Picacho del Diablo (10,157'), Baja California (Mexico)

Harlan W S & Collin K.
May 24-26, 2013

I really enjoyed this trip.  This DPS summit (or as Bart might say, FDPS) is not the hardest in the sense of the required climbing skills;
no part need be worse than class 3 with exposure.  Yet it is among the most difficult to attain, at least for most Gringos.
One must drive a long ways to the trailhead, route-find to Blue Bottle... then there is a brutal 3100' drop on very 
steep, occasionally class 3 terrain down to Campo Noche (then of cousre you will have to come back up that later), even
before you start the 3900'+ climb to the peak.  With a backpack, that drop is rough. The peak itself is not technically
hard, but the route-finding on rocky, slippery terrain constantly captures one's attention, and a wrong move can send a pesron
over big drops in many, many places.

There are many trip reports and instructions for the trip, but this is among my favorites.

Thanks to my compatriots (Anji, Austin, Bart, Collin) for planning and good humor on this adventure.

A gpx file is here.  Use at your own risk; contact me for details. RIGHT-click (ctrl-click for Mac) and pick "save as"--the browser may try to change the extension,
but just change it back to gpx. The 3 tracks are our actual trip to Campo Noche (an amalgam of 2 tracks, with the best route choices grafted together); and the up-and-down  
tracks for the climb itself. Occasionally we would lose gps lock, and the track would wander, so follow the cairns and use the tracks as rough guidance. Also included
are waypoints *collected off the web* -- for reference only. A garmin-compatible topo map, in img format, is here. Right-click (mac, ctrl-click) on the link to save it to your desktop.
In more recent garmin units, you can simply copy this map to the directory that contains other img maps. In older Garmin units, you may need to use MapSource or some other
procedure to copy the map to your unit. The maps has contours derived from the USGS 1 arc-second DEM, with the roads, hard-coded waypoints, and "trails" used to climb
Picacho del Diablo.  For older units such as the 60csx, look at these instructions.

This Google Earth view, from the N
(i.e. looking S) belies the roughness of
the terrain, but does give an idea for the
steep drop into Canyon del Diablo. The
DEM (digital elevation model) for this
area is very coarse, so ther Google
3D view removes the rough spires on the
This contour map of the area is also
based on a rough DEM, and doesn't
capture any spire less than about 100
Day 1: At Blue Bottle Pass, we get the
first glimpse of Picacho del Diablo. The
mountain seems close, but we have to
drop 3100' vertical into Canyon
del Diablo, with out full packs, before
we get to climb the peak.
Resting at Blue Bottle Saddle.
Both Bart and Anji had gotten
terribly car sick on the way in. I never
see this aspect of the trip mentioned, but
be forewarned that it is a very windy
road.  They both recovered, and
incredibly, forged on. If I had been that
ill, I would have decided to camp at
the trailhead.  Anji was mainly OK
by this point, but Bart was still very ill.
At the saddle, we met Juan Carlos Lopez,
who was acting as support for his brother
Victor.  He was placing ribbons to mark
the trail (he removed the ribbons on
the way out) and leaving caches of fluids.
Victor was going for a one-day record,
starting at midnight.
Next we start a slow traverse down from
Blue Bottle.  It is important to look for
the "ducks" (cairns). After a traverse, one
drops very quickly.
View N up Canyon Diablo; we
still have about 2000' of descent.
It's hard to capture the roughness of
the descent in pictures, because in the
worst places, you can't free up your
hands to take photos.
Juan Carlos is above, in orange. This
area had slippery class 3 waterfalls,
awkward with full packs.
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Finally near Campo Noche, we see
refreshing water.
Day 2: View up to Diablo ridge. The
terrain is steep, and you must be constantly
diligent for good foot placement on the
often slippery granite. There are multiple
ducked routes, which usually keep you
from the abundant cliffs and chockstones.
We made an error early on, which cost us
about 200' gain, so we learned quickly
to look for cairns and retreat when they
were not obvious.  Here we rest at ~6800',
with Canyon del Diablo behind.
When we weren't trying to scramble
over slippery boulders in washes...
...we were skirting cliffs to avoid big drops.
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Finally we reached "Wall Street," where
there was a class 3 bypass on the right
edge (by big tree).
Austin finishes bypassing the class 3 in
Wall Street.
Near top of Wall Street.
The four amigos below.
View W as Austin makes last climb to
Victor had passed us (going down) earlier
in the morn.
View SE from summit; Sea of Cortez
in distance.
Wider pano view to E.
Bowl to ESE.
Me.  I didn't go for full etension, as
I didn't want to risk a cramp.
Steep drop to E.
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Descending, above Wall Street.
Some downclimbs were best handled
Austin is past the class 3
downclimb on Wall Street.
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At base of Wall Street, view back ENE.
Austin at base.
Another view back, blue figure is
Often cairns will lead to an exposed but
easy bypass, skirting cliffs.
We had heard that there was a waterfall
at this spot.  Alas, it was a dry year, and
just a few puddles were left over.
A small bird was drinking out of the pool.
I passed out chlorine dioxide tabs.
It wasn't very hot (air T probably mid
60s at worst), but we always tried to
take rest breaks in the shade; the direct
sun was brutal
Finally we are just a few hundred feet
above Campo Noche.
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Day 3: View N down Canyon del
Diablo as we start the climb out with
our (now lighter) packs.
On the way up, we followed another ducked
route, which had us traverse on a narrow
ledge above a class 5 dryfall.
We reconnected to the same class 3
dryfall that we took down
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Anji and Bart opted to come up a more
difficult bypass of the waterfall, partly
to avoid the slick rock.
A random view E past a huge (100'?)
boulder. In back is a spire that gets washed
out to nothing by the coarse google earth
DEM (used in 1st image).
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We are just a few hundred feet below
Blue Bottle Saddle now; this traverse
had good handholds, but required some
exposed climbing, not easy with a full pack.
One last view down into Canyon del Diablo.
We dropped our packs at the saddle, and
made a quick trip up Blue Bottle Peak
(Cerro Azul).
Diablo in back (to NE) from Cerro Azul.
View ESE from Cerro Azul.
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At last we are on faint but easy use trails.
My seat on the drive out!
This military checkpoint had a scarecrow
dressed up in a uniform. The intent was to
warn people of the upcoming stop; it made
sense not to sacrifice personnel for such a
mundane duty, but somehow it seemed
a bit comical.
My hotel room that night.  Don't drink
the water.
Next morn, the view across to the other
hotel where Bart, Collin and Austin spent
the night.  We kidded Bart about his
"Monster" habit, but the signes were all over
and he was quickly attracted to this place.
On the way back, Bart was attending to
his feet. I suggested that if he were a dog,
he could just bite his foot directly, so he
decided to try it.
A scar from my battle with the Devil.  Actually,
I acquired the cut in the most innocuous of
places, when I turned quickly and hit a broken
tree branch square on.