Pyramid Peak (CA)

January 6, 2022


Death Valley National Park, CA

Pyramid Peak is one of the classic scrambles in Death Valley and at the same time, boasts over 1100 m prominence. Both Adam and Sean were highly recommending this objective to Rob and I. After completing its ascent I do not find this scramble to be that spectacular as it’s overall just a massive slog fest even though the views were awesome. The reason why this is such a popular hike/scramble might due to the pavement access. One only needs to park on the shoulder of the highway and hike from there. Most peaks in the desert require at least some driving on rough roads so this one offers a nice change. The trade off for less vehicle damage is a longer approach on foot.

Pyramid Peak standard route. GPX DL

The scramble of Pyramid Peak would not consume a full day so Rob and I left the hotel in Pahrump fairly late in the morning. Rob drove us in his rental Rav4 to the parking spot a few kilometers outside the park’s boundary so we did not need to purchase a park pass, even though the peak itself is inside the park. The first hour and half of this ascent was a boring slog across the desert floor for about 4 km with some gentle elevation gain. Checking the GPS later I think we did a good job plodding a straight line from the vehicle to the base of Pyramid Peak. There were some micro-terrain including some washes to cross, but nothing really worth noting. The desert floor eventually gave way to a valley which we followed to the “SE Gully” on Pyramid Peak’s access side. From there we picked up a hiker’s path and easily hiked and scrambled onto the east ridge. We took our first break about 50 m elevation under the east ridge.

Rob starting the long ass plod across the desert floor
Our objective, Pyramid Peak behind Rob
The desert floor gave way to this wide valley near the base of our objective
Looking back towards the desert floor that we just plodded across

The start of the east ridge at around 1400 m offered some optional class 2+ scrambling but soon we picked up the path again. Sticking onto the path we no longer needed to use our hands until basically the summit ridge so this entire stage was a massive slog for over 500 m elevation gain. The terrain did give some variety including a few flat stretches and some changes in the rock types and colours.

Rob after gaining the east ridge, gazing at the opposite side
The typical going on the east ridge. There was some scrambling but not enough
Rob plodding…
A few minor obstacles that required a bit of detouring
Me approaching a major slog hill on the east ridge
Rob ascending that massive slog hill on scree..
A zoomed-in view of Telescope Peak

The highlight of this scramble was really just the summit ridge. Rob and I started by sticking onto the ridge crest dealing with some 3rd class moves but soon we picked up the path again, traversing on either side of the ridge crest bypassing most, if not all of the crags and towers. The going was mostly easy as long as we were on the path. Nearing the summit we opted for a steep and direct finish. The views were as expected, mind-blowing towards all directions but none of us found the scrambling to be that exciting overall.

Rob starting the summit ridge traverse where the fun parts began
We found the path again to bypass some towers on the ridge
Summit Panorama from Pyramid Peak. Click to view large size.
A view into the Death Valley with the High Sierras behind on the right skyline
The Funeral Mountains Wilderness Area in the foreground
Me on the summit of Pyramid Peak
Rob and I on the summit of Pyramid Peak with Telescope Peak behind

After taking in enough of the views we descended quickly following basically the exact route we had taken on the ascent. The summit ridge traverse was still relatively fun, but the plod down the east ridge back into the valley was less fun. We did manage to surf on the scree here and there to speed up the progress but the scree runs were never continuously long. Eventually we descended back onto the desert floor and faced that numbing slog. Rob was very fast on this flat terrain such that I eventually gave up and just walked back on my own pace, about 10 minutes slower in the end. Our round trip time was under 5 hours so this was a short hike, but not quite a half-day outing considering the short daylight time in January. Rob and I talked about to tag Funeral Peak in the afternoon and possibly summiting at sunset, but decided to just drive back to Las Vegas to have an easier day.

Rob starting the descent
We were still traversing back across the summit ridge
Scree skiing was fun at times
Me descending off the east ridge now into the valley
Rob now descending off the ridge as well, into the valley
Back to the approach valley with still over 4 km to go..
A review shot of Pyramid Peak from nearing the parking lot