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Summer 2013
Volume 19, Issue 2

A TALE OF TWO PICACHOS

March 23-27 2013
Report & Photos by Harlan Stockman

“Little Picacho” and Picacho del Diablo are two Desert Peak Section (DPS) summits that have two things in common: 1) they are both difficult by DPS standards, and 2) they both have “Picacho” in the name. After that, the similarity ends.
The DPS summit north of Yuma, CA is called “Picacho Peak,” a grating bit of Spanglish that seems to mean “peak peak;” the elevation is just ~1920’ at the summit. “Picacho Peak” is the only DPS summit to be rated class 6, and is almost devoid of plant life; I’ll call it P1 in future references. A climb of P1 typically takes a half day.

In contrast, “El Picacho del Diablo,” a 10,171’ peak in Baja California (Mexico), is rather lush. The normal campsite is by a cold, clear stream amid tall pines. “Diablo” may require backpacking and three exhausting days of convoluted route-finding. Henceforth I’ll refer to Diablo as P2.

Both P1 and P2 have stark, intimidating beauty. This article will be part trip report, and part advice for attaining these peaks.

P1 Success: Practice. Practice, Practice


Viewed from the south or east, P1 looks a bit impossible. The trick is to get to the other (west) side, follow a zig-zag path among the volcanic layers. and use two “installed” ladders, to cut the climbing difficulty from 5.9 to exposed class 4.

View of P1 in sunrise, with the “keyhole” marked

We can divide the climb of P1 into seven steps:
1) getting to the west side. If you have a burly 4x4, you can save a lot of time and legwork by driving around the north side, as described on www.climber.org. If you have a 2wd car, you park on the east side, off a good gravel road, and leg it a few extra miles through washes and moderate slopes;
2) climbing up to the notch on the west side, then zig-zagging up over the two ladders;
3) the “step-across,” which has vastly varied effects on peoples’ nerves;
4) a short, exposed class 4 (some say class 5) climb to the false summit;
5) setting up a fixed line on the false summit, and rapping 15’ down an overhang, then walking to the true summit;
6) using prussiks, etriers, or ascenders to climb back up to the false summit;
7) Rapping down to the left of the exposed class 4.
Obviously, you then have to do the rest of the downclimb.

Your method of dealing with step 6 may require the most practice. We all know about prusiks and etriers in theory, and they look simple enough; but when you try using them, and find your feet wildly swinging about, or the knots not behaving as expected (sticking or slipping at the wrong times), and the “theory” becomes humorously inadequate. I used a tree in my yard for etrier and prusik (actually used kleimheist knots) practice. I then went to an overhanging ledge in Calico Basin for some reality checks—it’s one thing to prusik on a free-hanging rope, but matters get dicey when the rope occasionally hangs up over ledges.

This peak is at rather low elevation, way down south in California. So obviously, it is best climbed in the late fall or winter. If you must go later, look for windows of opportunity, when the weather is cooler than normal. The climb is very short, so unless you have a large group with exposure issues, day length should not be a problem. Yet as I say that, I can immediately think of two groups that finished in the dark; one group started from the more distant eastern trailhead, but mainly they had issues getting lots of people through the bottlenecks. We went February 11, and had unseasonably warm weather – but it was still in the mid 70s at warmest, and the morning climb from the west is mostly in shade at that time of year.

You can camp at Picacho State Recreation Area (California—not the similar-named park in Arizona!), if you feel a compelling need to take a shower or bring your trailer. But primitive camping near the eastern (2WD) trailhead is pretty nice; there are flat-bottomed gravel washes, surrounded by near-vertical banks, which provide shade. For the primitive camping, please observe this caution: there is often a birm of sand, about a foot high, separating the road from the camping area—low-slung 2WD vehicles can easily hang up. Some folks camp under the acacias in the washes farther down the road (closer to Yuma), and the 4WD TH has a few camping spots.

Reality: Our Trip

I made the pleasant drive down route 95, into Arizona and down to Yuma CA, by myself. As luck would have it, we had such different schedules that we ended up with 3 vehicles. The road to the 2WD trailhead is very good gravel. I arrived a bit after 3PM, and pulled off the graded road into a side canyon; already the bluffs were shading my tent, and I was asleep by 6PM. Tracy pulled in about 7:30PM, and I woke up to greet him for about 30 seconds.

The next morn, our 3rd and 4th members – CP and DB—pulled in at 7AM. Tracy had to get back that eve, so we opted to drive to the NW trailhead, which is much closer to the peak, but which definitely requires 4WD. We all piled into Tracy’s Rubicon for a bumpy drive. The bumpy ride nearly put DB to sleep (??), and she opted to stay in the car and work while we three gallivanted on.

