Pincushion Peak is a limestone mountain located south of La Madre Mountain and east of Turtlehead Peak with two distinctive summits and an elevation of 6,977' for the highest point(North) and 6,792' for the lower peak(South). Due to access problems, it is seldom climbed, but a number of great routes exist to its various summits for those trekkers willing to cross the desert to reach it. Pincushion Pinnacle
is a short and very interesting side trip not to be missed if you are ever on the South summit of Pincushion Peak. The Pincushion peak name is believed to have originated with a prolific local climber, Joanne Urioste, who noticed numerous pincushion cactus on its slopes. Some local climbers also have called it Damsel Peak. There are no water sources so be careful to carry enough water for a day of exertion in the desert.
The approach can be one of the biggest challenges in climbing Pincushion since the various access points from Summerlin cross private property and are posted. There are many old roads across the desert in that area, but the threat of fines prevents me from suggesting their use. A more legal approach can be made from the Calico Hills area in Red Rock NCA. I have also hiked from the Red Rock wash detention basin area across the desert to Pincushion, but it is a long dry desert crossing. To reach the recommended trailhead, take Hwy 159 (Charleston Ave) west from Vegas and drive about 5 ½ miles west from the 215 beltway to the right hand turnoff to Red Springs and Calico Basin. The trailhead is at the end of the paved road that goes past Red Springs. There is parking there for several dozen vehicles.
National Park entrance fees apply in Red Rock National Conservation area. Hours of operations vary by season. See Red Rock NCA Home Page
There is a campground located south of SR159 two miles east of the entrance to RRCNCA. There is no developed campground within Red Rock NCA, although backcountry camping with a permit is allowed.
When to climb
Spring and Fall are the peak seasons as it becomes extremely hot in the summer. Winter can be an excellent time as well unless snow and ice accumulate from winter storms making the scrambling too hazardous. This is most likely to occur in January and February.
From the trailhead, head around the south end of Kraft Mountain to keep the vertical totals to a minimum since there are several significant ridges between the trailhead and the base of Pincushion. From that point, having avoided climbing across the ridge that includes Kraft Mountain, there are various options, but perhaps the easiest is to cross the next ridge at the saddle south of the highpoint.
ridge crossover point
There is a tradeoff of going further south and adding additional hiking distance for a gain of about 200’ and loss versus a short distance south and about a 500’ climb up and over the ridge earlier. From the top of the ridge you can see both North and South peaks of Pincushion to your NE as well as the Pincushion Pinnacle just below the South summit, a bit to the SE of that summit and about 200’ lower.
Route to South summit
After hiking across the desert for a couple miles, you will reach the base of the mountain and start working your way up and to your right. We found a good traverse around the mountain at about 5,800’ elevation. Work along this traverse until you are almost beneath the Pinnacle which will eventually be visible about 1,000’ above you. From this area there is a climbable break in a cliff system that wraps the mountain. Stay a little left of the Pinnacle as you climb up toward it.
When you reach the Pinnacle, head northwest up the ridge that leads to the south summit. It is a short scramble circling clockwise upward while heading to your left to avoid a cliff band that guards a direct line to the South summit. From the Pinnacle, you can ascend the nearby South summit in 10-15 minutes If you want to do the highest point of the peak, you can climb down from the South summit heading West to reach a ridge that runs Northwest to that summit and this will probably add 20 – 30 minutes each way from the South summit.
Route to North summit
The trailhead is at about 3,700’ elevation and the ridge that you have to climb over enroute is about 4,000’ depending on where you decide to cross it. When you reach the desert on the other side you are near 3,800’ and the summits are about 7,000’. Based on our altimeters, the cumulative elevation gain is about 5,000’ gain to reach both summits of Pincushion. If you take the easiest approach, expect to spend about 3 hours to reach the Pinnacle and a similar time to return via a loop that crosses Brownstone ridge at the low point southeast of Turtlehead Peak.
Alternative return route
This will turn the trip into more of a loop and you will enjoy the scenery along this route following the wash back toward Calico Basin. There is a well used trail just north of Kraft mountain that climbs 200’ out of the wash to a saddle before dropping into Calico Basin where the hike began.