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Pyramid Peak
Death Valley, California
October 31, 2009

I came across Pyramid Peak when I was looking for climbs to do in Death Valley. Summitpost describes a long, easy route but Shin, who agreed to hike with me, provided Branch Whitney's route which is quicker but more technical.

It took us about two hours to drive to the trailhead from the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas. Looking at Pyramid Peak from the roadside, I was a little intimidated by its complexity of ridges. But the route description was well written and supplemented with several photos. Still, I was glad to have Shin along. Aside from enjoying his company, he's experienced with desert peaks. Living in Las Vegas, Shin climbs every Saturday and Sunday.

As we walked across the desert toward the mountain base, Shin studied the ground for arrowheads. Although very rare, they have been found in the area.

The climb unfolded as described. We easily picked out important landmarks along the way. What few uncertainties we came across were quickly resolved. We arrived on the summit with a stunning view of Death Valley spread below. Not surprising as Pyramid Peak is one of the highest peaks around.

GPX Track

MOVIE (posted on YouTube)


Shin and I hiked across the desert flats to the base of Pyramid Peak


The desert was studded with silver cholla cactus (mouse over to view the spines)


From the base of the mountain we head to a saddle


After reaching this saddle we drop down and cross the desert below. We can see the ascent
and descent routes (mouse over).


Looking back at the saddle (centre)


Heading to the ascent gully


Shin waits for me atop of the chute, an easy scramble


I stopped to check my GPS for the next waypoint


After reaching a ridge, we spy the skyline notch (left) that we must head for. It looks close
but is over 400 m above us.


We kept left of the cave


Looking back, the saddle is between the second and third black bumps


We follow alongside cliffs all the way to the notch


Almost at the notch, looking back


The ground drops away at the notch, but we easily follow a ledge toward the summit (centre)


After losing elevation, we find we have to climb to the base of the block (upper right), before
heading to the summit.


The summit is within easy reach now


We follow the ridge when we can


View southeast toward Eagle Mountain (mouse over)


Shin said the sky was unusually clear: we could see the Sierra Nevada Mountains


Shin and I on the summit


Heading back down


Climbing up to get back to the notch


Shin waits for me on a window (mouse over to zoom back)


Shin races down the scree descent route


An impressive display of barrel cactus


We chased this insect, about 1.5 inches long, for several minutes trying to take pictures of it.
Later I learned it was a Tarantula Hawk, a wasp that stings and lays eggs on tarantulas. For
humans, the sting is "like an electric wand hitting you, inducing an immediate and excruciating
pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything...." Next time I'll leave it alone!


Last look at Pyramid Peak


East of Echo Canyon and East of Ryan 1:24,000 Topos
(6.2 mi, 6132 ft, 968 ft)


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