Prominent Point, Arizona, December 2018

On Monday, December 31, I joined the Southern Arizona Hiking Club for a climb of Prominent Point, a peak rising to the east above Pima Canyon in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Prominent Point has only 624 feet of topographic prominence due to its proximity to Mount Kimball. But the “hike” was strenuous and it felt like another mountaineering experience for me in this rugged wilderness.

Looking up the SW ridge of Prominent Point towards the upper saddle
Looking up the SW ridge of Prominent Point towards the upper saddle

We left the Pima Canyon Trailhead before dawn with headlamps. It was windy and cold as we walked the rocky trail into the canyon. After about an hour we left the trail and began climbing up slopes to the east. We eventually gained a steep ridge which avoided some of brush as we climbed. A cold wind blew across the ridge and I wondered how intense it would become as we climbed higher.

Table Mountain and Table Tooth from the upper saddle
Table Mountain and Table Tooth from the upper saddle
The Prominent Point summit is hidden behind the rocky ridge above the upper saddle
The Prominent Point summit is hidden behind the rocky ridge above the upper saddle

After three hours of hiking and climbing we reached an upper saddle. The rocky curving ridge led higher towards the hidden summit. I enjoyed the views into Pima Canyon below us, of steep cliffs beside us, and of Table Mountain and Table Tooth to our north. I watched the sky to the west grow darker with approaching weather.

Climbing towards the Prominent Point summit, still hidden from view
Climbing towards the Prominent Point summit, still hidden from view

Our rocky and sometimes brushy route required scrambling over patchy snow around and above cliffs. I sometimes felt the lechuguilla puncture my shins and yucca pierce my thighs. I tried to remove some annoying cactus spines from my thigh as I climbed.

Mount Kimball on the left and Cathedral Rock in the distant center from Prominent Point
Mount Kimball on the left and Cathedral Rock in the distant center from Prominent Point
The east summit of Prominent Point from the west summit
The east summit of Prominent Point from the west summit

After about 5 hours we reached the west summit and the summit registry jar. The east summit was separated from us by a deep chasm. The wind was cold and dark clouds to the west and north threatened rain. We had a short lunch, entered our names in the registry, and took photos of the views.

West from the Prominent Point summit. Pusch Ridge is left of center beyond Pima Canyon.
West from the Prominent Point summit. Pusch Ridge is left of center beyond Pima Canyon.

We descended the same route over loose rock, not moving much faster than on the ascent. Traversing loose slopes was tedious but we gradually made progress as the sky darkened. We eventually reached the trail and returned to the trailhead over the rocky trail just before rain began. It snowed in the Tucson Basin that night.

It was another strenuous day in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness for me. I was impressed with the stoic hardiness of my companions on this visit of Prominent Point.

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Paul McClellan

About Paul McClellan

I had the good fortune to have spent most of my life in the Pacific Northwest, where I discovered the joys and addiction of hiking and climbing in the Cascades Range and other ranges in the Western United States.
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