Map of P1 area

In February, the west side of the peak was pleasantly shaded at 8AM. We worked south from the 4WD trailhead, then cut ESE, then NNE up to the obvious notch, over loose but pretty easy terrain. At the notch we headed NE over more solid volcanic rock to the first short ladder. As you come up the ladder, you may discover why you are advised to take helmets: much of the route consists of overhanging ledges, and it is all too easy to bonk your head. (If you make the climb, please, please take enough webbing to re-secure the ladders on your way back—the webbing that holds them to the rock is extremely ratty. I would have gladly used my webbing, but we were in a rush to get down so Tracy could drive home.)

Immediately above the ladder to the north, is the crux of the climb for many folks: a “step-across.” The gap is a little more than 3’ where you must make the step, and the exposure is truly awesome. You have to climb down a steep slope to get to the launching point, and it is really hard to belay folks in this area. I decided to take off my pack and jump across—for me, a leap of 3’+ is no big deal. On the “far side” was a lump, which I slung and attached a handline; but we used the handline to secure the packs only. Tracy tied each pack to the line and tossed, and I caught the packs on the other side. (One pack did bounce and start to slide into oblivion, so this precaution was not frivolous.) Then Tracy --who is 6’7” tall—screwed his courage to the sticking point, and made the leap across. CP followed immediately. I think this move may be harder for tall people; they tower above the gap, and have a hard time bending down to make the critical move. I got no pictures of the step-across, as I was always ready to belay, and I have this thing about taking pictures while belaying; but this image on climber.org gives a good idea:
http://climber.org/reports/images/1600/1678-PicachoStepAcross.jpg
...but even that pic doesn’t do justice to the steepness of the incline south of the gap.
After the step-across, we wound through a fantastic series of ledges eroded back into the mountain in layers of softer volcanic tuff, till we reached the 2nd ladder.

Second ladder

This aluminum ladder is “new,” but the webbing that secures it to the mountain is even rattier than the webbing on the first ladder. Without this ladder, the climb would be about 5.9. From the top of the ladder one climbs up to the north end of the ridge, for an easy and triumphant stroll to the summit.

Kidding! At the north end of the ridge, you still have the false summit to cross. There are two traditional ways to deal with the false summit: A) fix a rope (not easy, now that the bolts were removed), rappel down the east side, then climb through a hole below the false summit – the so-called “keyhole” in figure 1. The rope must be left, since you will have to climb up it on the way back; B) the most common way, and the one we used: climb up a sketchy 4th class (some say low 5th), 15’ wall on the northeast (left) side) of the false summit, then rap down the south side.

Route on N side of false summit

I started climbing up this route, got halfway up, then decided to take my pack off and stash it in an alcove. I’m used to contorting my body to take off packs, but apparently my compatriots, who were watching, thought I was performing some pre-jump rite, and held their breathe for 20 seconds. I then manteled to the top, and helped pull the packs up. Now Tracy’s height was an advantage; what was a mantel for me was a ho-hum for him.

If I had to do this climb again, I would definitely take off my pack first, and just bring a short strap or cord to haul packs. It would also be smart to bottom-belay the first climber; this will be tricky, since the anchor points are limited. However, one can drop down to the right of the notch before the false summit, to gain rope friction advantage if the climber slips off the left side. Once the first climber reaches the north side of the false summit, there is a bolt to anchor a top belay, and a depression to sit in if you simply want to give a body belay and multiply the strength of the belay with rock-rope friction.

Once atop the false summit, mosey to the south side for the next move: a short, overhanging 15’ rap. There are two good bolts, and you will want to leave a securely fixed rope hanging from them, because you have to come back up this way.

Rap down the south side of false summit

From the bottom of the rap, it’s a short walk to the summit; like many desert peaks, you just can’t take pictures that will capture the ruggedness of the summit.

Summit



Heading back to false summit

Now for the fun: getting back up the false summit. We had left a rope securely tied to a bolt on the south side. Tracy had brought ascenders that he used for caving; but he hadn’t used them for at least 10 years. For at least 40 minutes, Tracy and CP tried to figure out the ascenders, till they finally let me just put my prusik loops on the rope with Kleimheist knots… and I was up in a minute. Tracy sort-of figured out the ascenders, but they simply didn’t release and grip the way they should, and he was shaking from exertion after he reached the top. CP used my prusiks, and was up in another minute. Ironically, I also had 12’ of etriers, but Tracy and CP were so confident of the ascenders, that I left them in my pack.

View down on the ascent of fixed rope

From there we rapped down the north side of the summit, and retraced our steps down the mountain. The step-across was much easier going back; from the lower side, you can see a pattern of holds on the left wall (mountain-side), and you have to climb down a bit, then up the wall; you can probably belay this ascent with enough rope, from the ladder if need be.

On the way down, I had my one slight mishap. I was torn between following speed demon CP, and waiting for Tracy. Some of the twists and turns were not obvious, and when I couldn’t get a shout back from Tracy (who was behind), I got worried and started to jog back up the mountain. When I saw him, I then wanted to reverse course as quickly as possible, and see where CP went. As I turned, I slipped; I was in no danger of falling off the ledge, but I tore up my hand pretty badly on the sharp scree. Soon Tracy was singing “Blood on the Rocks” to the tune of a Neil Diamond song.

