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  • Writer's pictureDale Hill

A Sweep of San Ysidro Peak

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

Date: February 27, 2021

Distance: 4.65 miles *

Total Elapsed Time: 7h 8m

Total Moving Time: 3h 24m

Summit Elevation: 6,116 feet *

Elevation Gain: 1,679 feet

Trailhead: Lease Road, Ranchita CA

Previous Ascents: September 19, 2020 *


  1. Includes ascent of The Thimble, 5,779 Feet Elevation

  2. Peakbagger Summits - 2

  3. Survey Marks Recovered - 3 (2 New ones!)

Flashback: The San Diego 100 Peak Challenge - 2020

The Thimble and San Ysidro Peaks

The Thimble, September 19, 2020

When I completed this hike last September they were peaks #86 (The Thimble) and #87 (San Ysidro Peak) on my journey for the SD 100 Peaks Challenge, it was my second hike of the day, having completed two peaks (Bonny and White Benchmarks) earlier in the morning. The real challenge for the day would be The Thimble, its summit a huge granite block with lots of boulders surrounding it.

The Thimble, North Wall 2020

There are multiple ways to approach the summit, some more difficult than others, I started on the north side of the peak in a small saddle and began to look for potential routes, the north wall was sheer and beyond my skill level. I worked my way around the east side looking for, and trying, potential routes with no success. I remember pausing on a particularly exposed rock (big drop off) wondering if I was going to make it to the top. Finally, on the southeast side, I found a Class 3 route that ultimately would get me to the summit. It took me almost two and a half hours to go the 2 miles to the summit.

Fast Forward to Today: February 27, 2021

A friend of mine who is working on the SD 100 Peak Challenge reached out to me to accompany him on his attempt at The Thimble. He had seen the Thimble from a distance when he had completed Bonny and White Benchmarks and in his own words:

"I looked over at The Thimble and I was a little intimidated by it. I was about a mile from The Thimble and it looked like it was just one huge rock formation. Actually it looked more like a steep pyramid to me than a thimble."

Moon views from the Lease Road

Knowing that I had completed the peak and had a route solution, he asked me to take the lead. I was more than happy to since I knew the route and liked scrambling up the rocks. Too, I knew there were a couple of reference markers on San Ysidro Peak that I needed to locate.

We hit the trail a little after 0630 for the easy walk to the small saddle at the base of the peak. From there I pointed out a few of my previous "no go" approaches as we worked our way around to the SE side where we'd drop our gear and scramble up.

Having done it before simply took the guesswork out of the equation. It was an easy scramble to the top and there wasn't a doubt in my mind about Phil's ability to do this one on his own, he just would have had to repeat that same trial and error process that I did last year trying to find the best way up.

This was my second summit and Phil's 74th peak on the challenge, yeah, 74 peaks in 2 months - did I mention that he's a beast?! 🤣 He's killin' it!

The views from the summit of The Thimble are spectacular, I pointed out some of my favorite hikes and we talked about completed peaks and those he still needed to do. A quick glance due north was our next peak, San Ysidro, the plan was to skirt along the western side of the rocky ridge between the two peaks along the 5,600-foot contour then work our way up a faint, sandy use trail.

San Ysidro Peak 2020

Ammo can holding the register on San Ysidro Peak 2020

When I did San Ysidro last fall, I could see the top edge of the ammo can that held the register sitting on top of a big boulder at the summit, I scrambled up, signed the register, and found the Ysidro Triangulation Station disc in pristine condition in the top center of the boulder.

I took all the requisite photos, had lunch then headed back down.

Even as late as September 2020, I wasn't totally dialed into looking for ALL the survey marks on a peak, I'd make a cursory look around the base of the boulders within a 25-foot radius searching low bedrock outcroppings, but it was like looking for low-hanging fruit, if I found something, great, if not, no big deal.

2021 San Ysidro Survey Marker Sweep

This year I am on a mission, especially on peaks that I've completed in the past. Prepared with a better understanding of how and where reference marks are placed, I set out looking for them with renewed intensity.

I repeated my ground search with a little more care than I had before, ruling out that I just wasn't paying attention last time. Phil gave me a shout that he located a mark on top of a nearby boulder, it was Reference Mark 2, from there it was fairly easy to determine the location of RM 1 on another nearby boulder.

Reference Mark 1 was damaged in a way that I've never seen before, it's hard to say exactly what created this hole (the disc is brass) however, the location of the disc on top of a boulder, out of the normal line of sight, and the absence of any scraps or scratch marks leads me to believe it was not an intentional act. Possibly a stray bullet that fell from the sky? 🤷🏻‍♂🤔

For some reason, I hadn't checked the NGS datasheet beforehand to get the coordinates for each of these marks, had I, it would've been super easy to find them AND I would have seen that there was an Azimuth Marker on a knoll about a half-mile away 🤦🏻‍♂️. Well, that just gives me a reason to go back One. More. Time. 🤣 After consulting my Topo map and planning my future route to that Azimuth Mark, I noted that there might be a boundary marker (quarter-section corner mark) along the Azimuth's route to the summit, giving me another potential recovery!

After making my recoveries, it was time for a quick lunch then pack up and head back down. It was a great day, Phil bagged peaks #74 and #75 on his challenge and I recovered two reference marks that I hadn't located before. It was one of those 'low stress' days, neither one of us was in a hurry to blast through the hike, and it was cool to swap stories about our respective military careers.

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