I had a friend in Tucson who asked me in the summer of 2000 if I wanted to climb a mountain called El Picacho Del Diablo in the Baja. He said he was going with another guy who had climbed it once before. I had never heard of Diablo before, and I knew nothing about the Baja. I didn’t even know that they had mountains down there, but it sounded like something I was interested in. Their plan was to go in October and try the Canyon Del Diablo approach. I told him I was in.
In September, my friend called and said the trip was postponed until November. I didn’t know it at the time, but that delay spelled doomsday for our trip. October 2000 proved to be a very rainy time, and the roads to the Canyon Del Diablo trailhead were essentially impassable. We ended up trying the Western Approach via Blue Bottle Saddle.
In early November, we made the long trip down to Mexico. I rode in the back of a big extended cab diesel pickup. It was a cool ride down because I didn't have to do anything. I just sat in the back and looked around. We had to stop at a few Army checkpoints as they checked us for guns and other illegal contraband. Fortunately, we didn’t have any problems. We started out heading for the Canyon Del Diablo trailhead. However, we soon found out that the roads to the trailhead were impassable due to all the recent rain. We then realized that we had to head for the Western Approach, which was a long ways away. But, we had no other choice, so we headed that way. Along the way, we passed by a place called “Mike's Sky Ranch”. We also took some sort of shortcut near the ranch, but ended up on a nightmarish road for a short stretch. We barely made it through. We kept driving, and started heading up to the observatory. We got to the Vallecitos trailhead after dark. It was cold and windy – not exactly conditions that inspired confidence. We made the drive from Tucson in one long day – too long. If I ever come here again, it’s going to be a two-day affair.
We started up the trail towards Blue Bottle Saddle the next morning. The hiking was easy, but there were snowdrifts along the trail. Our leader started to give us ominous hints that the snow might stop our attempt. I didn’t like what I was hearing, but there was nothing I could do. I had taken an entire week off work, and I didn’t want to blow it for nothing. I never did like the idea of coming down here in November anyway, but I had no choice. It was either November, or I didn’t go. The other people in the group where also hinting that we should quit. I started to protest, but it was me against everyone else. I could read the writing on the wall, but we agreed that we would go up to Blue Bottle Saddle before we made a decision. At least that way I could see Diablo with my own eyes.
We got to Blue Bottle Saddle. It was only then that I could see the awesome view of Diablo across the canyon. I reached for my camera, but it wasn’t there. I must have lost it somewhere on the way up, which is nothing new. I’ve lost a lot of cameras over the years. Diablo wasn’t much higher than we were, but the gaping 3,000’ deep chasm of Canyon Del Diablo was between us and Diablo. Worse yet, there were 5’ deep snowdrifts across the trail leading down to Camp Noche. It was then that I knew our “attempt” was over. It wasn’t much of an attempt, but there was nothing I could do. We hung out for awhile looking at Diablo, then retreated back to the cars. We camped there that night, then started for home the next day – Election Day 2000. I remember staying at a motel in El Centro that night watching the election returns. We went back to Tucson the next day, and I drove home. I didn’t have much to show for my week off work, but I'm still glad I went. I plan on returning to Diablo again someday, where next time, I hope to make a real attempt.
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