We were back down at the campsite before noon, and Tracy left for home as soon as possible. CP, DB and I climbed another nearby peak to view the day’s work. We spent another night at the informal campsite on BLM land – it was in the shade again by 3PM, and was actually cool.


.
On the way to second peak of day

Postscript: Map Errors!

If you are pretty good with maps, you may note that the USGS contours for this peak are horribly wrong (an explanation is here on summitpost: http://www.summitpost.org/picacho-usgs-map-errors/845687/c-150851). If you believed the USGS map, when you were on the true and obviously higher southern summit, you would be about 300’ in the air. To add to the confusion, this summit is often called “Little Picacho” to distinguish it from P2 in Mexico. Yet there is a totally separate peak, labeled “Little Picacho” on the USGS map, just to the north. This real “Little Picacho” is a crumbling pile of crap, so don’t be confused by the label on the USGS map.

P2: The Big Picacho

P2: Logistics

The trip is easily broken into 5 parts:
1) Driving down there. From Las Vegas, it’s at least 570 miles to the trailhead, and you must cross into Mexico. Of the last 60 miles, at least 55 are on paved, but narrow and winding roads. If you are prone to car sickness, take precautions.
2) Gaining 1800 feet gradually, through pleasant conifer forests, till you get to Blue Bottle Saddle.
3) A hellish 3100’, quick drop over occasionally class 3 terrain and boulder washes, till you reach Campo Noche, a pleasant camp spot in the pines.
4) The actual climb then descent of P2—never harder than class 3, but over very rough terrain, about 3900’ of elevation gain.
5) The climb back out of Canyon del Diablo, 3100’; you may crawl back to your car.

While there are ways to cross into Baja (legally!) without a passport, your life will be far easier if you have an up-to-date passport with you. If you plan to drive, consider getting the plastic passport card—it’s faster and easier to use. Better yet, get both—one in your wallet and one in your luggage.

Sometime after you cross into Baja, you will want to stop and get a tourist card (or “Mexican Visa;” about 25 American Dollars). At Tijuana on the border, you will most likely have agents that speak English. If you don’t want to stop in Tijuana, the next possibility is Ensenada, where the office is much smaller and it may be a little harder to communicate. Many people scoff at these cards, and point out that no one ever asks to see them. But I’ve also heard that folks who had accidents, or zealous inspections, were asked to produce the tourist cards; and if they DIDN’T have the cards, were fined 200 to 500 dollars.

All gasoline stations in Mexico are Pemex—run by the state, generally clean, and generally able to take credit cards. In Northern Baja, almost all places will take American dollars, with a slight markup. But there is one place where it is good to have exact change in Pesos: at the toll booths, of which there are three on route 1. P2 is in San Pedro Martir National Park; you are required to pay a park entrance fee. For us, for 3 days, it was about 25 American dollars apiece.

Perhaps the travel into Mexico caused me the most trepidation. Yet once you get south of Tijuana, Baja is pretty safe; your greatest fear is from the Federales, who used to work lots of scams that required 500 to 2000 dollar payments to keep out of jail; but that has subsided a lot in Baja, as the locals understand their lifeblood is tourism. But “safe” must be used in the proper context; this is a poor country, and people often look for property to acquire. I left my pack outside my hotel room for 30 seconds at 5AM, and came out to find someone looking through it. So don’t leave stuff unattended, at least in the towns and easily accessible areas. Way south of Ensenada, you will usually see two types of homes: ramshackle hovels; and slightly better homes with bars on the windows. Also, people drive like absolute maniacs, ignoring most posted speed limits, driving and passing randomly on mountain roads with rickety guard rails and no shoulders. The most effective speed control is through topes—very large speed bumps that will destroy your car if you don’t slow down. But altogether, I felt far safer in Baja than I do in downtown Las Vegas. You will be struck by the lack of bullet holes in the road signs, compared to Nevada.

Overview of our route up P2

If you bring your own car, you will need to get Mexican auto insurance. Bart took care of that, and in the end, it cost us about $20 each. Be careful that your insurance also covers vandalism. Ensenada is highly oriented to tourists, and you can get a classy room for about 70-80 American dollars. Baja supposedly doesn’t have the water problems of the rest of Mexico, but the signs in the hotel rooms still warn you not to drink the tap water, so bring a gallon of water for brushing your teeth, taking ibuprofen (!) and so on. If you are a bit more adventuresome, just south of central Ensenada are motels with rooms for about 15 dollars per night.

Do you need to speak Spanish to climb P2? No, but I sure felt a lot more comfortable travelling with folks who spoke some Spanish. Especially in the small towns, you will likely encounter no one who speaks English. You may meet Mexican climbers at Campo Noche; life is more interesting if you can do more than utter your name.

