Distance: 12 miles round trip cross country
Summit Elevation: 5386' (Ysidro), 1512' (Ode), 3587' (Kay), 4401' (Sirens), 3828' (Tuck), 4173' (Webo), 2369' (Ted)
Elevation Gain: 5465'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 4.37
Round trip time: 11 hours 40 minutes
Recommended water: 204 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Turn Out on Montezuma Valley Road (S22)
Difficulty: Very Strenuous
The prominent ridge of the San Ysidro Mountains in the Anza-Borrego desert stands over 5000'. I had been to the west summit at 6147', but the high point today was the east summit at 5386'. The plan was to climb up one ridge, visiting nearby benchmarks and peaks, cross Hellhole Flat, then descend down another ridge. All peaks but Tuck BM are on the San Diego Sierra Club Peak List. A pure cross country day in the desert, the Seven Summits of San Ysidro East aka "The Beast With Many Names". To get to the trailhead, take Montezuma Valley Road (S22) until it drops out of the mountains, then turn left into a dirt parking area with signs and a restroom. It is the same trailhead as for Maidenhair Falls. The San Ysidro mountains loom above and Indianhead Mountain is directly north. Dima and Sean joined me on this crazed adventure. We started at 6:20 AM with this itinerary:
- Ode BM (SDC #93)
- Kay BM (SDC #59)
- Sirens Peak (SDC #43)
- San Ysidro East (SDC #21)
- Tuck BM
- Webo BM (SDC #48)
- Ted BM (SDC #84)
Webo BM is the high point on the left, Sirens is the high point in the middle,
San Ysidro East is on the right but the high point is not visible at the start
To get to Sirens, you have drop several hundred feet from Kay, then head up one of the gullies or directly toward it. The giant boulders directly below Sirens convinced us to head for a pair of stacked boulders at the top of a gully to the right. We started that way, then Dima pulled ahead of us and disappeared into the rock field. The gully ascent was mostly class 2, with occasional (optional) class 3 moves. When we reached the stacked boulders, we started to doubt which rock pile was The Sirens. The first pile we climbed was wrong, but it did allow us to spot Dima on top of the right summit not far away. We scrambled over, with multiple class 3 moves required to gain the summit. Sirens was the most difficult summit of the day vis-a-vis scrambling skills. There was no benchmark, but a sparsely populated register rested on top. The views were stunning in all directions. We took another break, and discussed how to approach San Ysidro East. We decided on another gully ascent right of a false summit and would traverse from there. Sean was feeling some pain from a recent back injury and decided to sit this one out. He planned to head over to Tuck, then would wait for us on the summit of Webo.
It was a tough ascent to Kay, and another tough ascent to Sirens. The next trial was the thousand foot gain to Ysidro. First, we dropped about 300 feet to the base of our chosen gully. Many deer met their end in this gully, based on the bones and remains we found along the way. There were half a dozen antlers, I collected a matching pair. We found two spinal columns and various piles of limbs. As we ascended, I got really lethargic. I told Dima to go ahead and that I would meet him on the summit. I brought a sub sandwich for lunch and should have eaten it on Sirens. I thought I could hold out for Ysidro, but clearly not. I stopped on a flat rock, dug out the sub and ate half of it. A consequence of fumbling with my pack is that my GPS spilled out somewhere in this area, something I discovered near the top of the gully. I climbed back down, looking for the rock where I stopped, but no luck. So, the distance and gain reported were estimated based on topo map drawings. I got the needed surge of energy from the food and met Dima on top. There were a couple of false summits on the way. More great views were served up by San Ysidro East, and like Sirens, this spot had no benchmark. We signed the register and packed up for Tuck BM. We descended the same gully and kept and eye out for the GPS, but it was history. We got down to Hellhole Flat and looked for the confluence where Tuck BM could be found. We found a reference mark and split up to search all nearby boulders for the benchmark. After 20 minutes, we gave up and continued on to Webo.
Next, we set out for Webo. Sean was waiting for us there and yelling down into the basin. We waved at him and crossed a ridge on the way to base of Webo. Mercifully, Webo was the last chunk of gain. We met Sean at the summit, who had located the benchmark, the hiking register, and a geocache. The benchmark was on an easily climbed boulder. Days are short this time of year so we didn't spend a lot of time on Webo. I was running low on water and rationed what I had left, leaving half a liter for Ted. We started down our descent ridge with a goal of getting to Ted BM before it got dark. Sharp, pointy vegetation limited the speed of our descent and Ted was 2000' down. We got there just as light was fading. The register was next to a reference mark, and our search for the benchmark did not yield fruit. The final register signed, I finished off my water and we began our final descent. We broke out the lamps/flashlights and continued off the ridge and across the flat desert to the car. Getting off the ridge, Sean picked up 5 hitchhiking chollas. We were in the dark for about an hour and a half and it seemed like a long, but easy walk to back to the car. It was a glorious hiking day by any measure.