Always Taking the Hard Way: Sierra Vista Trail to Pyramid Peak

I have a history of taking the most difficult route. My friend Terry in Utah also afflicted with this syndrome and the two of us have frequently joked that we really need to do better. I’m apparently still working on it, as demonstrated by the hike to Pyramid Peak.

After Tom and I hiked the segment of the Sierra Vista Trail from Dripping Springs – Soledad Canyon a few weeks prior, we discussed doing another segment of the trail further south. Looking at the access points and trailheads on the map however didn’t help me decide exactly where further south however so I pulled out our more detailed map. Quickly I saw that 4-6 miles south of Soledad were two high points – Bishops Cap and Pyramid Peak – just east of the trail and near a trailhead to boot. We figured that even if we didn’t climb either one they’d at least provide visual interest to the low-desert vegetation we’d surely be walking through.

We encountered the trailhead about 5 miles up a gravel road from I-10 and decided to walk northbound towards the peaks rather than south through the arroyo. This turned out the be a good call because as we approached the bands of rock on the fractured and uplifted Pyramid Mountain, it suddenly became more appealing. The trail had been heading more or less for the peaks for the first mile and a half but when it began turning away we decided to leave the trail and walk towards the section that looked easiest to scramble up. As we approached the base of the mountain I spotted a route up along some slickrock but at this point Tom said he’d wait while I scouted it out. Even Abby declined to join me. I said I’d be back in 15 minutes and started walking.

They were the smart ones. The first part of the ascent was pretty straightforward, though steeper than it looked, and my pace was already slower than I’d predicted. Worse, it soon became apparent that following the slickrock as I’d intended would be challenging since there were multiple pour overs – which left me to navigate loose rock on a steep slope to the south. Determined, I wound my way up, wishing I had Abby to help find me the easiest route, but also really beginning to enjoy the views of the basin below. Still, I’m not going to lie – the climb was so not as easy as it had looked.

After more time than I’d told Tom I’d be gone, I finally reached the saddle and gazed upon the magnificent sandstone and granite profiles of the mountains beyond, as well as the canyon below. I was also struck by the full intensity of the wind, but unlike my last excursion I was on (wide) solid ground so felt no danger in walking the ridge a bit. I didn’t stay long though since I knew I was overdue, and so turned to make my treacherous descent. As I neared the bottom I heard Tom calling for me and re-joined him slightly to the south, receiving an enthusiastic welcome from Abby. As I was about to recant my tale Tom said he’d been waiting for me for awhile, despite the fact that he and Abby had made it to the top. On a relatively-easy, no-scrambling-required social trail, which overall sounded waaaaaaaay easier than my route. But oh well, we all made it down safe and had the opportunity to enjoy the views from (albeit, different points of) the ridge.

As we walked we picked up a jeep track and ended up following that most of the way back rather than rejoining the trail. This too was an easier route than what we’d done earlier. But again, it was a lovely outing and one that I couldn’t really regret.