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El Gran Trono Blanco


by Unknown

December 31, 2001

Maneuvering through sinuous pathways the van bounces and slides past ponderosa pine and yucca. The headlights just catch a fleeting coyote and the next hard left. Mike and John surf cargo in back of the van as Kestrel shuts her eyes. The dash-cleaner, mother of all potholes, finally slows us down. We weave and roll-on to the end of the road, then turn the engine off for eight days. This is the essence of place, unique and quiet. The crows and the breeze are all we hear.

White granite walls, domes and canyons catch the eye and the imagination. But there’s no need to dream. Walk up to an amazing looking crack or a beautiful arching dike and enjoy. Many well protected sport and traditional routes exist only minutes walk from well endowed fire pits.

If the dreaming continues, it is time to seek the "throne". The main wall of El Gran Trono Blanco (the Great White Throne) holds up to 1700 vertical feet of climbing on Yosemite quality granite.Twenty five years ago Fred Beckey, Scott Baxter and others began exploring El Gran Trono Blanco, completing an amazing number of free and aid routes. Since then spectacular aid climbs have been established, others freed, like the Pan Am route; free lines have been bolted and retro-bolted; cracks have been nailed, cleaned, freed and nailed again, yet the essence remains, as does new route potential.

Seated in the eastern slope of the Sierra Juarez, El Trono commands a view of Laguna Salada’s plains and waters. The rugged canyons that drop from the Throne’s alpine plateau can carry spring water and house many varieties of reptiles and birds. White winged doves and blue jays find shade in the California and blue fan palms. The mourning dove sings "whoo cooks for yooo" when water is near.

An extensive plateau stretches west from the summit of Trono Blanco. Deer and bear can be found here. Grizzly have even been sighted. Soaring at six thousand feet above the Pacific and the Gulf of California, the land is cool. Snow can come in winter, so can the most beautiful days imaginable. John Steinbeck wrote about this place. "The very air here is miraculous, and outlines of reality change the moment. The sky sucks up the land and disgorges it. A dream hangs over the whole region, a brooding kind of hallucination."

Finishing the last few pitches of a long route may put you on top as the sun falls into the copper desert lands to the east. Absorbing those last precious rays before beginning the descent brings me back to the essence of this place. Like a part of geologic movement, I feel the bite of stone on stone and the easy relief of water against earth. Release! Four million years ago, in the Pliocene and Pleistocene, the peninsula of Baja began to separate from the mainland. Movement continues today.

Native people of the northern sierras, later known as the Paipais, Kiliwas and the Tipais, lived and loved here among the cholla and pine. Commuting between ocean and mountain, they knew the intricacies of survival here, and the enjoyment. The granite walls still reflect their mesquite fires. Roasting agave hearts still sweeten the air from stony ovens of earth.

Nuts and Bolts:

Winter is the best time to enjoy the area, although, spring and fall would be great times to explore the north faces.

Avoiding banditos should be a concern but not a fear. Theft that has occurred here has been petty and never confrontational. If you are leaving camp for the day or going off to hang in your portaledge for a few days consider stashing valuables away from the car. You can even leave a note on the window saying there is nothing inside worth stealing. "No hay nada a dentro que vale la pena de robar!!!!"

There are a few ways to get here. The easiest route from the States finds highway 2 between Tijuana and Mexicali. The road climbs into the Sierra Juarez where the turn off to La Rumarosa must be taken. There is food, gas and water in La Rumarosa, but shopping for supplies here is not recommended. As you approach the end of this mountain town, a dirt road on your left, just past the Super Mario Market, will have many signs and markers near it. One will say Parque Nacional. Drive this dirt road, staying to your left, for eighteen miles, then turn left. If a fence begins on your left before turning off the main road, you’ve gone too far. Cairns sometimes mark the turn. Continue on this road until it forks. Go left. Pass a small stone house and a barbed wire fence, then take the right fork. Continue for a few miles until fire pits and turn outs appear. Turn off the engine.

Finding Routes

-To approach east face routes like the Pan American and Giraffe, descend the north gully. As the descent becomes steeper veer right to an improbable notch. From here skirt the wall until the main weaknesses appear.
-To approach the south face routes find the campsite farthest east and south. A trail leads from here to the south gully. Descend.
-The descent from all wall routes follows cairns from the summit to the south west.
-From camp, cragging is a few minutes walk to the east. Explore.

Jonathan Copp

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