Pincushion Peak is a limestone mountain located ESE of La Madre Mountain and NW of Turtlehead Peak with an elevation of approximately 6,800’. 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 views and climbing are such that the Pinnacle can be a worthwhile goal in and of itself. There are no water sources so be careful to carry enough water for a day of exertion in the desert. Depending on route taken, estimated round trip mileage is around 9 miles and elevation gained about 4,000'.
The approach is one of the biggest challenges in climbing Pincushion since the access from Summerlin is private property and posted. There are many old roads across the desert in that area, but the threat of fines prevents me from suggesting their use. A legal approach can be made from the Calico Hills area near Red Rock NCA and that was how we decided to do the climb. 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
Note that there is no fee station to access this trailhead!
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.
We chose to head around the south end of Kraft Mountain to keep the vertical totals to a minimum since there are two 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
somewhat south of the high point. There is a tradeoff of going quite far south and adding considerable hiking distance for less gain and loss versus a short distance south and about a 500’ climb up and over the ridge which we chose.
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.
After hiking across the desert for a mile or so, 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 and a cairn at the base will reinforce that this is a good spot to start heading up to the Pinnacle staying a bit left of it as you ascend.
When you reach the Pinnacle, head around clockwise and descend perhaps 50’ to a break in the cliffs that surround it where a low class 5 pitch of about 15’ will get you up to some bushes that make a fine anchor for a short rope to aid following climbers.
From this point you can work your way up class 3 moves to the summit in a clockwise direction.
Be aware that the limestone that forms this pinnacle is very fractured and by the time you are on top, most of the rocks are loosely attached mainly by gravity.
Vegas from summit
The trailhead is at about 3,900’ elevation and the ridge that you have to climb over enroute is about 5,000’ depending on where you decide to cross it. When you reach the desert on the other side you are near 4,500’ and the summit is about 6,800’. My guess is that the climb is around 4,000’ gain in total. We took about 3 ¼ hours to reach the Pinnacle and almost 3 hours from there back to the trailhead so it is a tough hike by Red Rock standards with some fine climbing along the way mostly on limestone with some sandstone portions on the initial ridge. From the Pinnacle, you can ascend the nearby South summit in 10-15 minutes…another 20-30 minutes will put you on the north summit as well.
Route to North Summit
On our return, we crossed the ridge about ½ mile further north and did a gradually descending traverse to the south into the canyon below on some beautiful red sandstone formations. This will turn the trip into more of a loop and you will enjoy the scenery along this route.
To reach the south summit from the Pinnacle, 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. 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 North to that summit and this side trip will probably add 20 – 30 minutes each way from the South summit.
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.