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2001 trip to Canyon Tajo and El Gran Trono Blanco

Craig, Jason, and I left San Diego, and crossed the Mexican borter at Tecate. The drive on the non toll roads to Rumarosa was uneventful. Then we headed off on a rather long and rough series of dirt roads. I was trying to record the turns with my GPS, but I didn’t get all of them when we started backtracking near the end where some of the roadways were blocked and there were some no trespassing signs. Eventually we got to the camping area, and set up. Then we headed up to what looked like a perfect splitter handcrack we could see. This turned out to be a bit thin and short, but otherwise was a good climb. Then we checked out a bolted line up a thin white feldspar dike. This one was pretty difficult, as the crystals were small, far apart, slick, sharp, and often facing the wrong way. However this was good practice for El Paseo Blanco (the white way or something like that).

We got up early and left camp just about when it was getting light. We planned on spending one night sleeping on a ledge. I was rather paranoid about being too cold and running out of food (I knew we had plenty of water), as we had my light sleeping bag, another even lighter, and a thin blanket for the three of us. The hike to the start of the climb went fairly uneventfully, aided greatly by the fact that the other 2 had been here before on a scouting mission. We got to the start of the climb about the same time the sun did, and started up. The first few pitches were primarily trad climbing in the 5.9 to 5.10 range. The three of us rotated between leading, cleaning, and jugging with the baggage. I should have stopped earlier on my lead of a rather imposing crack under a stairstepping roof but continued on up to a two bolt anchor that ended up being rusty 1/4" bolts, not the most inspiring. There were no decent places for trad gear nearby, so I climbed up to the next bolt and fastened a cordolette to it for backup.

The other problem with stopping there is that the crux of the climb (supposedly 11c or so) was passing that anchor and it made the next pitch about 30 feet long. Jason managed this without too much trouble though. Then we continued up mainly bolted and sparsely bolted climbing to the ledge where we planned to sleep. We got there pretty early, so we had plenty of time to relax and try to make a flat spot to sleep. We were wedged between the cliff and a huge boulder in a relatively narrow patch of gravel and sand. Being packed in tight did keep us warm though. A breeze blew up for a little bit, but when it stopped I had to unzip to keep from sweating. I didn’t sleep particularly well, but Craig managed to start snoring while we were still talking.

The next day we proceeded up more face climbing primarily along the white feldspar dikes. Occasionally things were a little more runout than I would have liked, but we didn’t fall. We topped out fairly early and stashed much of our gear before hiking and scrambling back to camp where we met up with Andy and Tammy who also drove down from San Diego.

Once more we woke up before the sun and left about when it was getting light. The plan for the day involved rappelling down the Pan American route and then climbing up it over 2 days. Things didn’t go as planned. The first rappel went as planned, but then I dropped down looking for the next anchor and never found it. Eventually we all came down to a ledge and rappelled off of a chockstone. I was leading again, and once again didn’t find any anchors. There was a nice ledge just out of reach that should have had an anchor, so I went up a bit to a secure place, and they lowered the rap station so I could get to the ledge. There was no anchor here either, although there was more evidence that people had been here. We assembled on this ledge, and Jason went down on a single line with ascenders to see if we were even on the right route. Eventually he did find "The Maw" from the topo, but by then we had spent a lot of time and didn’t think that we could get back up to a place to sleep that night if we rappelled the rest of the way to the bottom, so we ascended the ropes and climbed back out that day. (Note to self: don’t get stuck ascending with tiblocs for a full pitch in a dihedral). It took much of the rest of the day to get out, but we managed. Then back to camp.

the domes in the area
picture of Tajo area

That night was supposed to be a good meteor shower. We were in the desert in Mexico far from any cities or even towns at around 5,000 feet with a new moon, so I was looking forward to a good show. Around midnight I got up for Nature’s call and saw 3 or four meteors, so I expected things would be good at 2:40 when they were supposed to peak. The alarm went off at 2:30, and I got out to see nothing but clouds. AARGH. Later another person said they were up around 1 with a pretty good show but around 2 everything clouded up.

For our last day we went cragging doing a number of short climbs on the myriad domes near where we were camped, then we drove back, hitting a huge line of cars trying to cross the border. It took about an hour or so for the line and maybe 20 seconds of interaction with the border guards (note to self: don’t try to cross the border into the US on a Sunday evening after major terrorist attacks).