Picacho del Diablo Trip Report
Date: May 2002
Edward Earl and myself
made Picacho del Diablo's summit at 1 PM this Saturday -
having started from Campo Noche at 5:54 AM and returning to
that backcountry camp at 7:14 PM (a very long day indeed).
As the reader may be aware, navigation is the key to
success on this hellish peak. We barely made it given the
available daylight and the one gallon of water we each carried.
Then there is the hike out the day AFTER summit day with
full packs up 3,000 vertical feet to the saddle near Blue Bottle Hill.
What a haul that was too!
This is one weird mountain - one all length scales
there are obstacles to impede one's progress. That's why,
for instance the Grand Teton has been scaled in 4 hours ....
but the fastest attempt on Picacho is no less than 17 h 45 m!
It is also why I liken this mountain to a fractal object -
one which is self similar on all length scales.
I have never climbed a mountain quite so strangely intricate in its
topographic details. That is why navigation is key....
... for if you get off-route there is ample
opportunity to get cliffed out over most of the approach as
well as on the climbing route itself.
Place a cow, horse or donkey on the summit and it will die
before finding a way off - there are simply too many possible paths -
only a few of which lead to the relative safety of
lower land (assuming it can handle certain class 3 sections).
Place that same animal on a "normal" mountain (what is that?!))
and it will just follow the gradient downhill to pasture.
We took 31 hours spread over 3 days. Perhaps I am not
too tired simply because I am elated that it is all over.
I just cannot wait for the Wednesday meeting at my company
when the group manager will say that he hopes everybody enjoyed a
"relaxing" long weekend: I'll then sputter and gag and cough until
everybody demands an explanation for my unseeming behavior 8-) .
Note to prominence geeks: Picacho del Diablo has a
respectable 7,000 feet of it (approximately - Edward knows the
exact values as does Andy Martin who recently published a list for
Baja's high-prominence peaks).
Anyhow, the deed is done. I for one count that mountain as
unique in my experience given the constant need to follow ducks along
the route (else one gets cliffed-out among untraversable rock formations).
Edward Earl and I agree that this mountain should preferably
be attempted with more than our party of two: it is too remote for
help to arrive in a timely manner in case of emergency.