Cerro Pescadores Mexican DPS Peak

  • Updated: January 11, 2014
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

  Cerro Pescadores (3,346')
When: January 11th, 2014
Where: Mexico!
Who: Matthew Hengst, Jack Kieffer, Jen Blackie, Gracia Delavida, Kristen Lindbergh, Neal Robbins, Mark Butski
Pictures: [Matt]
GPS Track: [Map]
Mexican GPS Maps:  [Harlan]

The Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section list has 4 peaks down in Mexico.  Due to the issues around the border the last few years these aren't done quite as much as the various peaks north of the border and as I completed more and more of the list I started to look at them more seriously.

I'd previously attempted Cerro del Pinacate during the last run up Baboquivari only to get turned around at the gate of the park due to "unspecified security concerns" that seemed rather oddly focused around the volcano itself.

With that peak apparently closed off (not to mention a long drive) there were still 3 others we could do and Jack, Gracia, and myself decided that would be a goal for the early part of 2014.  So we planned a two day for January to grab Cerro Pescadores and Pico Risco and a four day for May to get Picacho Del Diablo.

Pescadores and Risco are both relatively close to the border crossing at Mexicali / El Centro.  The crossing was about a 3 hour drive for us from Orange County an then we were expecting about an hour once we were over to reach the trailhead.

We'd originally talked about bivying near San Diego Friday night in order to get across the border early but Jack had a certain birthday he wanted to be around for.  So instead we all met up at 4 am in a parking lot in Orange County.

Woo smiling tired faces.  We left OC at 4:30 am in two vehicles and made the 3 hour drive to Mexicali.

We gased up and grabbed a bite to eat right before crossing the border.

We sailed through the border without even having to roll down a window and made our way though Mexicali.  Sadly it wasn't the best initial impression of Mexico.  The air quality was abysmal and the city itself has trash and rubble all over.

But that's ok!  We weren't there to sightsee in the city.  To the trailhead!

Which is a dump.  Literally.

The trusty DPS guide for Pescadores led us to an obvious gated road and said to take the dirt road immediately south of that.  Easy!

Yea, well, we need to update the guide a bit more often.  The road washes out somewhat catastrophically not very far in.

There were tracks that looked like someone had made it around that section on the right but they looked a little to sandy and 4wd ish for the vehicles we had.  I was missing the Party Jeep rather badly at this point.

We backed out and tried the gated road.  After some trial and error and an intercession by some people who worked in the local tire pit we figured out how to get through.  Basically drive in and head for the tire pit.  Right before going down into it (dead end) bear left and jump the burm back on to the road the DPS guide talks about.

From here the road was better but very sandy.  We had a Jeep Liberty and Jack's 2WD truck along and while we made it in we were swimming a bit.  We ended up stopping a little early because it looked like the sand was getting deeper.  Where we stopped looked fairly firm but Jack did get stuck when we tried to leave.

We geared up and continued up the road passing more piles of trash along the way.

We saw two other vehicles a bit further in hidden off to the side.  They actually belonged to Tina Bowman, Doug Mantle, and Michael Gosnell who we ran into on their way down as we climbed the initial ridge and whom we all knew from other Sierra Club stuff.  Small world!

The route goes up the canyon turning into the usual rock and vegetation mess.  Not long after the canyon swings to the south it was time to climb out.  We went a little to far (too much talking) and ended up shortcutting up the side of the ridge a bit which wasn't the most pleasant option.

The rock was very crumbly and the view was rather disappointing until were above the smog layer.

Near the top it got a lot more interesting with bigger rock and a fun easy scramble.

The summit was a rather nondescript bump on a ridge that's actually before the nondescript bump we'd been guessing from below.

Again the views were a bit sad due to the odd smelling smog layer.

We had to take care during descent due to the loose terrain.  We had a GPS track that showed someone made it down the gully north of the ridge and tried it right before dark.  Neal and Gracia made it down but said it was very sketchy and everything else they found was cliffs.  The rest of us backed off and grumbled our way back up to the ridge and carefully picked out way back down the standard route.

But the fun wasn't over!  We made the cars and loaded up only to have Jack's truck promptly sink into the sand.  After some digging we managed to wedge Jack's floor mats under the tires and get just enough traction to get moving.

Retracing our route through the dump in the dark was also slightly challenging and we had a few dead ends.  We eventually hopped back over the burm and skirted the tire pit (which suddenly had lights erupting out of it) and found the gate.  Which was locked.  Sort of...

We managed to make it past this fiendishly secure barrier and headed north back toward Mexicali.  We needed to pick up the 2 which was a toll road that would take us west to the following days climb of Pico Risco.

First though we stopped at the southern outskirts of Mexicali to eat at a small roadside stand called Rosy's Hot Dogs.  So yes, after countless trips where we barrel out of the US mountains to eat post trip Mexican food here we were getting hot dogs down in Mexico.  Fitting somehow.

And quite tasty.

Back on the road we took the 2 west from Mexicali heading for Tecate.  We initially missed the turn to the south leading to Guadalupe Canyon Hot Springs.  For future reference if you hit the largely dark military checkpoint where federal troops with machine guns and very small flashlights check your vehicle you're too far west.  Also as Jack found out they don't appreciate people trying to make illegal u turns right in front of the inspection line.

Backtracking we found the turn and started south on a prominent but very washboarded dirt road.  This continues for 30-some endless miles of bouncing.  And bouncing.  And bouncing.  Supposedly this road was improved a few years back and they have a bus that runs in from San Diego.  That must be an interesting ride.

The road swings around some sort of orchard and we had to run down the front vehicle after they turned to the right.  (A sign said this way leads back to Mexicali)

We backtracked a bit and continued to the west.  The road got a bit rougher at this point.  We never needed 4wd but you better have high clearance and Jack's longer wheelbase pickup scraped at one point negotiating the rocks.

Occasional signs reading "Hot Spring" along the side of the road kept us going and after bearing right at a mass of signs around the riverbed we ended up at the campground sometime around 2 am.

We poked around attempting to be quiet.  The sites are laid out along the road for quite a ways with lots of entrances to either side that were gated off with rope that looked only slightly more secure than the dump had been.

We wandered around for a bit discarding a few options due to them being closed off or having no flat place to sleep.  We found one occupied camp and two vehicles before retreating back near the entrance at the La Cueva campsite desperate to get some sleep at long last.

Except we had to explore the hot springs.  We found the cave site to be empty though we could have easily turned on a hose and filled it ourselves.  Jack found the nearby El Miradore tub was already running and seemingly unoccupied.

We were all exhausted and had been up 24 hours at this point but we couldn't resist.

It felt awesome though the water was just a bit to hot to really be comfortable.  The night was spectacular with a bright moon and pleasantly warm temperatures so we alternated being in the water or sitting outside.

The last of us finally turned in at 4 am or so after a good 25 hours awake.

The next morning we were up and off to climb Pico Risco...

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