Ranchita sits in the Montezuma Valley at 4,000 feet above the desert floor and Borrego Springs. The windswept eastern edge is home to some of the most rugged terrain in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. As part of a 2 day peak bagging trip which included Indianhead, I set out from Culp Valley in late November to take on several smaller scrambles. The prize of the trip is the Thimble, at 5779 feet an impressive 500-foot tall pile of slabs and rock that may be the premier class 2-3 scramble in SD county.
From Montezuma Valley Rd in Ranchita, park immediately across from the ABDSP Sign on the north side of the road. There are several parking spots here. Pick up one of many use trails north, taking care to avoid the fenced private property just to the west.
One of the best parts of this trip is the views. They are expansive and everywhere. Every time you reach a rise the landscape will just open up. Above, the long spine of the San Ysidro Mountain spreads out to the northeast. Below, Hellhole Canyon gives way to the complex of canyons and ultimately Borrego Springs. Beyond to the north, Rabbit ridge looms at over 6000 feet.
You will be heading north along a broad plateau towards the San Ysidro ridge a few miles away. Along the way are a number of benchmarks. Bonny is first, a modest but challenging pile of rock. The easiest route up is via the well-ducked northeast side where a steep chimney will give you access around to the west side of the rock. From here you will need to traverse a very narrow and exposed ledge to get to the summit block. On the day I visited, I encountered 30mph wind gusts and chickened out at the ledge. This would be an easy spot for a 2-man team to protect.
Beyond Bonny you will continue to climb the flats, ultimately cresting a ridge where the Thimble and San Ysidro peak come into full view. White benchmark rises up from the northeast. In order to avoid private property, you need to go over White, and it’s a fun slabby bushwack. Approach from the south. trending slightly east. You will find the summit block easily and the block is easily climbed. The descent is trickier. You will need to begin by descending the north side, through a sand field and dense brush. Then circle around to the west to regain the route to the Thimble.
Finally, being careful not to tresspass, you will reach the shallow draw and approach to the Thimble. Gain the ridge to the low saddle to the south and begin to climb up a steep, crumbling, cactus-riddled slopes. After a few hundred feet you will reach the beginning of the large boulders and slabs. There is a slot chimney that will give you an easy and fun class 3 route all the way to the summit. The summit block is large and flat and is a great place for a break. Descent is a crumbly mess no matter which side you go, but the west side is best if you continue on to San Ysidro Peak just beyond. We ran out of time for that one.
Return the way you came. There are numerous other benchmarks in the area and the scrambling and cross-country travel opportunities are really endless. Culp Valley primitive campground is nearby and is a fantastic base camp for the area. Pinyon Ridge to the south complements this trip nicely.
Due to the elevation and exposure, wind can be a major issue here. Gusts up to 40mph are fairly common, so bring windgear, chapstick and sunscreen as the conditions can easily cause windburn.