You may be surprised at the mildness of Baja weather. You are on a strip of land, moderated by the Pacific on the west, and the Sea of Cortez on the east; the day-night temperature swing is 10-20 degrees F, even in the mountains. At the end of May, we didn’t experience temps above mid 60s; on the mountain, it was more like 50F. But the sun is intense, and it will feel much hotter—dark rocks will be too hot to touch. Yet there are reports of snowstorms in July on P2. Watch the weather, using either the record from the Observatory (9200 ft) in San Pedro Martir, or the predictions on http://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Picacho-del-Diablo/forecasts/2500.

Our Trip

The drive into Mexico was uneventful. Props to Austin for driving us down in his modified Land Cruiser. Anji and I, as the smallest folks, took either a back seat or the very-back short seat. We left Vegas about 6 AM, crossed the border with absolutely no fanfare around 1 PM, and got to Ensenada before 3. We picked up our tourist cards in Ensenada, and stayed at a classy Best Western. The next morn we were at Austin’s vehicle by 5:30 AM, and soon left Ensenada for increasingly narrow paved roads, to our turnoff for San Pedro Martir National Park. The road east to the park was paved in recent years, but still has few and ludicrous guardrails. The upper parts are prone to rockslides—in fact one slide covered almost half the road, sometime during our stay, so be alert for such obstacles. (There is one point, that I’ve not seen mentioned in other trip reports: the winding road is tough on people prone to car sickness. I didn’t notice this at all; but Bart and Anji, sitting in back, suddenly requested stops to get out and vomit. We solved this problem on the way back, by having both Bart and Anji sit in the front seat, with Anji driving.) In about 50 miles, we came to the park office on the right side of the road, and picked up our park passes. It was cool, amid the towering ponderosa pines. At the park office, we noticed neatly printed, glossy signs, advertising an attempt to break the record for climbing P2 in one day, by Victor Lopez; this effort would be occurring while we were en route. We didn’t realize then how closely it would affect us. After the park office, there are several more miles of driving on paved roads, then finally a cut to the right (south) on an HC (high clearance) dirt road to the trailhead

Now the hike begins! The trailhead is a rather informal clear area amid big pines. We made our last gear checks, tanked up with water for the trip ahead, and put on our backpacks. Bart and Anji were both still nauseous from car sickness, yet they persevered. There is a sign for a trail, and almost immediately, the “trail” fragments into several faint usage paths, on the right and left sides of a wash. We began to see very fresh orange surveyor tape on the trees; I speculated that it was meant to guide the fellow who planned to break the record, since he would start out near midnight the very next morn. Gradually, through ups and downs, we accumulated about 1800’ of gain to Blue Bottle Saddle at 9250’. At the saddle we met Juan Carlos Lopez, wearing a bright orange shirt and cap; he, with a friend, was leaving the orange tapes for his brother Victor. (The next day, after Victor came through, Juan Carlos removed all the ribbons.) Juan Carlos showed us a fantastic view point of P2.

Our group at Blue Bottle Saddle, with Juan Carlos (in orange) at right



View of Picacho del Diablo from Blue Bottle Saddle

Soon we left Blue Bottle, and dropped off the east side, for what Anji called “the descent into Hell.” It is important to traverse right while dropping, following the cairns as much as possible; a direct drop from the saddle puts one over high cliffs. There are definitely class 3 moves on the slippery, vaguely marked path down, 3100’ vertical to Campo Noche. I used a strap once to lower a pack, but we decided it was easiest just to hand down the rest of the packs. After an interminable series of obstacle courses, you reach water at about 6500’; now the trick is to find a route, first on the left side, then the right side, that keeps you near the stream (but not in the thick brush).

Rough terrain on way down to Canyon del Diablo



More rough terrain on way down

Finally we arrived at Campo Noche, a beautiful shaded site near a clear stream. There is another campsite a bit higher in elevation, and to the SE. Soon after 5 or 6 members of Victor’s support team (including Juan Carlos) showed up and set up tents. I hit the sack early, and slept pretty well on my thin ridgerest pad, thanks to strategically dug hip, shoulder and heel pits, and some extra clothes packed under my legs.

Spring at Campo Noche

At 4:10 AM I was awakened by loud shouting. Victor had arrived at Campo Noche, after 4 hours of travel in the dark (full moon), following the orange ribbons. Incredibly, I fell back to sleep. But 20 minutes later, Victor shouted down that he was on track, and once more his support team piled out of bed, now shouting as loud as they possible could. This last set of shouts was like a taser in my brain. The support team, faced with nothing more than climbing back out that day, went back to sleep immediately. I realized that I had already slept 8 hours, so I got up and ate. I reconfigured the top pocket of my osprey packs as a waist pack, and took out the REI flash 18 that I was using as a stuff sack, and packed food water, extra clothes, and various emergency supplies. I don’t drink much water while hiking, so I packed just 1.7 liters for the climb itself; but I drank 2 liters in the hour before we left.

