|March 22, 2012|
White (SDC #26, 5326')
The Thimble (SDC #22, 5779')
San Ysidro(SDC #21, 6147')
Goat (SDC #24, 4232')
I’d been to the starting point for The Thimble and San Ysidro exactly two years and one day previous, but had only made it as far as the White benchmark. My partner Tom and I had decided to turn back there, realizing we would be returning long after dark, having started mid-afternoon after bagging Granite Peak that morning and then taking too long of a lunch with some friends in Borrego Springs. That was long before I had stumbled upon the San Diego peaks list though, which was the main reason for my return, this time with out-of-state friend Josh Kinser.
Josh and I parked at the large dirt turnout at an obvious apex of the S22, just east of the center of Ranchita, and started out towards the Bonny benchmark on foot. The dogs at the nearby residence noticed our presence and weren’t too happy about it, so we stayed as far to the east as we could. We squeezed through some brush to reach increasingly open terrain, and reached our first destination, Bonny, in just 20 minutes. We scrambled up Bonny’s east side before traversing around to the west side of its summit block, and walking an easy and slightly exposed eighteen inch wide ledge to the register. The register was without a plastic bag and was sitting in a pool of water, so we were unable to add our signatures to the soggy pages, a complaint that seemed common with a few who had scribbled their names before us.
The register on Bonny
Leaving the Bonny benchmark
Not wasting any time, we continued on towards White, trudging through the occasional patch of snow, leftovers from a big storm the previous weekend. As before, White was a straightforward ascent and we reached its summit without pause. An easy ten foot scramble to its highest point afforded intimidating views of our next objective, The Thimble, and I thumbed through the register to find my previous entry. While grabbing a snack, Josh confessed that he had drank half of the two liters of water he had brought already, which at first instilled a sense of doom (regarding the hike, not us) until I remembered the old snow in the bottle trick. It would seem that the melting snow, which would later prove to add much effort to our day, would also be our savior.
Heading up White's open slopes
The Thimble and San Ysidro from White
After filling his bottles with snow, Josh and I dropped down the north side of White, climbing over some boulders before reaching easier terrain. On a direct path for The Thimble, we unknowingly crossed into private property and only realized our misstep when we were forced to escape it by crawling under a barbed wire fence, no harm done. As we got closer, The Thimble looked imposing, and though I knew these things tended to look worse than they really were, Josh wasn’t convinced. “Can I do that?!” this being Josh’s first peak-bagging style hike. I assured him he could, but that he certainly wasn’t obligated to do anything outside of his comfort zone.
I coaxed Josh up behind me as we made our way up the steep south side of The Thimble, stopping to reevaluate once the terrain steepened further. I searched for the easiest way up, finding a rock and plant filled chute to get us within a short climb to the top. With just fifty feet or so to go, the climbing got a lot more vertical, and I looked at several possibilities for getting up before deciding on a narrow chimney on the south side of the rocky summit. I started to climb up, using all of the few holds that seemed to be around, which all seemed to be a bit of a reach. I didn’t climb up very far before thinking that I must be off route, at least regarding what I’ve read is supposed to be the easiest way up. Certainly not inspiring any confidence with my awkward moves, Josh stated that he wouldn’t be following me and urged me on. I continued up, eventually mantling to get on top and within easy reach of the register. From there I did search around for a route that would re-inspire Josh, but he emphasized that he had no interest in continuing upwards and was enjoying the views from where he was. The easiest way up did seem to be from the southeast, though at the time snow would have made that a less feasible option. I signed in to the register, and did find a slightly easier way down, a short ways further east from where I climbed up.
Josh on The Thimble
The "up" chimney
San Ysidro from The Thimble
Views east from The Thimble
Red was up, green was down
Anxious to get to our fourth and highest peak of the day, Josh and I traversed around the east side of the Thimble, but were discouraged by all the snow between our current position and our objective, the top of San Ysidro. We had intentionally left our crampons in the truck, assuming that all the snow would just be slush anyhow and that’s exactly what it was, quite the energy sucker. Looking for an alternative, we crossed between The Thimble’s summit and another rocky tower on the ridge leading to San Ysidro, putting us on the west side of the ridge. As I had hoped, the west side held a fraction of the snow as what the east side held, and though we were weaving quite a bit through the brush, it was relatively effortless until we reached the final slope leading to the summit. The last 600 vertical feet was steep, but less so than what we had hiked to get near the summit of the Thimble. We did stumble across a use trail that helped us along, but Josh really started to lose steam on this final section. The summit probably looking much further than it really was, he took a break and declined to proceed, but some heavy encouragement got him going and we were soon celebrating the amazing landscape before us from the top of San Ysidro.
The Thimble (right) and White (left and back) from near San Ysidro's summit
Looking back at Josh en route to San Ysidro's higher point
Though the register was easily found, I knew that this wasn’t the actual high point of San Ysidro, so I made my way over while Josh took in the views and made light of my foolishness. It took me longer than expected to cover the ¼ mile, with thick brush, large boulders, and deep pockets of snow. Upon reaching the actual highpoint, I felt pretty foolish myself upon realizing that the spot where the register was, was a much more enjoyable place to be. So I returned, and we packed up and started back down the way we had come.
Slush in San Diego
Looking for the most direct route back towards White, we dropped down to the east side of San Ysidro, fighting through the deepest snow we had encountered so far on the hike. My feet were already soaked from all the postholing, but now they were actually getting cold. Cold and wet toes on a San Diego peak, definitely an experience I’d yet to have so close to home. Luckily Josh wasn’t experiencing the coldness I was, probably due to our choices in footwear, but he did share my frustration. We dropped down and down to get away from the sloppy snow before I let Josh in on a little secret I had – I had one more benchmark I hoped to reach. I checked my GPS to make sure it wasn’t too far out of the way, though Josh had no interest in joining me. I sure couldn't blame him, and though I quite enjoyed it, I couldn't deny that this benchmark chasing thing did seem rather silly. Nonetheless, after assuring me that he was comfortable with being on his own, I dropped the 600 feet and covered the 3/4s of a mile down a wash leading east towards the Goat benchmark, reaching it in just 20 minutes from where Josh and I had parted ways.
Looking back at The Thimble and San Ysidro while descending down to Goat
The Goat benchmark, the rounded point on the right
The views southeast from Goat
The Goat benchmark is a nice granite-encrusted viewpoint near the upper reaches of Hellhole Flat, and I enjoyed the spot immensely. I recognized most of the names in the easily found register and after signing in, I started back towards Josh, deciding against an alternate return route that had looked good on the map. As we had planned, he had started up the first few hundred feet towards the White benchmark to an obvious meeting point, so we were already well into our return when we met up again.
With more than a few hundred feet to gain to get near White’s summit, we despised the unfortunate return route forced by the terrain - private propery to the west, and deep snow on a traverse or a drop to the east. Josh and I reached the south side of White soon enough though, then enjoyed the mellow downhill ascent back to the car, crossing paths with some large deer along the way. After getting settled back into the truck, we drove east towards Borrego Springs for a hot meal and a cold beer, where I congratulated Josh on his efforts, as he was elated to have reached San Ysidro. After loitering for some time after dinner, we drove just a little further east and set up camp near the Calcite Mine, resting for what would prove to be another few exciting days in Anza Borrego State Park.
Hike stats: 10 miles roundtrip, 3800 feet gain/loss