29 November 2015

Combs Peak

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

The third day of peak bagging with the Hundred Peaks Section hikers finds us carpooling down a pretty good dirt road to a widening at a crossing of the Pacific Crest Trail. I did not drive, so as I take stock of my pack at the trail and notice my camera missing, I cannot just walk over and grab it. There will be no pictures. We gather beside a sign where the destinations are the county line and the highway beyond. We will not get as far as either of those. Our destination along the trail is just the next saddle.

We head north and curve around the hills. Some snow remains here, but only behind the most sheltering of steep northern slopes. There are quite a lot of dog prints in the snow. We start to climb, but it is at a very easy pace. The peaks to the east must be some favorite ones for some of my fellow hikers because as they become more visible, there is talk about this bit of ridge and that bit of climbing. They seem to be Villager and Rabbit. I remember them talking about the same pair when we climbed a different peak that also happened to be called Rabbit. Then and now, it sounds like these are peaks that people are particularly proud to have ticked off their list. As we head further north, nearer peaks hide parts of those two distant ones, bringing a little disappointment to at least one hikers.

The trail gradually gets more serious about climbing, but it is still a pretty easy grade right up to the saddle. We gather again in preparation for leaving the trail, then continue a little way further down the trail before starting to climb. There is a cairn to mark the spot, left either by the peak baggers or those who have used a small campsite beside it.

A few more steps and the easy climb is over. We turn to the peak to be climbed and start chugging up it. There are some small attempts at wiggles in the route, but ultimately we are charging upward in a fairly single minded manner. Most of the slope has some rocks in it, but is mostly dirt. We have one small rock chute right before the top that slows the group to a crawl, but one by one we make it out the top and to the peak.

The details of Villager and Rabbit that were most interesting to those who have hiked it have reappeared with the climb. My eyes are drawn more by the mountain they called Toro yesterday. I have had a different face of it each day. It is about the only thing locally that still has visible snow, although the snow line has moved upward quite a bit. The other thing with obvious snow is San Gorgonio, but we are not sure at first that that is what it is since it is towered over by nearer peaks. The white head of the tallest peak in southern California is on one side of a much nearer point and a long dark shoulder of peaks is on the other. As I squint at the distant shapes, I realize that I do know that profile from marching over them one by one from San Bernardino and its initial points. Only the shoulder, though, the snow covered head still awaits climbing by me. The day really is stunning. The clarity of the air is wonderful.

Of course, while I am on the top, I have to look for the benchmarks. The station is being sat on at first, but eventually easy to spot. There are two reference marks pointing at it, after all.
After snacks, we head down again. The short chute is slow, but the rest of the hike is quick. We gather again upon hitting the trail before heading back down to the cars. Most are going on to Oakzanita, another peak a fair distance south, and need to hurry on. I got into the car of people who would rather let that wait until more time can be given to the area around it. We head back to the parking instead.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 7 Dec 2015

1 comment:

Derek (100 Peaks) said...

I am glad you got into my range. I just did Oakzanita with my daughter a few months back. She enjoyed it immensely. The combination of Rabbit and Villager Peaks is quite a hike for almost anyone. The view down to Clark Valley is amazing as you walk along the drop off. I also remember seeing Squaretop northeast of Combs. That whole range to the northeast comes into view from Combs. Glad you had a good trip.