At 7 AM we headed out for the actual climb of P2, following a vague use trail that Collin had scouted on the prior eve. After an “extra credit” gain and loss of 200’ on the wrong side of the canyon, we all resolved to be more vigilant in looking for cairns. I don’t think we got substantially off-route for the rest of the trip. One person would lead, with the basic idea that the cairns usually follow in a roughly straight line, and the second would scan back and forth to the side, waiting for the leader to signal that s/he couldn’t see the next cairn ahead. The second would usually then see a cairn off to the side. The terrain is incredibly rough, and the best path avoids brush, and leads one away from dryfalls and cliffs. We traversed left over many small but deep washes, till we finally entered Slot Wash at ~8000’ There were reports of water from 8000’ to 8500’, but this has been a dry year, so there were just a few puddles. I passed out chlorine dioxide tablets, and folks purified a few liters of water as back up. It was cool, so my own water supply was adequate; I didn’t drink more than 250 ml before we reached the summit.
After entering Slot Wash, we passed the friction slabs; we were able to pass on the right in the steepest places, and the slabs were so short that I was left wondering why they drew much mention.

Friction slabs

Soon we were at Wall Street; no photograph can do justice to this stretch. There is a chockstone in the ravine here, but a slippery bypass on the right allows one to squeeze by on class 3 terrain. From there, it is just a brutal class 2 trudge to the top.



View UP Wall Street

Of course, the views are breath-taking, with the Pacific to the west, and the Sea of Cortez to the east, and the very rough Baja Sierra around you. While the air temperature was maybe 50F, there was no wind, and the cloudless sky let through the merciless sun. We found ourselves jockeying for the shade of boulders on the very small summit. Now for the hard part: getting back down.

View east from P2 summit



The folks gather on top.



View SE past south summit, to Sea of Cortez

We reversed the obstacle course; by unspoken agreement, the moment the leader had any doubts about the route, s/he spoke of the doubts, indicated the best direction to look for the trail, and in short order, someone else would notice a cairn. There are actually many independent cairned routes; but the ones with the most and biggest cairns are usually the best. Often we might see a cairn far below, and wonder, “how the heck do we get there?” This is not a place to randomly bull ahead when you run out of cairns; it is usually much more efficient to go back to the last cairn and try harder to spot the next. Even with a GPS, the uncertainty of location is about the scale of route-finding, and the steep walls mean signals are often blocked or made inaccurate by reflection.

We got back to Campo Noche rather early in the day – perhaps 4PM – but it was none too soon. Collin had begun to suffer truly debilitating muscle cramps. There are many explanations for such cramps; his were systemic, so his hand might suddenly twist in some painful bizarre configuration, or his abdomen would buckle. We did the standard treatments with electrolytes and water, but he really didn't get relief till were in the car driving home the next day. Props go to Bart, Collin, and Anji for pushing on, beyond the limits of reasonable endurance when they were nauseous and cramping; I would have just stopped at those times.

We slept in a little the following morn, but were anxious to begin the hellish trudge, 3100’ vertical, back to the saddle, while it was still cool. (I slept well again that night; but Collin cramped in his sleep, causing him many violent, scary wake-ups in the night.) We did better on the ascent out of the canyon, since we recognized our mistakes from the two days before. At the saddle, Collin felt energized enough to climb Blue Bottle Peak (Cerro Azul), the second highest peak in Baja. In contrast to P2, Blue Bottle is just a walk-up with a gain of about 400’. However, it gives enough elevation for great views of the surrounding area.

Views from Cerro Azul

Soon we were heading back to the car, mostly downhill. We wanted to get to the car before 4PM, in time to make drive back to Ensenada in daylight (with shoulderless roads and maniacal Mexican truckers, driving is creepy at night). Collin was trying to out-race his cramps, and with those long legs, he could really move. Soon I noticed Collin, Austin and I had taken the slightly less-used trail at an unsigned junction; I consulted my GPS and realized we were on a “different” path – there are many of these “different” paths! Anji and Bart, out of sight and behind us, took the correct path. We took a more convoluted route, and the other two actually passed us on the correct trail! When “our” trail petered out, we used the GPS to shoot back to the correct route and caught up to Bart and Anji. I’m not sure they ever figured out how that happened!

We got back to the car before 4PM, and I raced to repack, wash my feet, change my shoes, and cram into the very back seat. Now, after all that exercise, it was suddenly very cramped. so arranged myself for the maximum leg extension. Anji drove, and Bart sat next to her up front, and there were no more problems with nausea.



