Palm Mesa High Point

It is hard to imagine that this journey to complete all 100 peaks on the San Diego Sierra Club list is almost done. I have two more peaks to summit; Palm Mesa High Point and Roost Benchmark. I knew my window to climb them was coming to an end, as the desert was warming up, so I needed to try to get them in as soon as possible. The more challenging of the two was going to be Palm Mesa High Point. This peak can be summited in a number of ways; you can climb up from Sheep Canyon, approach it from Henderson Canyon, or use the Borrego Palm Canyon North Fork route. The first two options are difficult routes, while the last one is easier but has access issues. Thankfully, Gina Norte was able to grant a small group of us permission to start from within the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation. 

Our group met at 6 am at the guard shack at Los Coyotes and waited for Gina to arrive and then escort us in. Once we were all there, we followed Gina up the road to the campground. Once there, we parked and got into two cars before continuing further back into the reservation. We parked near the cemetery and began our adventure. The hike is not extreme, but it is a canyon hike, so we have most of our elevation gain on our return from the summit. The seven of us (Susie Kara, Matt Bennett, Matt Hanan, Alberto Martinez, Laura Neuman, Gina, and myself) continued down the road toward the wash that would take us up over the ridge. 

Passing under the tall oaks, we dropped down into a wide sandy wash and began working our way up toward a small saddle. Susie and I had hiked this portion last summer when we climbed Cody & Pike, so we knew the route (Gina also was very familiar with the region as well). The small fork that Susie and I missed last time got us again, but this time it was for just a brief moment. Once at the saddle our group split up. There are three Sierra Club peaks that can be accessed via this route; Cody, Pike, and Palm Mesa High Point. Since I had climbed Cody & Pike already, I was only focused on Palm Mesa High Point. But Matt H. and Alberto were more interested in Cody & Pike since it was much easier to get them via this route. Depending on their speed, they might try to catch us and also summit Palm Mesa High Point. Matt B. offered to go with them, so we said our goodbyes and down the North Fork, we went. We knew from Greg Gerlach’s trip report that we should not have any major issues, sans a few dry waterfalls that we would need to bypass.

I realized that when we transferred cars, I forgot to grab my Gatorade and oranges from my cooler. Crud. I even told myself “Don’t forget to grab the stuff from the cooler”. I would just need to be a little cautious. I had 3 liters, plus my other food, so I should be ok. 

We passed Pike to our north and Cody to the south. There were some wildflowers scattered along the side of the wash, giving us some nice visuals. Finally, we started to encounter the first of our dry waterfalls. Susie had done some of this section when she, Matt B, and Greg Gerlach had done this hike back in 2019 as a backpacking trip. Some we were able to scale down, and a couple we bypassed. We took a short break and discovered we had several hitchhikers who had decided to attach themselves to our clothes. We picked off the ticks and checked each other, and would do so several more times during the hike.

Finally, after about 4 miles, we reached the base of Palm Mesa High Point. Thankfully, the route up to the summit did not have any terrain challenges, other than gaining about 900 feet of elevation in about 0.6 miles. I took the climb at a steady and measured pace, taking a couple of mini-breaks along the way. Soon I had reached the summit! The four of us sat around soaking in the views. Familiar peaks surrounded us. To our north, we could see Collin, Palms, and Elder. To our south was the San Ysidro ridge. Off to the east, Anza-Borrego was spread out before us. We tried not looking to the west and our climb back up. I happily signed the register and took my photos. I enjoyed my PB&J and the Mandarin that Susie gave me. After a nice break, we set off back down. As we almost reached the base of the ridge, Matt B. was making his way up. He filled us in on the status of the rest of the group before heading up toward this summit. The four of us then began our climb back up toward the saddle. 

Over the next 2.5 miles, we would gain about 1,400 feet before reaching that small saddle. I continued my steady and measured pace, being careful with my water intake. We would stop for a short break here and there (also for some quick tick checks). Matt B. did catch us, as expected and we continued on up to the saddle where Matt H. and Alberto should be waiting.

As the saddle came into view, we could spot Matt H. in his traditional Celtic Football jersey, waving down to us. Once we reached the saddle, we took a short break while we waited for Alberto to return from his quick jaunt up Phil Benchmark. Upon his return, we cruised the 1.75 miles back to our cars and then drove back to the campground. With that, my 99th peak was in the books. All told, this hike covered 9.7 miles in 7:53 with 2,974 feet of total gain. Next up, Roost Benchmark!

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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