Villager Peak via Southern Ridge
After reading Jerry Shad’s description of Rabbit Peak via Villager Peak, I thought it would be a great trip. Although there are higher peaks closer to me in San Diego, there aren’t many with a comparable elevation gain. Villager Peak would be my first 5000+ climb, so I anticipated not having the energy or speed to reach Rabbit Peak and make it back the same day.
Rather than leave San Diego at 3am to get to the trailhead before sunrise, I decided to camp at the trailhead. This way I could wake up, have a bit of breakfast and head out. It was an amazing feeling, reaching the parking pullout late at night – the range not visible in the darkness – and then waking up to a beautiful pre-dawn view of the mountain I was about to climb. I knew that the 60 degree morning air wouldn’t last long (it later hit 97 degrees) and so I set out at 6am for the peak.
The floodplain spanned roughly a mile – flat at first and then with numerous ups and downs plus some mild boulder scrambling. I heard there was a trail but didn’t find it until 100 feet or so from the beginning of the ridge. With the help of several cairns leading the way, I found the trailhead and started to climb.
The first 100 feet of elevation gain was probably the hardest of the whole trip and had me second guessing whether or not I would make it. But eventually it leveled off a bit and the climbing continued comfortably for the next mile or so. The use trail is easy to follow although I strayed off of it from time to time. Cutting left or right always brought me back to it within a few seconds. The ridge at its widest is roughly 30 meters and so you can never stray too far.
During the first half of the climb Villager and Rabbit Peaks are not visible so I kept track of my progress by referencing the nearby 5340΄ unnamed peak and Rattlesnake Canyon to my right. As my climb continued I passed all types of cactus, desert brush and wildlife. I hoped in the back of my mind that I might catch a far away glimpse at a bighorn sheep but I only encountered small lizards, a few birds and one annoying fly that seemed to follow me all the way from my car to the summit.
The last mile or so was tough as there were 4 or 5 points where I thought I was at the top only to reach the crest and find another peak ahead of me. Finally I reached the false summit and saw the true summit about 75 meters beyond. I ran across the small ridge and dropped down for a rest on the granite rocks lying at the summit. The climb took me exactly 4.5 hours. Here I could see Rabbit Peak beyond (That would definitely be a tough climb to go all the way to Rabbit and back to the car in one day).
After signing the peak register (and reading many of the entries dating back years and years), I headed back down. The route back was about 45 minutes shorter but the heat of the day was in full swing and I was exhausted from the climb. Reaching the base of the ridge along the desert floor, I looked back at the mountain and a feeling of amazement swept over me. I couldn’t believe I had made it. I realize it is not a large accomplishment in the world of hiking, but it was my first 5000+ ascent and I had made it solo and in the desert heat.
I was so tired that evening that I thought I might never want to do it again. But sure enough I awoke the next day, rested (although quite sore) and revived. I immediately began planning my next big climb. I hope within a year to be able to hike the Cactus to Clouds trail to San Jacinto Peak. That being a climb over twice as high as Villager Peak, I’ll definitely need more training.
For anyone planning to hike Villager, bring plenty of water. Remember to bring some water. Oh…and don’t forget to bring water!!!
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