Ascent of Picacho del Diablo on 2015-11-09

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:James Barlow -- Trip Report or GPS Track
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Monday, November 9, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Picacho del Diablo
    Elevation:10154 ft / 3094 m

Ascent Trip Report

This is the first of three Mexican Baja ultras we hope to climb in a one week trip, so James and I opt for a two day round trip, unsurprisingly leading to a tough second day. Timings: 4h55 to Campo Noche via Blue Bottle peak, 3h06 to summit, 2h down to Campo Noche, 4h55 out to trailhead. Our aggregate times are about an hour slower than Bob Burd, Miguel Forjan and Rick Kent's impressive 14h15 day hike

My flight from the UK gets into LAX early Sat pm, where I'm met by Duane and Laura, and we drive together to meet James near San Diego, then the four of us continue south together in his Dodge 1500 truck - ideal vehicle for this trip. We stop at the border crossing for our Mexico tourist visas, 22USD each, particularly important for Duane and I who are flying out from Cabo at the end of the trip, and not having the correct entry paperwork can incur a hefty fine. Mex 1 is good dual carriageway as far as Ensenada where we stop for tacos. South of here the road is single carriageway, OK in the dark except for some very slow trucks which take a while to pass at roadworks. We get tacos at a small roadside restaurant then turn east onto the observatory road (N30.9667, W116.1547) finding a large pullout in about an hour, where we bivvy for the night.

Sunday we continue east to the ranger station where we pay two nights national park fees. We're concerned to see a dusting of fresh snow. This could scupper our Diablo plans - but as it turns out, the peak itself is snow free. Continuing east along the paved road we turn sharp R at N31.02252 W115.47421 and drive the good dirt road to the picnic site which is the Diablo trailhead (N30.99889 W115.44959, 2461m).

James and I prepare our packs and hike just before 9am. Duane and Laura having climbed the peak last year will explore the area and meet us late Monday back at the trailhead. A good trail leads east through nice pinewood. We manage to lose it at one point, creating a fair bit of extra work, but as we discover later on the way out, by concentrating on the preloaded GPS track and on the trail, it is possible to keep to the trail which is more or less continuous to Blue Bottle pass (N30.97311 W115.39610, 2831m). We make the straightforward 110m ascent to Blue Bottle peak (N30.97134 W115.39467, 2940m), with its summit trig point and fine view of Diablo, then retrieve our packs and continue.

From the pass the trail continues east, descending gently at first (to avoid cliffing out) then angling down more steeply into the head of Canyon del Diablo. There are cairns and we also concentrate on keeping to the GPS track. The bouldery canyon makes for rough progress and there is plenty of YDS 3 scrambling and some class 4. No significant bushwhacking though. Impressive scenery with dazzling sunlit granite walls towering above us. A stream appears, with a small campsite soon reached. This is presumably "Cedaroak Camp (6600ft)" mentioned in the DPS guide as being the start of the "Teapot" route up the west side of the mountain (described in Schad's guide?).

We soon reach Campo Noche (N30.98789 W115.39517, 1890m) which has room for several tents and the stream nearby for water. There are several trails leaving the camp and joining up just above. The one we use next morning is a rocky staircase starting at the fire ring. It's chilly when we arrive so we doze in our sleeping bags for a couple of hours before treating water, making dinner and turning in for the night. We save weight by bivvying: no tent needed with settled forecast.

Monday we're up at 0430, make breakfast and are ready to leave at 0515 using head torches for the first 15 mins until it becomes light. The route is cairned with a few alternatives. Unfortunately one cairned alternative is a dead end scree slope which in the dark we follow, wasting a few minutes. So at N30.98811 W115.39323 keep right! We're initially in a small side canyon (Night Wash). This joins a larger canyon (Slot Wash) at a distinctive cairn with a tall standing stone. The main canyon also has several alternatives. A few times we are further right than the consensus of the GPS trails and probably do a little more YDS 4 than is necessary. In particular a nice water source at N30.98904 W115.38078 has a YDS 4 exit to rejoin the main trail above. In just over 3 hours we emerge at a small saddle with a big view, then Diablo summit is just up to our left, consisting of a rock outcrop (N30.99266 W115.37511, 3092m), summit register(s) and apparently no trig or benchmark (Blue Bottle has the Picachos trig).

We enjoy the view then decide to take a look at the south peak which isn't far away. It looks very similar in elevation although has evidently been determined lower by sight level. An initial traverse on boulders and slabs gets us to a serious looking drop to a notch. Getting round it would consume more time than we can afford as we're hiking out this pm.

We get back onto our upward route then follow the GPS tracks back down, mostly keeping the the easiest lines although we detour to the water source to refill my litre bottle. We're in full sun for some of the time in descent (in ascent we were in cool shade almost all the way).

We're back at Campo Noche at 1130 and leave for the trailhead at 1150 having refilled our water bottles. The Steripen seems to have run out of battery power after 6 litres, a pity as it has been pretty convenient (NiMH rechargeables - maybe Lithium would do better).

The route to Blue Bottle pass is in cool shade throughout. We're there in 2h30; the last hour of the ascent is tough as we're both tiring. However the views back down the canyon and across to Diablo are very fine. After a break at the saddle we head back to the trailhead. Keeping a careful eye on the trail and on the GPS tracks we stay pretty much on trail the whole way, just as well as we're both running on empty. It's a lovely route in the late pm sunshine but we're very pleased to see the Dodge with Duane and Laura waiting for us. We're down at 4.45pm just about at sunset. A quick feed then Duane drives the two hours of twisty road back to Mex 1 then James takes over and we head south for an hour, stopping for a meal then parking for the night at a sandy coastal area just south of San Quintin at N30.16179 W115.79223; it's possible to drive down to the beach if desired.

Tuesday we continue south to the Tres Virgenes trailhead, planning to climb it on Wednesday.

Picacho del Diablo photo album
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:8609 ft / 2624 m
    Total Elevation Loss:8609 ft / 2623 m
    Round-Trip Distance:23.6 mi / 38 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 3
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble
    Gear Used:
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:5525 ft / 1684 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2080 ft / 634 m; Extra: 3445 ft / 1050m
    Loss on way in:3445 ft / 1050 m
    Distance:11.8 mi / 19 km
    Route:West route
    Start Trailhead:West TH  8074 ft / 2460 m
    Time:8 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:5164 ft / 1573 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 2080 ft / 634 m; Extra: 3084 ft / 940m
    Gain on way out:3084 ft / 940 m
    Distance:11.8 mi / 19 km
    Route:West route
    End Trailhead:West TH  8074 ft / 2460 m
    Time:7 Hours 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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