Villager Peak and Rabbit Peak
Villager Peak and Rabbit Peak
Leaders: Byron Prinzmetal and Mars Bonfire
17 and 18 November 2001
Brian and I had spent a lot of time and energy convincing ourselves
that we'd have to be totally nuts to even think of attempting Byron's
birthday treat: Villager Peak, Rabbit Peak, and Rosa Point. But then
Byron threw us a curve ball -- rather than three days and three peaks,
the hike was to be two days and two peaks. Two gallons of water to
lug up that hill instead of three. Hmmm, maybe, just maybe we could
do this? Hmmmm...
Well, obviously common sense isn't my strongest suit. Come 7AM that
Saturday, and there we were, booted, hatted, 40# packs on our backs,
the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park at our feet, the long ramp of a
ridge up to Villager beckoning us from the north. I'd heard on the TV
that nearby Borrego Springs had been the hottest spot in the United
States the previous day, a cheery fact I chose not to share with our
companions. Would we have enough water? Would we gain enough
altitude early that we wouldn't melt? Would I be warm enough that
night, since I'd opted not to bring a tent? I didn't need Byron's
usual litany of potential terrors to be worried, I was spooking myself
quite adequately all on my own.
We started out an unlucky thirteen -- leaders Byron Prinzmetal and
Mars Bonfire plus Keith and Sandy Burnside, Dave Comerzan, Dave Coons,
Barbara Guerin, Brian and Karen Leverich, Edith Liu, Linda Roman, Kent
Schwitkis, and Joe Whyte.
Joe displayed by far the most common sense -- after lugging his heavy
pack up the first long steep hill, he knew no sane person would
continue to do something like this and headed back. Twelve of us and
4800' of elevation gain -- that's almost a mile! At least there was
no scree, and most of the slope was at a reasonably low angle, with
good footing. The vegetation, luckily quite scant, looked uniformly
hazardous -- spiny cacti, very spiny cholla, needle sharp something
else snaking out to grab at our ankles. Sandy spotted some ocotillo
in bloom, but spring would be a better time for flowers. We'll just
have to come back.
Kent was convalescent from a bad cold, and realized halfway up that
doing this backpack at this time was a really bad idea. He turned
back, but generously shared his Gatorade with those of us who were
continuing on. We set up a cache in a cracked boulder, with an
elaborate, almost pagoda-like, duck. Saying our sad farewells (two
down already, how many of us would make it?), he headed down, while
the remaining eleven of us on up.
And up. And up. Would that endless ramp never end? Seemingly not,
although eventually it would surely would have to. Unfortunately, it
didn't end with our reaching a summit, instead ... the slope
steepened, the ground roughened, and we found ourselves lurching
(still lugging those heavy packs!) up and over boulders.
As we neared a summit (not the summit, just one of those de rigueur
HPS false summits), Dave espied another hiker. Who could it be? we
wondered. George Wysup? The ubiquitous Ron Zappen? We always seem
to run into one or the other (or both of them) on random mountain
tops. But this hiker was neither George nor Ron. Nor was he
especially thrilled to have his solitude shattered by a noisy crew of
peak baggers. We said our how do's and continued on our separate
Junipers and pinon pines and cooler temperatures -- climbing 4800' is
a lot of work, but it does make a difference. The summit of
Villager is a very different place than its base, and (except for the
absence of water) a very pleasant place to camp. We arrived with
quite a bit of daylight left, signed the register,
and happily bustled about setting up camp. We all carefully avoided
the spot Sandy Sperling had slept the previous fall -- it might be
hexed! None of us wanted a hand full of cholla, for sure. A loud
roar from the east surprised us. Most of us looked up in time to see
the fighter that buzzed our peak, doing a barrel roll as it
disappeared into the west.
Early to bed (but 6PM? were we maybe a teensy bit tired?) meant we
theoretically could be early to rise. Some of us intended being up at
2AM, to see the Leonid meteor shower. And all of us would up by 4AM
-- Byron knew Sunday would be a very long day and wanted to use every
precious second of daylight hiking, not sleeping.
I am tremendously near sighted without my glasses, so when I checked
out the sky at 2AM, all I saw was a blur. Unfortunately, the others
fared little better -- clouds! Not very thick, so Brian could tell
there was quite a show in progress, but thick enough it was hard to
see. By 4AM, though, the sky was clearer, and we saw some amazing
meteors as we bustled about getting ready for our trip to Rabbit.
(Maybe rather than accidentally having a campout during a meteor
shower, we could do it deliberately sometime? I volunteer to look up
Suddenly, it was 4AM and Byron was stalking through camp, shining a
light in our faces. "Get up! Get up!" Only, um, an hour and twenty
minutes until there'd be light enough to hike. Time to start moving!
I had read somewhere that getting to Rabbit from Villager would be a
nit. Only a mile or so, maybe 1000' elevation gain. Ha! Byron soon
set me straight -- it would be more like three or four miles each way,
and we'd be doing quite a bit more climbing, both coming and going.
Lots and lots of intermediate bumps...
Byron, maybe halfway there: "Three more bumps!" And, a bit later:
"Four more bumps!" Karen, plaintively: "Are we going the wrong way?"
For the final climb up to the summit itself, we ended up in two
groups: Byron's faster group, with all the women except me, and Mars'
slower group with all the guys except Byron and one of the Daves.
Byron headed up the use trail, Mars up the adjacent ridge, but soon
enough we were all on Rabbit
celebrating Byron's birthday by dining on sardines and crackers.
Byron was worried we'd not make it out to the cars while it was still
light (we didn't) so attempted to hurry us along, first back to
Villager, then to pack up, and then to hike out. But these had been
two very strenuous days, and not all of us were as, um, cooperative as
we might have been about scurrying. Dark had fallen when the sweep
(Mars) and the swept (Brian and I) arrived at the switchbacks that
would take us off the ridge and into the wash. One of the women
below, catching sight of our headlamps, let out a whoop. Sandy, Mars
and I decided, not being quite able to envision (enhear?) Barbara or
Edith making such a noise.
I didn't see him use his compass, and I know he didn't use a GPS
(although Dave Comerzan had his out and quietly monitored our
progress), but Mars walked us out unerringly through the gullies and
cholla and washes, straight to the cars. Dark -- not a problem.
Damn, he's good!