Mile High, Villager and Rabbit Peaks Trip Report

Mile High Peak (5,340 ft), Villager Peak (5,756 ft), Rabbit Peak (6,640+ ft)

Dates: February 14-16, 2004

A southern approach to climbing Villager and Rabbit Peaks is described in Jerry Schaad's Afoot and Afield in San Diego County. It is far and away the most strenuous hike of the entire book, with 8,300 feet of elevation gain, and as much loss. Adding "Mile High Peak" on the ascent made for a total gain of 9,400 feet. Furthermore, reaching our campsite near the summit of Villager Peak meant that the first climbing day, Saturday the 15th, entailed 4,800 feet of elevation gain with overnight packs carrying over two gallons of water for me, and an equal amount for Edward Earl.

Edward drove us Friday evening to the 31.8 milepost along highway S-22. We slept in his truck, one which had turned over to 100,000 miles on the drive. Elevation is 900 feet by my reckoning, although Edward claims it is 960 feet.

We began our uphill trek shortly after 7 a.m. and made good vertical progress up the obvious ridgeline at the south end of the Santa Rosa mountains. At 4,400 feet we sidetracked to the 4,230 foot saddle just west of Mile High Peak, dropping our packs at 4,300 feet. I had brought my small blue daypack which we filled with food and water, heading for the summit of Mile High at 12:08 p.m. Fifty one minutes later we were on top, enjoying cheesecake and large oatmeal raisin cookie (Edward), lime cheesecake with macaroon, chocolate and a juicy pear (Adam). The Salton Sea was huge in our eastern viewshed.

After returning to our main packs we laboriously headed straight upslope, meeting the route to Villager Peak along the main ridge at about 4,950 feet. After caching some water and saving the coordinates in my GPS receiver as waypoint 003, we headed to a high camp in a 5,550 foot saddle in-between the main summit and a slightly lower subpeak just to the south.

We had forgotten to bring an incendiary device, such as matches or butane lighter, to cook supper while atop Villager. I was forced to eat my Indian chickpea stew cold, promising myself to buy a second pint to enjoy hot when I returned home. It was quite spicy, and I found myself eating it very slowly since there was not much else to do.

Edward warmed his canned beef ravioli and canned spinach on his belly in a slightly successful attempt to heat them. While waiting for his meal to "warm up" to body temperature, I recited my completed Venezuela trip report to him - consuming 48 minutes in the process.

The total elevation gain for the day had been 5,950 feet, of which 4,800 ft entailed full packs with much water for the weekend. I had carried the tent, while Edward the (useless) stove and fuel. To compensate for my overburden, Edward also carried two pounds of raw potatoes I had brought as an emergency source of water (80%) and calories.

The following morning saw us hiking along an undulating ridge north to Rabbit Peak. Although the net elevation gain from Villager's summit is only 900 feet, the total elevation gain for the round-trip is some 3,200 feet by personal observation.

Atop Rabbit Peak we recognized several names in the summit register - including Doug Mantle, who apparently had climbed Rabbit twenty times. I surmise that he uses our route, or a similarly strenuous one, to train for his major ascents worldwide.

I enjoyed stilton cheese with lemon zest and a d'anjou pear, Edward yet another large, oatmeal raisin cookie.

I returned to camp at 1:30 p.m. and rested inside the tent for ten minutes. We packed up and headed down the main ridge, but not before I enjoyed one-half a luscious espresso brownie made with Belgian chocolate and washed down with a good amount of coffee-spiked milk, unfortunately luke warm as there was no way to keep water cold. The caffeine was medicine for a body that otherwise seemed unwilling to press onwards.

Edward returned to his car at 6:00 p.m. (it was 6:01 p.m. for me). Our packs were each about fifteen pounds lighter (!!) on return to the car since we had each consumed about two gallons of fluid - all of which had to be brought in since there is no water on the route.

On getting snacks in nearby Borrego Springs, Edward found a note from Gail Hanna on his windshield! Gail, a "prominent" San Diego hiker (and CA county highpoint completer) must have been driving by and recognized Edward's blue pickup truck. It was nice to see a "smiley face" drawn near her signature

The prominences of our three summits were small compared to the effort required. In fact, Edward cannot recall a climb in which this "cost benefit ratio" was so poor. Nonetheless we had "Mile High Peak" behind us, number 22 on the San Diego prominence list with about 1,100 feet of the stuff. Villager Peak might have 550 feet of prominence, while Rabbit Peak of Riverside County has about 1,300 feet of prominence. All told, the ratio (1,100 + 500 + 1,300) / 9,400 << 1 speaks for itself.

I set a personal record on the second climbing day, Sunday, with 8,000 feet of total downhill travel. This beats my previous downhill record for a single day on either returning from the summit of Kilimanjaro (estimated at 7,340 feet), and for returning to the Park entrance after climbing Cerro Chirripó in Costa Rica (estimated at 7,405 feet). I believe that Edward Earl downclimbed 10,000 feet in one day after summiting Mount Rainier with his brother Jim.

This was a mammoth hike for just a two day period. The following day, Monday, saw me sleeping late and feeling "pooped" despite both food and rest. Today, Tuesday, I am doing "OK" - and I just got a phone call from Edward inviting me to be treated to the Olive Garden restaurant where I can probably get the pasta with green pesto sauce I was craving for much of the climb. It is his way of saying "Thank You" for having arranged our recent Venezuela trip.