We had hoped to do Diablo Benchmark last week, but the stars were aligned against us. Since Susie did not need this peak, just Ted and I headed back out to Anza-Borrego to climb it. As we drove eastward, we kept an eye on the temperature as it kept getting lower and lower. While we did not expect to have any issues, it was mildly interesting. The shocker was it read 20° as we passed through Shelter Valley. Yikes! We turned on June Wash and began the 3+ mile drive up the slight sandy road to our starting point. I had my sand boards and shovel in the back just in case, but the road was in great shape. We found a spot to park next to the fence that now blocked driving further up the wash. When I did this hike back in 2020, we were able to go a bit further back. We gathered our gear, and our concerns about the temperatures were unfounded as we both decided to shed a layer before even starting. The route to the summit is broken into two main parts; following a wash for about half of the way, then climbing out of the wash and taking a ridgeline to the summit.
The wash started off nice and easy, as it weaved its way northward. But as we continued, the wash slowly became rockier in nature. We kept working our way up the wash, avoiding the cacti that were starting to become more frequent. Finally, about a mile into the hike we reached the spot to leave the wash and obtain the ridge. The slope is a mix of loose small rocks and cactus, so we took extra care on our ascent. I remember coming down this the last time and did not enjoy it. However, once we crested the ridge, the desert view was breathtaking. We followed the ridgeline for about another ¾ mile to the summit. Once there we found the benchmark and the register. We enjoyed a snack, took in the views, and signed the register. As we headed back down from the summit, I asked Ted if he was up for a bit of an adventure. While the route we followed is the most direct route to the summit, some folks have taken a different route approaching from the west after using a different wash. He said sure, so off we went.
Instead of following the ridgeline that would take us south, we instead stayed on a different ridge that took us westward. The terrain was easy as we worked our way down. After a bit, the terrain became a bit rockier, but nothing worse than what we had on our ascent. We reached the start of another gully and worked our way past it. We could see the wash that we would take southward below us. However, this section was a bit steep and took some care. It was about the same as the section we would have taken on the other route, just with the uncertainty if we would have an issue at the end getting onto the wash itself. Ted and I split up our descent, with Ted staying in the gully and me on a ridge. Our thinking was if we ran into an obstacle we would assist each other. Turns out neither route had any issues and found ourselves on the wash next to a nice large cairn.
From there we simply followed the nice wide sandy wash south. We knew we would need to backtrack to return to our car. As we cruised along, we debated the pros and cons of this section. On one hand, this wash was very easy but does add some distance to the trip. In the end, we concluded it was a hiker’s choice as to which route.