In my push to complete the 100 Peak Challenge, I wanted to attempt summiting Villager. This is a beast of a hike. As Susie Kara puts it “think of Coyote Mountain times 3.” The approximate round trip distance is 14 miles with an elevation gain of over 4,800 feet. The summit sits at 5,756’, so you are going to feel this hike!
Unfortunately, none of my usual hiking partners were free, but my lovely wife said I could attempt this hike solo. Little did she know when I was planning to hit the trailhead… Since the furnace is awakening out in Anza Borrego, I needed to try to get some of the hike done under the cover of darkness.
I forgot how beautiful the night sky is in the desert. Borrego Springs is a dark sky city, so the stars and the Milky Way shone brightly. I had to fight the urge to skip the hike and simply enjoy the heavens.
Loading up over 4 liters of fluids and switching on my headlamp, I headed across the desert floor. I tried to follow the trail to the base of the ridge. There was no moon, only my headlamp to guide me. I overshot the ridge and found myself heading up a wash. Quickly backtracking, I soon found the use trail that leads up from the desert floor onto the ridge.
The loose rocks clattered under my feet as I pushed upward over the first steep section of the ascent. The trail would oscillate between flatter sections and steep rocky sections. The use trail weaves past cacti with blooms waiting to open. The sun finally rose over the Santa Rosas, illuminating the desert. I carefully passed the steep drop-offs and continued ever upward. The trail would fade away at times, but it was quickly found again.
The sections around mile 4 and mile 5 took some extra time to ascend them. Reviewing my topo map, I knew I had some calmer sections on which to recover from those efforts.
The Salton Sea finally appeared from behind Mile High. I looked across at that peak, knowing it is also on the 100 Peak list, but the thought of dropping 1000’, then climbing that again to the summit seemed well beyond my conditioning.
The plants continued to change as I continued to gain elevation. At the pre-summit, Pinyon pines offered some shade. The gentle breeze helped keep the temperature down, plus the elevation helped as well. I knew the descent was going to be toasty, but for now, I would enjoy the wonderful weather.
With one final push after a short descent from the pre-summit, I found myself on the summit of Villager! There is no Benchmark, but a full ammo box for the register. I took a short nap under the shade of a Pinyon.
Then back down the ridge. I did not expect anyone else on the mountain, but just as I was surprised on Coyote Mountain, the same occurred on Villager. First was a group of 6 hikers pushing toward the summit. They were followed by two more hikers, however, they were planning to continue on to Rabbit Peak after camping somewhere. About a mile or so later, I met two more hikers who were planning the do the grand loop. I wished them all good luck.
I carefully worked my way down those tricky sections and kept pushing downward. Unfortunately, my foot slid on some loose rock at one spot and angered my knee slightly. This did slow me a bit, but the use trail easily guided me back down the ridge. It was easier to see it on the descent, but isn’t that usually the case?
Once back on the desert floor, the temperature was now pushing the mid-80s and I was feeling the past 13+ miles of hiking.
I slowly crossed the wash that I had not seen fully in the predawn. I found the trail that escaped me at the start and I was finally back at the car, some 13 hours later.
I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea-kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest.