 8:09 am 
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up.gif  up.gif  up.gif

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"Revolutions are not overnight. The heightist mindset has minimally a 100 year head start. Eventually the climbing community will embrace geocaching." -Paul Michelson
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Gimpilator
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PostMon Dec 01, 2014 8:20 am 
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It was extremely dry.  However there is plenty of water in the stream at camp noche, so we only carried a days worth at a time.

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http://www.summitpost.org/user_page.php?user_id=25744
http://www.peakbagger.com/climber/ClimbListC.aspx?cid=2650&sort=elevft&u=ft&j=-1&y=9999

Keep climbing mountains and don't slip!
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Ski
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PostMon Dec 01, 2014 12:39 pm 
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excellent! wink.gif

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"I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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puzzlr
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puzzlr
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PostMon Dec 01, 2014 10:17 pm 
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That is a really interesting trip report. Surely a peak that few around here have done. It looked like Wall Street might be really bad for rock fall because of funneling onto the climbing route. But maybe that's just the pictures. Anyway, very cool peak and thanks for the report.

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Bernardo
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PostTue Dec 02, 2014 9:31 pm 
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Another great destination in Mexico.  Very nice.  I recently enjoyed reading your "10 days in Mexico" report on summitpost in preparation for some possible future trips.
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Picacho del Diablo 10,154' - Nov 17,18,19, 2014
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