Pyramid Peak is a fairly challenging but very rewarding peak hike to the high point of the Funeral Mountains which contains spectacular views in all directions from the summit. Difficulties encountered on the hike include dealing with sections of loose quartz and shale on steep slopes particularly when attaining the 1st saddle and hiking from the 2nd bump to the 3rd bump, and navigating around a section known as The Crags which cannot be climbed. A Google Earth map of the hiking route (turned to the west for better viewing) can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the parking area are 36° 20.605'N, 116° 36.479'W. GPS coordinates for the gap in the range are 36° 22.175'N, 116° 35.739'W. GPS coordinates for the 1st saddle are 36° 23.045'N, 116° 35.709'W.
Our planned hike to the top of Pyramid Peak almost didn't happen on our Fall 2014 trip. It was supposed to be one of our featured hikes for the trip for a couple of reasons. First, for a long time now, my friend Tobin has wanted to reach the summit of Pyramid Peak. He no doubt became interested in Pyramid Peak since we have done hikes just below and around the mountain when we visited Red Amphitheater and Pyramid Canyon. Second, in looking over my site, I observed that a trip report on Pyramid Peak seemed to be the most glaring omission. It was a hike that everyone knows about and that peak hikers (such as the legendary Snow Nymph who has reached the summit 6 times to date) enjoy doing. Thus, I finally committed to hiking Pyramid Peak on this trip. However, after our long two-day backpack of Wingate Wash early in the trip, Tobin's feet took a beating and he had over ten blisters at the end of that. For the next four days, he rested at Furnace Creek while I carried out solo hikes and hikes with other friends. After that, it was time to go home. The afternoon before we were scheduled to leave, Tobin informed me that his feet had finally healed enough to carry out the Pyramid Peak hike. That was great news. And so we adjusted our schedule to allow for one more major hike the next day before heading home.
To begin our hike, we parked along Hwy 190 near the eastern park entrance at an elevation of about 3,050 feet. From this spot, the hike would be about 11 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 3,700 feet. We began hiking on very good terrain toward the gap in the range far in the distance. Soon, we joined up with an old road that was also headed toward the gap, which made the hiking even easier. After reaching the gap, we hiked through it and circled around to the backside of the mountain. In my research, I had learned that there are two standard routes to the summit of Pyramid Peak. These two standard routes both use the southeastern ridge -- with one using the backside and another using the frontside to attain the 1st saddle. (I'm not including the climber's western ridge route here, as that is considered treacherous and unsafe for regular hikers.) I wanted to try both standard routes to compare them in difficulty, so we decided to hike up the backside to the 1st saddle and down the frontside later in the day. To my surprise, going up the backside proved to be extremely difficult. We must have chosen the wrong part to go up the backside, because we ended up on a hillside of quartz which was very steep and completely covered with small loose pieces of quartz. Perhaps if we had stayed down in the center gully it would have been better. It took a long time and it was frustrating but we finally attained the 1st saddle and sat down for a break. Looking back, that first portion of the climb proved to be the hardest part of the entire hike for me. However, things didn't get much easier. From the 1st saddle (or bump) to the 2nd bump, we had to gain another 480 feet. We started off by switchbacking up some rock shelves and soon began following an use trail which was quite clear and continued for most of the rest of the hike. The next portion of the hike took us from the 2nd bump to the 3rd bump and gained 920 feet in elevation. A lot of the hiking was done on a steep shale slope, which was very tiring and time consuming. The shale was deep and loose and it was hard to get solid footing through this area. Anytime I could find solid rock through this area, I chose to climb up that rather than sink into the endless amount of shale. After finally reaching the 3rd bump, we only had another 700 feet to gain before reaching the summit. But there is a tricky part in this last section. About halfway up in between the 3rd bump and the summit, an area known as The Crags is reached. The Crags contain large outcroppings of solid rock which cannot be safely climbed over. Instead, hikers need to look to the left for the use trail which wraps around them. We really didn't have any trouble finding the use trail and we made quick work of passing by The Crags. From there, we were home free as we climbed to the summit and finally reached it at 6,703 feet. When we arrived at the summit of Pyramid Peak, we were both stunned at how much we could see from the top. We had not been expecting the views to be as outstanding as they were. We were aided in our views by the fact that it was a perfectly clear day out with no haze in the sky at all. The views and information about them will be highlighted within the full collection of photographs. But let me just say that my two favorite views were (1) Mount Whitney clearly visible at a distance of nearly 100 air miles away and (2) Thimble Peak being dwarfed by Mount Palmer some 45 air miles away. Pyramid Peak definitely ranks among my best peak hikes in Death Valley after visiting it and being so impressed. In looking at the climbers' log book, there had been only one other hiker up to the summit in the past 7 months. On the return hike to our car, we took the frontside route down from the 1st saddle. We could see why it is rated as more difficult, because route finding is necessary and not all ways go through safely. So it requires decent abilities at doing steep cross-country hiking and figuring out routes to get through. We didn't have too much trouble and soon arrived back at our car. A short time later, we were driving home from Death Valley. Our hike took place on November 26, 2014.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT