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Ascent of Rabbit Peak on 2013-11-09

Climber: BMS 914

Others in Party:BLMhikergirl Pipps
Kyle Wilson
Date:Saturday, November 9, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Rabbit Peak
    Location:USA-California
    Elevation:6640 ft / 2023 m

Ascent Trip Report

Jodie invited me to go along with her and Kyle for notorious Rabbit Peak, off of her list of "secret peaks", presumably to show her friend Collin that she could in fact complete a tough outing. I had little doubt that he would wheedle the destination out of her before we set out for the trip and be joining us. In fact, he did want to go but got sick during the week and couldn't attend, so I was only half right.

We left Las Vegas on Friday evening, camping on BLM land in Box Canyon just east of Indio/Coachella in a flat wash. Box Canyon Road turns into 66th Avenue, and hits CA-86, which we took. We made it to the trailhead, though it was a little later than normal. Turns out the HPS/DPS instructions state to turn south on Fillmore St at the shared intersection with CA-86 and 74th Ave. This proved impossible as Fillmore now sports heavy, guard rail type barriers and road closed signs, flanked by deep embankments and ditches (you can't drive around the barriers without a dirt bike or ATV). We ended up going further south on CA-86 and cutting over (west) to Fillmore on 77th Ave, which is paved and even has a traffic light. Fillmore ends at a levee at what would be 79th Ave if there was a street there, so it isn't far to go.

We parked next to a lemon grove, and began walking along a levee. I had decided to wait until first light to start, as I had heard the ducks (i.e. little cairns) were hard to spot, and going overland in the wash that follows the levee is both tedious and time consuming. Even in broad daylight we couldn't find the trail through the wash, and went to lots of extra effort hopping over small boulders for several miles, aiming for a spur ridge we could see extending toward us. About half a mile (straight line) from the base of the ridge we finally found the trail. Interestingly, we found some sporadic ducks before this, so more than one set exist in the wash, though they were marking a generally poor route.

The route up Rabbit Peak is fairly straightforward, but what it looses in subtlety it makes up for in difficult terrain. The whole beginning and middle of the route is absolutely threatened with nasty plants. Agave plants, with horrible 1.25" needle sharp spines dominate. And then there is the cacti: Silver Cholla, Pencil Cholla, and Hedgehog, Mound, and Old Man Prickly Pear absolutely abound. The wash adds some Catclaw Acacia, but not as much as I have seen elsewhere. I saw only a single plant of dreaded Teddy Bear Cholla, right next to the trail early on the southeast side of the first ridge at about 1800'. Ocotillo threatened us a lot but accounted for no actual sticks. Still, all of us bled plenty on this outing, in spite of our caution to avoid the myriad nasty vegetation.

The route on the ridge is well ducked, but is steep in places and gets much steeper as you get further up toward the summit plateau. Lots of loose dirt mixed with rock makes for slow going, and we trudged on. At about 1900', we took a faint trail working around the northeast side of the ridge. This leveled out at around 2000', then never went up again, contouring around to the north. We eventually abandoned it, going right up the side of the ridge to get back to the ridgeline, clawing up 450 vertical feet in just 0.15 miles. Best to stay right on top of the ridgeline the whole way here.

At about 3400' the route gets very steep, and remains that way until the summit plateau at 6400'. At one point it skirts some boulders near the top of the ridge. I heard a distinct buzzing sound while waiting here for Kyle and Jodie, and began to investigate. Turns out the rocks here, which the route ambles past (light Class 2 type scrambling), were swarming with honey bees. I don't know if they were the Africanized variety or not, but having read of rock climbers being killed by bees I opted not to find out. We instead improvised a route away from the rocks that turned into a bushwhack through Holly Oak. I guess the cacti and agave weren't enough of an inconvenience! We pressed onward.

After what seemed like an eternity (and actually was), we finally made the summit plateau. There I found a man sitting on a rock. He went by the name of "The Yotamaster" and was from Ramona, CA. He told us he came up from CA-22 via Villager Peak and was spending the night on the summit plateau, and gave us a rough direction over to the summit block (which isn't too apparent from the plateau as it is nearly the same height as a number of other features). The views of The Salton Sea had been spectacular on the way up, but the views from the summit were kind of disappointing after having read they were great in other places. We made the summit late in the day, took a brief break, signed the register, then headed down. We ran into The Yotamaster again, and he seemed surprised that we were going to descend all the way to the trailhead given it was now after 4:00PM and we had many, many hours to go. Given how tired my companions seemed, an unplanned bivouac seemed a strong possibility.

We ended up trying to scramble over the boulders on the ridge where the bees had been. This entailed some Class 3 not part of the normal route, which is all hiking. We ended up getting off the rocks with the bees still ahead of us, but fortunately they had all gone away as it was now dark, so the scrambling did us no good, except to give Jodie and Kyle some experience with semi-exposed downclimbing in the dark. We all had headlamps, and began using them just before this. The trail, difficult to ascend, proved even more difficult and time-consuming to descend. Everything is very loose and slippery with lots of sharp plants just waiting to punish you for a slip. Jodie fell multiple times but miraculously escaped serious impalement somehow. I slipped twice and ended up with spines both times, the second one being an Agave spine buried almost an inch into my left calf muscle. The blood dripped down my leg and all over my half gaiters when I plucked it out, but I was too tired to care much.

The descent down the ridge was confusing in the darkness, and often our route seemed "wrong". I had to rely on the GPS several times to override our intuitive route, often the one all three of us agreed must be correct prior to checking. The descent seemed to take forever, and I tweaked first my back, then my left knee, slowing us down further, as did the numerous cactus removal stops. Jodie let me borrow a trekking pole, which helped. We at last reached the wash at around 1000', which we had all been dreading; but to our lasting surprise managed to find the correct trail here. It turns out the ducks in the wash are often made with white rock that almost glows in the light of a headlamp, and they are easier to spot this way than in the daylight. Jodie and Kyle did an excellent job finding them, and we made better time than we had figured in the wash. We got a little too far east as we approached the levee, and ended up walking for about a third of a mile through the lemon grove. It was actually quite chilly inside the grove, as opposed to the warm wash (I could see my breath inside the grove) - swamp cooler effect in action. We got back onto the levee and made the car at last, 20.5 hours after we started the hike. What a long day.

***GPS Track notes: I had zero success finding a useful track in advance for this outing, so hopefully mine will be of help. In general, our INBOUND route is the correct one. The exception is the very last part near the levee (not far from our car), where our outbound (i.e. beginning) track was better. Basically, on the way in from the peak, I should have continued another 115 yards due north and hit the west end of the levee, instead of going through the grove. These are the parallel east-west lines in the track. During the morning when the workers were around picking the lemons, I have no doubt we would have been told we were not supposed to be in the grove. The hard-to-find route through the wash is actually farther south than we realized, but our inbound route shows this correctly except that very last portion. And by all means, feel free to hit the wash in darkness as it is easier to find the white ducks with headlamps than it is sunlight (see report above).
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:7067 ft / 2153 m
    Total Elevation Loss:7067 ft / 2153 m
    Round-Trip Distance:18.3 mi / 29.5 km
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Headlamp, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Clear and warm
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:6898 ft / 2102 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 6707 ft / 2043 m; Extra: 191 ft / 58m
    Loss on way in:191 ft / 58 m
    Distance:9.1 mi / 14.6 km
    Route:HPS/DPS Route B
    Start Trailhead:End of Fillmore St  -67 ft / -20 m
    Time:9 Hours 11 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:6876 ft / 2095 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 6707 ft / 2043 m; Extra: 169 ft / 51m
    Gain on way out:169 ft / 51 m
    Distance:9.2 mi / 14.8 km
    Route:HPS/DPS Route B
    End Trailhead:End of Fillmore St  -67 ft / -20 m
    Time:11 Hours 8 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


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