Death Valley, California
October 31, 2009
I came across Pyramid Peak when I was looking for climbs in Death Valley. Summitpost describes a long, easy route but Shin, who agreed to hike with me, provided a route which is quicker but more technical. After crossing the desert flats and hiking over a low saddle, we followed a wash to the crest of the west ridge. It's not possible to stick to the ridge from that point, but one can scramble up the left side to regain the ridge before reaching the summit.
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.
Shin and I hiked across the desert 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 headed to a low saddle
After reaching this saddle we dropped down and crossed the desert below. We can see the
ascent and descent routes (mouse over)
Looking back at the low 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 spied the skyline notch (left) that we must head for. It looks close
but it's actually over 400 m above us.
We kept left of the cave
Looking back, the low saddle lies between the second and third black bumps
We followed alongside cliffs all the way to the notch
Almost at the notch, looking back
The ground drops away at the notch, but we easily followed 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 followed the ridge crest when we could
View southeast toward Eagle Mountain (mouse over)
Shin said the sky was unusually clear: we could see the Sierra Nevada
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
Panorama from the summit (click on for a larger image)
East of Echo Canyon and East of Ryan Maps 1:24,000 Topos
(6.2 mi, 6132 ft, 968 ft)
U.S. Trips | Home