Four Anza-Borrego Peaks
Hoping to tick a few more peaks off my San Diego County list, I headed out to the Anza Borrego Desert to give it a go. The plan was to climb from the state park boundary on S-22; up and around Chimney Rock; bag White (5326), The Thimble and San Ysdiro Peaks and then tag Bonny Peak (4574) on the way back. I had driven out past Ranchita the weekend before, parked and even started to hike, but the weather was not cooperating. The rain was really coming down, the fog was thick, and the wind was whipping like crazy. Everything about the trip didn’t seem right so I decided to turn it in and give it a run another day.
This time, the weather couldn’t have been better. I headed out right before 7 am and reached the Anza Borrego boundary turn-off right around 8:15. The sky was clear, the sun was bright and I was rearing to go. Following the directions from Bob Burd’s Trip Report, I followed the fence line north and then back east as it followed the boundary of the state park. When I reached the southeast side of Chimney Rock I came upon a use trail and followed it around the eastern edge of the rock pile, down a small hill and then up the southwest side of White Peak (Peak 5326).
From here, the use trail seemed to meander about and since I was looking for more of a direct route, I plunged straight ahead through the brush towards the peak. I reached the ridge just south of the peak and the views in all directions except north were pretty good. To the east lay Borrego Springs, Hellhole Canyon and a couple of other canyons that looked like they might hold some great exploring. After taking in the view I scrambled up to the summit, snapped a few photos, signed the register and headed on
The view northwest from White Peak to the Thimble, gave a pretty good summary of the route to follow and it looked to entail a bit of scrambling down the north side of White Peak and a tad bit of trespassing before reaching the goal. As I neared the end of the boulder hop down the northwest side of White Peak, I came across the fence marking the western boundary of the park. Still looking to keep the direct route I was taking, I walked through a small gap in the fence and headed up a gully on private property towards the Thimble.
After climbing up and down a few tiny hills I came upon another barbed-wire fence. I clambered over and headed west towards the southeastern face of the Thimble. Looking up, the peak seemed to have a number of routes to the summit. Not wishing to waste much time I quickly picked a route that lead just left of a giant slab and looked to contain plenty of hand and footholds. Luckily, I picked correctly and enjoyed a nice Class 2-3 scramble to the summit. It was right around 9:30 when I peaked and the views were great. To the north stood a small ridge consisting of several rocky peaks and just off to the left of them stood San Ysdiro. It didn’t seem all the far off in the distance, so I quickly signed the register and headed off to the north.
San Ysidro Peak
Dropping off the north side of the Thimble was a little more difficult than I had anticipated. Much of it was a sheer cliff and the first couple of routes I took ended up leading to some not so inviting places. I kept working my way east and eventually came to a rock-filled gully on the northeast side that allowed me to drop off without much difficulty. Once back on somewhat level ground, I headed west through a small saddle on the north/south running ridge and then worked my way north along the rocky western slopes of the ridge. The going was tedious, the manzanita and other shrubbery were growing thick and the boulder hopping was wearing on my knees. Fortunately, when I reached the third rocky peak on the ridge I was able to head almost directly west towards San Ysidro. This section was just slightly uphill and contained a few less obstacles.
As I started climbing the southeastern slope of San Ysdiro I came upon a few red ribbons and some ducks clearly marking a use trail coming up from the south. I jumped on the trail and before I knew it, I had reached the boulders marking the summit. I climbed the large boulder marking the high point, an easy Class 2 climb, and after dismounting, I snapped a few photos, ate a quick snack and went looking for the register. Seconds later I located the ammo can, just east of the largest boulder, signed the log and headed back down towards the south following the use trail.
Bonny Peak and the Return
Following the trail down made the going much easier. Most of it was comprised of sandy material and I was able to semi-glissade down much the southeastern slope. Not wanting to have to climb back up through the notch, just north of the Thimble, I elected not to take the trail to the bottom and instead stayed relatively high on the ridge. This created a few problems cutting through the brush and involved some boulder hopping, but I figured it was better than having to climb more than I needed to. After working my way around the eastern side of the Thimble I decided to forgo the boulder hopping of White Peak altogether and instead elected to follow one of the gullies on private property, just to the west of the peak, all the way to the Chimney Rock.
The going definitely wasn’t any easier, but I figured at least I saved my knees from some of the punishment. It did involve a lot of bushwhacking though, so I’m fairly certain I didn’t save any time. As Chimney Rock came into view, I headed towards the east side of it and found the use trail I had employed earlier. The trail seemed to be heading directly for Bonny Peak, which was my last stop for the day, so I kept on it.
Bonny Peak looked to be just a little bump in the south but as I got closer I could see that it was going to be a fun climb. Turns out it was the best climbing of the day. Two large boulders made up a large portion of the summit block and they both looked to be pretty sheer. From where I was coming, I could only see the north or west sides, and neither looked to hold many foot or handholds. As I scrambled up the boulders from the north, I was having a hard time finding a decent route. I circled to the east and finally found a nice route with a few handholds. Years of water run-off had created some holes in the rock and I was able to use the holes and wedge myself up, was pretty fun. Not a lot of exposure but it sure had my blood rushing and my heart pounding.
As I pulled myself up to the top, I noticed the summit area was not all that large. The summit register (Jack Daniels Tin) and benchmark were right in front of me and there was just enough room to sit, eat a snack, fill out the log and look for a route down. The north side was out of the question so I packed up and headed off to search the south side of the peak.
Finding a way down turned into a puzzle but it was also a very enjoyable experience. I had to retrace my steps a few times but was finally able to lower myself with the help of some rocks and some nearby tree branches. I worked my way back down a gully heading southwest, and wish I would’ve found the use trail I was on earlier because the going was tough. The brush was thick and it seemed like each ridge I climbed only led to another gully. Finally, I ran into the boundary fence and I followed it back down to the road. It was nearing 12:30 and I couldn’t wait to put on my flip-flops and rest my tired feet. Overall, it was a fun adventure. Lots of route finding errors, a tired body and some great climbing where I least expected it. The Anza Borrego is a beautiful place and I can’t wait to head out and experience some of its beauty again.