An overview and driving directions were given for my first description of Rabbit Ear Plateau, so it may not be necessary to repeat all that. I will say that it is much nicer to climb this route on a cool spring day rather than the warmer climes of summer. This is still a strenuous trip, gaining a shade more than 3000 feet in 3 miles. There are portions near the top of this scramble that are quite airy.
This description is being written weeks after the actual scramble, so be extra-skeptical of the reportage.
After turning south on Baylor Canyon Road, the distance to the trailhead is still 3.6 miles. I thought it useful to count the cattle gratings on Baylor Canyon Road and (if I remember right) the trailhead was immediately after the 5th cattle grating. I also thought that I might try to take the Camry a little further up the road towards the mine, but I chickened out after about 200 feet (the road gets pretty “ledgy”). I regretted the move entirely when driving back out on toward Baylor Canyon road. The mining road has a cattle grating at its start. The drop on the downside of that grating is about 4 inches and it gave the undercarriage of my sedan a pretty hard whack.
As before, follow the road until it ends at the mine, follow the trail above the mine until it ends at the canyon and then ascend the canyon. Make sure you recognize the junction of canyon and trail – it was marked by cairns but if there was a storm they could all disappear. At my previous turnaround point near 7000 feet I departed from the bottom of the stream bed and continued parallel it on the east side. There was a pretty stiff wind coming out of the west. That air struck the west-facing canyon mouth and funneled inward and upward, really blasting the canyon proper. I lost a hat to that breeze. On descent in the afternoon the wind was strong enough to knock me over on two occasions. Pretty exciting, in a way, but not recommended in a steep environment made up of hard edged rocks, thorny plants and (potentially) venomous creatures.
The way is steep and the climber treads go straight up the fall line. No gentle switchbacks on this hike! The eastern wall of the canyon has a gully that was as packed with cacti as any place I’ve seen (outside of a grocery shelf). Cacti Col is my name for that spot, and it is about the greenest place on the plateau.
At 7800 feet you arrive at the col between the south Rabbit Ear and the plateau. There are views of the Aguirre Springs area, Sugarloaf, and a portion of southern Tularosa Basin. An obvious trail at the col will launch you up towards the top of Rabbit Ears Plateau. You quickly arrive at a steeply inclined rock face, blocked up by a couple fallen trees. On ascent I went to the right and climbed a small face to get around the blockage. (On descent that face seemed overly exposed so I went under and over the fallen trees. It was easier than I had expected). Thereafter the tread disappears and you simple climb upward by the most reasonable seeming route. Near the summit there is a 30-foot long steep gully full of lose gravel that is a challenge. From experience, however, I can say that it is substantially easier and less exposed than the options to your right.
Above the gully the terrain begins to gentle and a number of boot beaten paths arise. Take note of your course, because you really do want to return to the gully for descent. The top is a boulder strewn ridge (I have no idea why it is called a plateau). The view west reveals the trailhead and Las Cruces, the view south is toward Dripping Springs, the view west shows the Tularosa Basin and the view north gives a peek at the San Andreas Mountains.
Return the way you came. Once back at the col, I chose descend by staying in the stream bed of the canyon. It was perfectly passable.
There was one small rocky tank with some very green water in it. Otherwise, the other “damp spots” I saw on my first trip to Rabbit Ears were all dry. The flies and lizards that had been abundant were now gone. Take lots of water!