Rabbit Peak, Villager Peak, Rosa Point
By: Steve Smith
Our desert peaks have much to offer, Including numerous climbing route variations which afford new challenges and new desert views. Since Debbie had not climbed Rosa Point or Villager Peak, we decided on a backpack to see if we could do them both together plus do Rabbit again. New DPS member Chris Brong, along with two former desert enthusiasts Bruce and Carroll Albert who now live in Medford but wanted to re-experience the California desert joined us.
Checking the topographic maps, we thought that the prominent, well-defined ridgeline on the west side of Rattlesnake Canyon (and generally extending south from Villager) looked like a good backpacking route. Setting up a car shuttle, we left two vehicles at Clark Well and drove back to a point along S-22 just west of Rattlesnake Canyon wash. We started climbing right where the Truckhaven jeep road intersects S-22 and made good time going straight up the ridgeline west of Rattlesnake Canyon. The DPS/HPS use thus ridgeline route for backpacking trips and there was a faint use trail must of the way once we started climbing the ridge. Starting at about 900' elevation on S-22, we climbed to 4,200' and camped in the deep saddle between Rosa and Villager.
On day two, Debbie, Chris, and I dayhiked the Santa Rosa Mountains ridgeline eastward to Rosa Point while Bruce and Carroll decided take their time and head towards Villager and Rabbit. We reached Rosa Point after a good 2-1/2 mile ridge-run and enjoyed the panoramic views afforded of the Salton Sea to Palm Springs area. It was then back to the saddle to pick up out packs and on to Villager. The 1,200' steep ascent from the saddle with full backpacks up to the summit of Villager was a good finishing workout for the day. The day was getting late by the time, we reached the summit so the 3 of us camped there without time to catch up with the Alberts who had noted in the register that they would start on for Rabbit. It was a cold night on the summit which helped conserve our limited amount of drinking water. As usual, the nighttime views of distant lights were impressive and the summit has plenty of flat areas for camping.
On day three, Debbie and Chris decided to follow the regular route down the SW side of Villager to Clark Well while I went on across the ridge to meet up with the Albert's. Fortunately, there were small snow banks on the north side of the ridge so I was able to augment my water and had plenty instead of having to conserve. By mid morning I met the Albert's at the base of Rabbit. We quickly were on the summit of Rabbit and then it was dropping 6,000' down the long and steep ridge back to Clark Well. From the top of the ridge with binoculars, we could see Debbie and Chris back at the vehicles so I practiced doing some mirror flashes with, a signaling mirror to let them know where we were. Latter they told me the flashes were very bright and visible -certainly a very effective way to get attention in an emergency.
Near the top of the ridge we found a small container which, had been carried by balloon from Visalia High School about 3 years earlier. Inside was a paper describing a school class project and requesting information on where the container was found. Completing the questionnaire was interesting especially when it came to describing where and how it had been found. Near the bottom of the ridge we explored the old AT-6 WWII trainer plane crash site and theorized about how the pilot has probably gotten caught flying too low up the canyon and had not been able to climb out. I first saw this plane crash in 1965 when my dad and I unsuccessfully made our first attempt on Rabbit and began learning about the challenges in reaching Rabbit's summit from any direction. With the sun starting to set, we reached the alluvial fan and began the long hike across its rough desert surface. With the sun setting, Debbie began flashing the car lights periodically to guide us back and we were back about an hour after sunset. The flashing lights helped since lights at an old homestead which my dad and I had used in 1965 for a rather late nighttime return were now long gone.
The trip was a fun adventure and challenging way to reach all three peaks in one outing. Of course, carrying sufficient water is a big limiting factor on desert backpack traverses but when it can be done, it certainly adds a new and memorable DPS peak climbing experience. The views along the Santa Rosa crestline are impressive and of course its nice to reach all three of these prominent peaks during one outing.
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