Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Desolation Pinnacle, Mt. Disappointment

Hiked: 5/20/2015
Distance: 3.3 miles on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 5769' (Desolation), 5960' (Disappointment)
Elevation Gain: 1290'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.03
Round trip time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Recommended water: 32 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Moderate

In March, I made an attempt to reach an unofficial summit named "Desolation Pinnacle" jutting up from the south ridge of Mt. Disappointment. That attempt ended on a loose section of the ridge. Since then, my friends Sean Green and Willie Price found a better way to reach it via the SE gully. Thanks!

Sidebar on the name. I could not find any beta on this point on the Internet, which surprised me because it looks like such an obvious destination in a high traffic part of the mountains. While hiking Bear Canyon, Sean and I were talking about it as a possible future hike and kicking around names that started with "D" to fit in with the two closest peaks, Disappointment and Deception. We came up with names like Depravity, Depression, etc., and I eventually favored Desolation Pinnacle. However, Sean was the first known person to climb it in recent memory so had the naming rights. He went with Desolation Pinnacle. Officially, it is a unnamed bump on the south ridge of Mt. Disappointment.

I wanted to wrap up my unfinished business on Desolation Pinnacle before moving on to other high value targets. I started about an hour before sunrise at Eaton Saddle and traversed along the San Gabriel Trail to the shoulder of Mt. Disappointment. After scaling the shoulder, I searched for the best descent point, then continued the few hundred feet over to tag the Disappointment summit (my third time). By then, the sun started to illuminate the mountains through some gray clouds so I could put my headlamp away.

Slumbering city

Looking east toward Mt. Wilson

Desolation Pinnacle from the top of the gully

Descending the gully

I found the clearest path down the gully and alternately stepped and slid my way to the bottom. Obstacles included light brush, poodle dog, and a few yuccas, but it was much easier to navigate than the ridge. From the bottom of the gully, it was a pretty easy walk up to the saddle, then some steep and loose class 2 to the top of Desolation. I was expecting more airy exposure on the way up the pinnacle. Many rocks and boulders along the way looked fire scorched. I found the cairn left by Sean and Willie and took a few pictures and some video. The top of the pinnacle offers a commanding view of Bear Canyon and the surrounding peaks, a unique vantage point. It's a worthwhile diversion if you are in the area. Desolation Pinnacle is also part of a nutritious breakfast.

Sidebar on the difficulty rating. The stats would normally put this hike in the easy category, but roughly a third of it is steep cross country travel with some loose class 2 sections. That was too much for me to feel comfortable giving it an easy rating. The lower end of moderate seemed more accurate.

Looking up from the base of the pinnacle

Mt. Disappointment and the descent gully

On top of Desolation Pinnacle

Mt. Deception and Mt. Lukens in the distance

Bear Canyon and Brown Mountain

Cairn left by Sean and Willie

Descending from the pinnacle

Final look back

Time to start the day


  1. Keith,
    I was going to add this point to Peakbagger after reading your report, with a link to your writeup. Why don't you add this to Peakbagger, since you scouted and named it?

    1. Asher,

      I added it today. I am trying to think of a peak I've climbed where I didn't see your name. Hmm, can't think of any!

    2. I enjoy your writeups, photos and maps. Good job!

  2. I always wondered if it was possible to get to this. I will have to get my partner in crime and do Desolation Pinnacle!

    1. Chris,

      Definitely do it! Great viewpoint. I was surprised I could not find more info about other people climbing it.