Little Picacho Benchmark

December 27, 2021


Yuma, CA

There are two “Little Picacho”s in the close vicinity of the fabled Picacho Peak so the name is very confusing. The one Adam and I climbed in this trip is immediately to the north of Picacho Peak and doesn’t have an official name according to the government map. However, the USGS had put a benchmark on the summit labelled “Little Picacho”. Another Little Picacho Peak a few dozen kilometers to the east is much more obscured but is officially named. That one is a bit of a mystery but too bad, we did not have enough time to explore this cool area in full depth.

Little Picacho Benchmark standard route. GPX DL

The evening before I soloed the main Picacho Peak and we car-camped right next to where we parked for the bigger one. In the morning we packed up camp at daybreak and drove a few kilometers back to the north side of Little Picacho Benchmark. We had a GPS track loaded so we parked at the exact spot where the previous group started, but literally anywhere would work. The approach of this peak is short but the terrain is loose with lots of pebbles on hard-packed ground. A short while into the approach we veered climber’s left under some walls to ascend into a long gully on the east side of the north ridge. This gully was mostly class 1-2 and eventually brought us to the upper mountain.

Me starting the day with Little Picacho BM. ahead
Adam traversing under some cliffs not far from the start
Ahead is the gully that links the lower and upper mountains
Adam still traversing into that gully
In the middle of the gully now. It’s mostly boulder-hopping
Adam much higher up in this gully

The scramble on this peak was short but very cool and exposed. The rating was only class 3 but the photos we saw on some trip reports did not boast confidence, so we brought a rope and some gears again. The scramble indeed looked quite intimidating up close, but turned out not too bad. The terrain was a bit similar to Picacho Peak where we were able to zig-zag on some ledges. The ledges here however, were much narrower. On the last exposed corner we decided to take the rope out for some extra safety. I eventually dragged the rope up a long ways past the step before finding a bomber boulder to belay Adam up. The rest of the scramble to the summit was very straightforward.

The start of the crux zone.
A few zig-zags later, it’s getting much more exposed
Me tackling one of the few exposed corners. Photo by Adam W.
Adam gearing up for the last corner
Summit Panorama from Little Picacho BM. Click to view large size.
Colorado River to the north
Little Picacho Peak in the foreground with Castle Dome Mountains behind
Outstanding view of Picacho Peak from the summit
Me on the summit of Little Picacho BM.

On the descent we decided to belay each other down-climbing that awkward corner and then scrambled down the rest of the crux zone. There’s definitely some no-fall exposure so great care was needed. The rest of the descent was tedious due to the looseness of the ground. The trail runners I wore constantly slipped on the pebble-covered-ground. I think we finished this ascent in about 1.5 hours round trip so it’s a fun, but very short one.

Me down-climbing the exposed 3rd class terrain. Photo by Adam W.
Adam down-climbing
Adam descending back into that long ass gully

We talked about to scramble the other Little Picacho Peak in the afternoon but Adam’s Subaru was running low on gas, so the only option was to drive back to Yuma. The dirt roads took at least an hour since we didn’t need to rush on the return drive. Given our position we decided to bag a few smaller, dumpster-ish summits in the vicinity of Yuma to kill the rest of the day, but firstly we had to find a fancy Mexican restaurant for lunch.