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The weather started out very promising, about 55 degrees just before sunrise as I drove through Ocotillo. But it grew colder and windy as I approached the first trailhead, and only grew windier as the day progressed. Something like 30mph on the ridgetops which was enough to make rock-hopping a little dangerous. Too windy to really enjoy the summits and views, and oddly, the winds didn't help the visibility any - I would have expected crystal clear skies with such winds in the Sierra. It warmed up to about 68F in the valleys by the afternoon, but the wind made it seem a good deal cooler and I had a light jacket on much of the time. Obviously it could have been much worse - I could have been out there climbing in the 116F heat of the summer!
There are numerous sources one can use for finding the trailheads of these desert peaks. I had Jerry Schad's and Andy Zdon's books, plus some info from the HPS and Summitpost websites. The DPS guide also has information, all of which can be useful - these THs aren't always easy to get to. I had a 2WD van, no high clearance, so driving off the pavement was a challenge, and a took a significant amount of time as I came to find.
From the trailhead, the main canyon heads northwest out of the parking area rather than south or west as one may be tempted. There are several threads in a braided use trail with a fair number of ducks that you can use to hike up the main canyon to Mortero Palms. This is a pretty cool oasis worth visiting on its own. You can then follow use trails further west up the canyon to a saddle leading over to Goat Canyon. This seems to be the most popular route, and not to climb the mountain, but to head over the ridge and down the other side to view the Goat Canyon RR trestle. I didn't go visit it myself, but it is a pretty impressive sight, I'm told (you can actually see it from Sombrero Peak if you know where to look). From the saddle, I headed south along the ridge to the summit of Jacumba Mtn. This took longer than I expected because it is not a very direct route. More like following the shorter sides of a right triangle.
On the return, I decided on a more direct route, down a canyon NE of the summit. This was a very enjoyable descent, with a few class 3 sections but no serious cliffs or other hindrances. I found my way back to Mortero Palms coming from the south. I had hoped to get back to the trailhead more directly (perhaps down that other canyon I was warned against in the beginning?), but this worked out pretty nicely - it only took about an hour for the return. Car to car time was three and half hours.
There is a ducked trail you can follow up the canyon, heading first southwest for a short ways, then steeply upcanyon to the south. There are several braids of the trail higher up taking you to the summit. It's not hard to find as it's only about a mile and half from the TH, almost continually climbing upwards. I returned the same way. Car to car time was just under two hours.
I followed the approach directions given in Zdon's book, driving 0.7miles to a junction, then following a left turn until just before the road drops down into a wash. I parked in a big open area to avoid some horrendous road for that last half mile to the mine. Even in 4x4 it would be a challenge as I noted rocks piled up in a few of the worst spots in an effort to get a vehicle over the obstacles. Better to park and walk the easy distance to the mine.
The abandoned West Dolomite Mine is at the base of the mountain on the west side. There isn't much to see there, not even an ore shaft. The rocks in the area are interesting, lots of cyrstaline rock, some of it very sharp to the hands. From the mine, you can follow a use trail up and around the right side of the structures to the slopes above. Just climb uphill and you'll find the summit easily enough - the highpoint is pretty obvious. From the summit one has views to the north and east of the Badlands, a badly eroding mix of cool rock formations in the lowlands below. To the southeast one can see the higher Carrizo Mtn. To the west are the Jacumba Mountains. I went back via the same route, total time was about an hour and fifteen minutes.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Jacumba Mountain - Sombrero Peak
This page last updated: Sat Jul 28 13:55:25 2007
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