How I rode back

We got back on route 1, and the driving was noticeably crazier than on the route down, two days before. Most vehicles, especially rickety, over-loaded pickups and semis with bald tires, were going way faster than the posted speed limit, and would pass almost at will, oblivious to turns, vertiginous drops, and oncoming traffic. We were stopped and searched briefly at a military checkpoint; as we left, Anji suggested that our body odor was responsible for the brevity of the search. We got to Ensenada and a motel, and as we were preparing to fall asleep, car horns started an incredible cacophony that didn’t end until midnight. I was so damn tired that I just put in earplugs and fell asleep anyway. It turns out that a favorite soccer team had just won a match, and the usual means of celebration is to hit the streets and keep everyone else awake. Mexico has a much more relaxed attitude about sleep; many people take siestas in the middle of the day, so they don’t understand why people should be upset by noise at night.

The next morn we left early for the long drive back. The only notable event was the half-hour wait at customs, in Tijuana, as we prepared to reenter the USA. Street peddlers and beggars ply up and down the lines of cars, selling food, trinkets, religious paintings, huge ceramic turtles, anything. We bought some churros, and tried not to think about where the vendors wash their hands. The US customs officer asked for our passports at the car window, and nonchalantly asked if we were bringing back anything from Mexico. “Nothing but scars” I replied, and he let us through.

Postscript: Map errors again!

We decided it might be nice to have Garmin-compatible maps for our GPS units for this trip. Let’s cut to the chase: the available maps had a lot of errors in this area. First I got the Mexico maps from Bicimapas (now offered through Garmin as well). I found a significant misregistration error in the Bicimapas offering for north Baja, and actually got the vendor to fix the problem; basically, the contours were shifted 200 feet to the left of where they should be, which is a real problem when you are navigating deep narrow canyons. (Bicimapas has a competitor, Cartografico, offering a similar set of maps—the competitor has the same errors, but shows no interest in fixing them.) I’m very grateful that he fixed the error before our trip, and sent the updates; but since he is selling the topo maps for all of Mexico, he really can’t pay attention to all the details, so the roads around P2 are woefully in error.

After the trip, I made a freely-available garmin-compatible topo map for the area around Picacho del Diablo. You can load this map on the newer Garmin “mapping” units, and the route that we took to Picacho is permanently built-in, along with a few waypoints for Campo Noche and other similar place of interest. I used the best available, free digital levation model—the USGS 1 arc-second data—and did an affine transform to fix the registration error. Unfortunately, that means the topographic accuracy is only slightly better than you would get with a USGS 100K map, and not as good as you would get with a USGS 24K topo map. However, this digital elevation model as at least as good as the one used by the commercial vendors.

Garmin screen with free map


 

GRAND CANYON RIM TO RIM BACKPACK


View from North Rim Campground



On our way into the canyon

Spectacular scenery

Posing on a bridge on the descent

The trail is cut right out of a cliff face.



Waterfall en route

On to Bright Angel Campground

Ribbon Falls

The trail becomes a river.

View from our campsite in Bright Angel Campground

Cooling off in Bright Angel Creek

Hiking out to South Rim

January 2013
Report by Heather Witt, Photos by Heather Witt & Jennifer Brickey

This past Memorial Day weekend I joined Jennifer Brickey and Jesy Simons on a Grand Canyon rim to rim backpacking adventure. We started our trip at North Rim Campground on Thursday night and began our trek down into the canyon on Friday morning.

Our first day, we hiked down the North Kaibab Trail 6.8 miles to the Cottonwood Campground, descending about 4,000 ft from the rim. We hiked at a leisurely pace taking pictures of the beautiful sights along the trail. There were plenty of places along our route to refill our water and take a restroom break or two. We arrived at camp early in the afternoon to find the best and shadiest spots already taken. We chose the best site we could find and lounged around through the heat of the day before setting up our tents and cooking dinner. In the meantime we got to see a rattlesnake that had decided to nest in the campsite next door to ours.

Bright Angel Campground was our final destination for day two, a 7.2 mile trek with much less elevation loss, only around 1600 ft. We took a nice side trip to Ribbon Falls, an easy one mile walk downriver from Cottonwood. It was a lovely place to cool off. The trip to Bright Angel was filled with passing trail runners and hikers doing rim to rim in one day and at times felt like a busy highway. At one point in the trail, a water pipe had ruptured, turning the trail into a bit of a raging river, and, as we later learned, severely diminishing the water pressure in Bright Angel Campground. When we arrived at Bright Angel, sometime just after noon, the temperature was nearly 100 degrees. We chose the shadiest site we could find, just off of Bright Angel Creek. A nice soak in the creek was just what we needed after the warm hike through the canyon.

Our final day in the canyon was our toughest. We hiked all the way from Bright Angel Campground to the South Rim, 9.5 miles and nearly 4400 ft of elevation gain. It was a long hot day and the last mile and a half was the longest mile and a half ever! Not to mention the hundreds of people swarming the trail. We made it to the rim 7 hours after leaving camp, hot and exhausted, but feeling very accomplished! We chowed down on some well-deserved Indian Tacos, napped in Kristi Meyer’s car (she graciously volunteered to shuttle us back to our cars at the north rim), bought our “Rim to Rim” t-shirts, and then drove home. It was a LONG day, but a great one!



