Chiquito Peak P500

Wed, Jun 1, 2022
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Chiquito peak lies in the Cleveland National Forest, west of Descanso and overlooking Interstate 8. A Forest road reaches to the summit, and there are about 10 ascents listed on PB which might make one think this should be a piece of cake. It is not. The Forest road (called Chiquito Road on the topo map) to the summit is gated at the entrance to a private ranch on the east side of the peak. All the available TRs involve trespassing on this property to one degree or another. There are also multiple summits, and the one identified as Chiquito Peak on both PB and LoJ is not the highest, not even the second highest bump. The highest summit is to the west and is clearly higher - this was pointed out by several others on PB. This point is called Mayor Chiquito on PB. In his TR, Larry Edmonds mentions there are two large boulder vying for the highpoint, neither climbable without protection. All of the ascents appear to start at the Discanso Wall TH found on the southeast side of the peak at the end of the driveable portion of Wildwood Glen Ln. The Discanso Wall is a climbing area about 300-400ft above the TH, near the edge of the private property above. I noticed that one can hike east on the gated continuation of Wildwood Glen to a point directly below the west summit, then up from there for an all-public route to the highpoint. The problem is that this slope is quite steep and covered in thick brush, virtually impenetrable without a trail of some sort. Or at least, normally covered in thick brush. My study of the maps online showed that the 2021 Road fire burned most of this slope. If the burn was thorough, I expected that there shouldn't be too much regrowth as yet. Adding to the plan, the satellite view showed a use trail from the top of the burn to the summit rocks, a distance of about 1/10mi. I didn't have any climbing gear with me in San Diego, so to cap off the plan, I had picked up a 75-foot, 3/8" braided rope from Home Depot. Hopefully this would be enough to allow me to aid the summit block.

It was expected to be in the 80s inland, so I was up at 5a and at the TH for a 6a start. No fog in the area this morning, so it would warm more quickly than it had the past few days. There was another vehicle at the TH when I started out, and I soon came upon the owner with three dogs on their way back from an early morning outing. The Forest road I followed parallels Interstate 8 only a quarter mile away, so this is far from a Wilderness experience, but it was still quite nice. I reached the turnoff point after a mile, finding the burned area much as expected. The manzanita and other woody brush did not burn completely. The remaining snags were not easily broken, but most of them could be pushed aside. My clothing would be covered in soot slashes from all these snags, but that was far preferred over pushing through live versions of the same. There were grasses, weeds and other fast-growing plants that had thrived on the open slopes over the winter season, some of this to head level. But all of these were soft-stemmed and easy to bend, break or simply push aside. I spent about 45min working my way up the burned slope to its upper reaches where the fire seemed to have fizzled out, leaving thick brush. Some granite slabs let me climb a short distance higher to where I discovered the use trail I had seen in the satellite view. It turned out to be better than I had expected - there was evidence that brush had been clipped at some time in the past, and the trail was easy to follow. Who made the trail and to what purpose I can't guess. The trail does not seem to go any lower than where I picked it up.

It had taken me about an hour and a quarter to reach the summit blocks. I spent a few minutes eyeballing the two contenders that Larry had mentioned, concluding the larger southern block was easily higher. A register left by Mark Adrian and Terry Flood in 2005 is found at the base of this block on its east side. This side also has the shortest distance to the top of the boulder, about 20ft up. I first examined the north side where a narrow ledge looks like it might provide a scrambling route on that side. This proved unworkable as the slope is steep above this and not possible for me even if I had climbing shoes instead of boots. Out came the rope. It took some time to unwind all the twists that the factory had put in the rope when it was packaged. I then tied a rock to one end, coiled the rope and tossed it up and over the block. My first try rolled off the south side of the block. My second effort was stronger and went over to the west side. I tied off the east side and went around to the west side to pull the rope down and secure it to a manzanita bush. Coming back around to the east side, I tried pulling myself up hand over hand, but the angle was to steep and I had not the strength to pull up on rope in that manner. On top of that, the rope started sliding off the south side again as I weighted it. I went back to the west side and changed the anchor to a rock at the base of the northwest corner. This would solve the problem of it rolling off the south side. I then proceeded to tie some knots in the rope on the east side. This worked well - I could pull myself up by the knots and the rope wouldn't slip off the side. But I quickly realized I had too few knots and would need more higher on the rope. I was regretting I hadn't gotten a 100-foot rope which would have been easily adequate. I spent more time back and forth from one side of the boulder to the other, untying the west side so I could add more knots higher on the rope, then resecuring the rope. This went on for several iterations. The key was when I realized there was no need to secure the east side of the rope, since I planned to go up and down that same side. The end result was about six knots on the east side with the end of the rope at my head level. I grunted my way up the series of knots in less than a minute to reach the top. I was immediately concerned when I saw the rope had started to fray where it was stressed over the edge of the granite. All my efforts pulling on the rope (not a static line, so it had some dynamic pull and would "saw" itself over the edge with each strain) had left it looking compromised. In a slight panic, or perhaps just determined focus, I tied another knot where the rope looked weakest and quickly shimmied myself back down the rope. Back down, I realized in my haste I had forgotten all about taking photos. I looked up at the rope and thought about climbing back up. Then I thought about it some more. Home Depot doesn't sell climbing ropes and I was now aware of the stark difference between a $150 climbing rope and a $15 rope with a 250lb load limit. I looked up at the sad excuse for a rope and said, "Screw it." No pics, this time.

After coiling the rope up, I packed it away and decided to pay a visit to the east summit about 1/3mi away as the crow flies. It is easily reached via the road going down to the ranch on the east side and a spur road forking off to the east summit. The main road is in good shape and shows some vehicle traffic, undoubtedly from the ranch - his own private bit of Forest road to visit the overlook at the west summit. The spur road no longer sees traffic, but is easily managed on foot or horseback. Others mentioned that this spur road leaves one in view of the ranch below on the way to the east summit. One person turned back because of this. The distance to the house is something like a quarter mile and the brush makes only the upper part of one's torso visible. It seemed highly unlikely that I would be spotted, or that someone would care. And since there were no signs or fences separating the public and private lands here, I had the excuse that I came up from the south which was all Forest lands. There is a bit of bushwhacking through manzanita to reach the spot identified as Chiquito Peak, but not onerous. Another Mark Adrian register is found here, this one from 2021. He notes that other points to the south and west survey higher. I looked south and spotted the point he referred to, having passed it a few minutes earlier. I visited this southern point in turn, noting it had a small cairn but no register. I then retraced the roads back to the west summit, back down the use trail and then again through the burned area. My pants and shirt looked trashed from all the soot, but at least there was no shredding on this one. I walked back east along the Forest road, passing another two guys out for a stroll, one taking pictures of wildflowers, the other with a dog. It was 10:15a by the time I got back to the TH and Jeep, noting it was already 81F. I had two other peaks in the area that I had hoped to do today, but decided I wouldn't have much fun with it this warm. The outing had been a smashing success by my estimate, and I didn't want to ruin it. I would plan to come back in the next day or two for those...


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