Dos Sombreros

With the local trails needing to dry out from the recent storm, and no way was I going anywhere near the snow, I headed back out to the desert. Some of this year’s 100 Peak Challengers were attempting to summit both Sombrero and False Sombrero peaks via what I think should be called the “Bennett Traverse”. The ladies kindly let me tag along for what was going to be a hard but fun day in Anza-Borrego. 

Sombrero under the full moon

As I neared our rendezvous at Mountain Palms Campground, the sun was still casting its glow on the mountains, the snow stood stark across the Lagunas, and the moon shone above it. This planned route was going to require a car shuttle. We parked two cars at the base of False Sombrero, then piled into the third car to drive over to the trailhead for Sombrero. Both Susie and I had done these peaks before as single ascents, but our friend Matt Bennett had explored a route that linked them together. Given the difficulty of both of these peaks, we were all up for this alternative route. 

The five of us headed along the faint trail and began our climb. Much of the elevation and effort was going to be the ascent of Sombrero. In just 1.4 miles, we would gain some 1,880 feet. This was one of the few hikes in the challenge I had not done a second time. I always find it interesting to compare my ascents and see where I have grown as a hiker.

The use trail did a pretty nice job getting us up to the plateau and I was feeling good. One of the reasons I wanted to do this hike was to see how my knee responded to some effort. With the use trail gone, we began working our way up the middle section of the peak. When I did this before I tackled it fairly straight on, while this time we took a more north east angle. I think we made a good choice. Finally, Sombrero came into view. As an added bonus, we found the metal pole and chain! Still have no idea why it is here.

We stayed more on the right side of the peak as we made our final push up. We started to find tiny patches of snow tucked in the shade. Just before we reached the summit, we ran into a small obstacle, so we split up and scouted alternative routes. In a short time, we each bypassed it and were atop the peak.

After a nice break and photos, we began to survey the route we would take over to False Sombrero, which lay to the northeast of us. We could see the basic path we would take, for the most part, so down we went.

We followed a ducked route that is used if you do this peak from the McCain Valley route. That is another route I hope to try one day. Once at the base, we passed a faded sign denoting this was indeed Sombrero Peak. We heard the din of some motorcycles riding the trails, but that was only for a short time. 

Our route took us across the ridge, for the most part with little issue. We tried to stay along the same contour line as we worked our way ever closer to False Sombrero. Staying beyond the actual ridge, we finally came to a spot where we could now see the Inner Pasture, Red Top, and Sawtooth rising up. I stared at them, wondering if I will be able to conquer them…

The final scramble up False Sombrero stood before us. We quickly made our way up and took a well-earned break. The views were incredible. The Salton Sea to our east, the snowy Lagunas to our west, and Sombrero off to the south. 

After a snack, some photos, and of course adding our names to the register, we headed down. The descent is in two parts–the very steep and loose sandy section, followed by a bouldery portion. Our descent would have us lose about 1,300 feet in just 8/10th of a mile. 

We cruised down the sandy section without incident, sans one cholla that tried to hitch a ride on me. While descending, I had flashbacks to when Derek and I did this peak. Later that day, Facebook reminded me that it was two years ago that we did it. After picking our way through the boulders we found ourselves back at our cars. The ladies piled into the Jeep and headed back to the Sombrero trailhead to get the other car, while I headed back solo. This route is the best way to do these peaks. Skipping the tough ascent for False Sombrero and not having to descend Sombrero is worth the couple extra miles via traverse.

I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

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