Our first view of the Colorado River



Potty break...



Just below Indian Gardens, our first break of the day



Looking back down the trail



An example of the extremely “intelligent” people who visit the canyon


Our hard-earned T-shirts


LVMC VOLUNTEER PROJECTS

Volunteers help with a trail maintenance project on Mt. Charleston’s North Loop (left); plant riparian vegetation at Desert National Wildlife Refuge (center); and remove invasive olive trees from Calico Basin (right).

 

2013
Report by Michelle Napoli, Photos by Jose Witt, Sue Schager & Joel Brewster

Part of the LVMC’s mission is to encourage safe and clean practices on the trails, at the crags and in the canyons and mountains. This includes not only our own responsible use of resources, such as practicing Leave No Trace ethics, but also pitching in some time and effort to take care of our lands. The LVMC is making a conscious effort to coordinate volunteer opportunities with area partners and provide our members with an easy way to give back to the many places we enjoy in and around Las Vegas. To those who have been actively volunteering, we send a big Thank You! We’ve volunteered our time to plant native vegetation, remove invasive plants and trees, pick up trash, build a trailhead fence, repair trails, naturalize a “road” created by illegal motorized vehicle use in wilderness, and restore various aspects of Calico Basin’s Red Spring area …

In the past six months, your fellow LVMC members have teamed up with Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Friends of Red Rock Canyon, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, NDOT, and many neighbors from our community …

We’ve had a lot of fun while working in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, the South McCullough Wilderness, and Mt. Charleston…But to keep this good work continuing we need YOUR help! The LVMC is posting one volunteer project on our outings calendar each month, and we encourage all of our members to sign up as often as you can. With a paid membership base in the 120 to 130 range, if each member volunteered just once a year, we would have at least 10 members at each monthly volunteer event! Add to that the participation of friends, family and others who have registered for our Meetup site (because everyone is welcome to work on volunteer efforts with us), and you can easily see how the LVMC can make a real difference!

Removing invasive mustard weed at Desert National Wildlife Refuge (left); building a new trailhead fence in the South McCullough Wilderness (center); planting native vegetation in Lake Mead NRA (right)

Cleaning up Kyle Canyon Road (left); hanging out with “Mojave Max” on Red Rock Day (center);
installing new signs at Calico Basin's Red Springs (right)


CLIMBER'S CORNER


Six Performance Climbing Tips
By Stewart Green, About.com Guide

Part 1: Tips 1 – 3

Improve Your Climbing Movement Skills

When you are rock climbing, you are defying not only the laws of gravity but also redefining your possibilities and overcoming your limitations. Climbing is all about movement in a different kind of terrain than what we find in our normal lives—the vertical world.

6 Tips to Climb Outside

While indoor gym climbing is a great place to start, to learn basic movement techniques, and to get stronger, it is not rock climbing—it is training for the real thing. If you start climbing in an indoor gym, use these six tips to make a smooth transition to climbing outside.

Tip #1: Look, Think, Then Move

Climbing is not just physical, but also mental. Before you begin climbing, study the rock surface and the cliff face. Look for handholds and footholds. Look for places to rest. Look for chalk marks or foot scuff marks that other climbers have used. Visualize your route and pick out the best and most efficient line to the anchors. Then move up the rock. Try not to waste effort and energy. Try to follow your route. If you get off-route or find that the way you chose just doesn’t work, then find another path. Stay calm and centered and solve the problem.

Tip #2: Don’t Hug the Rock

One of the basic mistakes that beginners make is to hug the rock. It’s great to love rock, but you don’t have to get that close. When you lean into the rock surface, or what climbers call “hugging” the rock, it takes weight off your feet and makes you feel out of balance. Climbing is all about being in balance so keep your body perpendicular or roughly 90 degrees to the earth’s surface. Keep your hips centered over your feet for more stability. Every hand or foot movement you make should keep you in balance.

Tip #3: Stand on Your Feet

While upper-body strength is important, especially on vertical and overhanging routes, climbing is more about balance and finding equilibrium. To be a good climber doesn’t require muscling up cliffs using biceps, abdominals, and shoulder strength, but requires using your legs and feet. A lot of the power needed to climb is in your legs, which push you up the rock. Your legs, particularly your quadriceps, are extremely powerful. As you climb, concentrate on pushing with your legs on footholds and pulling with your arms and hands. Use your upper body to help you find balance. Practice pushing with legs and pulling with arms and finding harmony in their opposition.

Part 2: Tips 4 – 6 (will be in next newsletter)


BACKCOUNTRY COOKING
with Heather Witt

It has been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is especially true when backpacking! Eating a good breakfast will provide your brain and muscles with the energy needed for hauling your pack over rivers and through woods. Cherry Walnut Couscous Porridge is a delicious alternative to oatmeal or energy bars.

