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.