Rabbit Peak #2, Villager Peak
12-13 March 2003
By: Karen Isaacson Leverich
Mars Bonfire recently led a group to Rabbit as a day hike from Clark Dry Lake ... it took 22 hours! Wolf and I were on his calendar for a similar hike, and got to thinking (dangerous!) that if we were going to be up there hiking for 22 hours, why not go for Villager, too? I had a suspicion that the Clark Dry Lake route would be 6000' of scree, far from my favorite thing, while I remembered the route over Villager to Rabbit as mainly being long, with a few too many false summits along the way, but no scree.
Mars and Wolf and I each did the numbers and each came up with the hike taking 18 to 20 hours. The same amount of time, or less, but two peaks. What's not to like? I popped an e-mail off to Dorothy Danziger, who needed Rabbit for her 3X, and she hesitantly agreed to come along, but she thought we were nuts and that the trip would take 28 hours.
In the event, Dorothy was closest to being right. It took us 26 and a half hours, and we may now hold the new HPS record for longest (duration) "day" hike. I believe the prior record holders were Tom Hill and Don Winter, whose return from Samon and Madulce was delayed by the awkward fact of not having a working flashlight. That trip took a mere 26 hours. [Later note: Actually, the record holders are Carleton and Hanna Shay, whose conquest of Rabbit took 36 hours. Let's all refrain from attempting to break that record!]
Free advice for anyone contemplating doing this hike: if everyone in your group is a fast hiker (not true of our group), this could well work and means you can leave the backpack at home. But before you rush out to attempt it, be warned. The day we picked was shortly before the full moon, and was a compromise with various calendar conflicts we all had. You want to be more flexible: get the FULL moon if at all possible, but more importantly, don't go in the middle of a warm spell. Hold out for cooler weather. In our case, the temperatures, both day and night, were quite balmy (warm), and slowed us down substantially. (On the other hand, once the sun set, it was nice that it wasn't TOO cold out there.) Because it's a "simple" in and out trip, carry water portioned such that you can stash it as you go. Think about where you stash it, so you can find the water (remember, it might be dark) on your return.
Speaking of returning in the dark: we did. The sun set while we were on Rabbit. Daylight navigation on the Rabbit/Villager ridge isn't too difficult. But when the sun sets, even with an expert and experienced nighthawk like Mars in the front, it gets much more difficult. Take your time, make sure you're on track, but if you get hopelessly muddled, plan on spending the night after all and waiting for light. (So DON'T travel dangerously light, even if speed is of the essence.)
Especially difficult in the dark is the turn to the west (right) you'll need to make around elevation 4300', where the ridge splits. This was complicated for us because we were hiking before the full moon, so what moon we had (it was a fairly nice one) set before we got there. Oh well! On your way up, you'll skirt a dramatic dropoff on your left, then sidehill to the right for a spell, then turn left and head north again next to another dramatic dropoff. Study this area carefully in daylight, think about what it will look like illuminated by a powerful flashlight in the dark. Bring a powerful flashlight! Bring an altimeter. (This can also be useful for finding your water stashes.) And when you're in the dropoff area on your descent, 1) don't drop off the dropoff, but 2) spot the landmarks you memorized on your way up. That ridge between the dropoffs may appear as a whitish hill floating off to the right. You want to find the use trail and get over there. Otherwise, you'll accidentally head down the wrong ridge and be working your way through some extremely challenging terrain in the dark. Not recommended.
After you get past that sticky bit, the navigation gets a lot simpler. In our case (hopefully not yours), it was dramatically simplified because morning came.
Mars, as we neared the end of the ridge off Villager, admiring the green ocotillos in full bloom in the morning light: "I've never seen it look like this here!" He was right, it was beautiful! And I imagine very very few hikers have been there at quite that time, or seen it in quite that way.
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