Cherry Walnut Couscous Porridge
(courtesy of Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’ by Tim & Christine Conners)

½ c. instant couscous
½ c. powdered milk
¼ c. dried cherries
¼ c. finely chopped walnuts
3 tbsp. light brown sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash salt
1 ¼ c. water

At home: Place all dry ingredients in a 1-gallon zip top bag.

On the trail: Bring water to a boil. Stir in dry mix, then cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Stir & Serve

Serves 2


LVMC MONTHLY BIO FEATURE
Jodie Schraven

Where were you born?
Buffalo, NY
Geaux Bills!


How long have you lived in Las Vegas?
3 years come August 2013

What is your occupation?
Special Education Teacher

How long have you been an LVMC member?
8 months maybe??

What is your favorite hike/climb?
Glass and Eagle and then Corkscrew I think

What is the most challenging hike/climb you have done?
Mt. Fuji and Stupid Pyramid (Pyramid Pk. in Death Valley)

How did you get into hiking/climbing?
I always played outside but then when I got back from Japan in August 2012 I wanted to hike around here. So, I Googled 'hiking in LV' and found LVMC on meetup.

What are your hobbies other than hiking/climbing?
Watching LSU football, traveling, reading, helping kids, tutoring, writing, baking, painting, and photography


LAS VEGAS MOUNTAINEERS CLUB
BOARD OF DIRECTORS


President: Dan Young
Vice President/Training Director: Richard Baugh
Secretary: Sue Schager
Treasurer: Lynda Gallia
Newsletter Editor: Joel Brewster
Outings Director: Jose Witt
Membership Director: Eric Kassan
Website Director: Amy Brewster
Public Relations/Marketing Director: Al Bennett
Club Gear Director: Dan Young
Social Director: Heather Witt
Communty Outreach Director: Michelle Napoli

The Ascender is the quarterly online newsletter of the Las Vegas Mountaineers Club. All content is property of LVMC and may be used only by the original submitters. All others must obtain written consent from the Board of Directors.
All Club members are invited to submit trip reports, photos, trip listings, recipes, classified ads and other related information. September 15th is the deadline for the next issue.

SUBMIT ARTICLES TO:
Joel Brewster
E-mail: web@lvmc.org

Hikers

CLUB MEMBERSHIP

RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP ONLINE

Please send any address, phone number and e-mail changes to Eric Kassan, membership director. LVMC currently has approximately 130 paid members or families.


If you wish to send a check instead of using PayPal online, please make your check payable to the Las Vegas Mountaineers Club and mail to: P.O. Box 36026, Las Vegas, NV 89133-6026.
Single membership is $30 per year, $85 for three years. Family annual membership is $40, $110 for three years.

To the following members, please note that your membership will expire in the next three months, unless you have recently renewed it:



Ladan Alavi
T iffany Belmonti
Alex Coe
Lea Fujikawa
Melinda Hernandez
Nasrin Houston
Aeon Jones
Alan Nakashima
Joseph Kall
Jane Newton
Susan Schager & Mark Beauchamp
Lori Curry
Justine & Rich Byers

CLUB GEAR

This club gear is available at no charge to members (a refundable deposit of the gear's approximate value may be required):


4-season tent
Helmets
Bear Barrels
Alpine Axes*
Snowshoes
Strap-on Crampons*
Hiking Boots
Climbing Shoes
Carabiners
Quickdraw

Quantity
1
8
3
5
8
7
2
2
18
1


Grigris
Harnesses
Slings
Cordalette
Belay Devices

Belay Plate
Ice Tool
Ice Screws

Deadman Anchors
Quantity
4
5
15
1
4
1
3
8
4

*Will require a signed waiver.

Non-members are not eligible to borrow club gear. Deposits taken on gear must be in the form of cash or check and will be returned upon return of equipment. Gear is also available to members for courses with no deposit required. If you have any questions or would like to inquire about club gear, please contact Dan Young.

Classified Ads
Members: Free
Non-members: $5

Business Ads
1/8 page (business card): $5
1/4 page: $10
1/2 page: $15
Full page: $20
All rates are per issue and will be discontinued automatically unless renewed. Ads must be prepaid and sent by e-mail or submitted on CD. Please make checks payable to Las Vegas Mountaineers Club.

Gear

CLICK HERE FOR LVMC EVENT CALENDAR

GENERAL MEETINGS

The Las Vegas Mountaineers meet on the 4th WEDNESDAY of the month at 7 pm at REI in Summerlin.

 

JUNE

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Picacho del Diablo & Mt. Hood
Bart Stephens & Collin Kamholz

 

JULY

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Red Rock Climbs
Larry DeAngelo

AUGUST

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wind River Range
Dan Young & Lynda Gallia


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