Prominent Point

Prominent Point is the large block of cliffs that frames Finger Rock on the left or west as viewed from much of Tucson in the UA area, with Finger Rock Guard the pillar of rock to the right of Finger Rock.  From the city, the ridge that leads up to this summit looks at best barely doable without requiring climbing.  Fortunately for an exposure wimp like me, this turns out to be the case.  It ended up being a fairly straight forward route, though it is very rough and strenuous and I can't really recommend it unless you know what your doing and have a strong desire to go there.  I found my GPS track on the way up to be very handy in finding my way back down along the final summit ridge, and I would recommend this practice especially on this route.  

January 3, 2011
I didn't know what to expect since I haven't seen a detailed description of this off-trail route, but I decided to give it a try even if I ran into obstacles or out of time and didn't make it this first time around.   


Looking back from near the top of the gully that sits behind The Thumb.  The route leaves the trail to follow a side canyon near the cliff shadow down in Pima Canyon.  The side canyon runs along the bottom of the shadowed cliffs and joins Pima Canyon near the start of the route.  From this perspective the gully appears to drain into the side canyon and almost does, but it actually hooks right to pour over cliffs into Pima Canyon.  From the gully down into the side canyon the slopes are choked with shindagger agave to the point that they are unavoidable.  To make matters worse there are plenty of other spiny plants in the mix and the ground is loose in spots.  I've gotten punctured plenty of times, but on descent I was unlucky enough to get a bit of spine lodged in my leg, which is still in there.  The pan sweeps from SW to NE with the right side looking up canyon from Table Mountain towards the rocky pinnacles lining the head of Pima Canyon.  The blue-green shrubs on the outcrop are Scrub Oak and are common and spiny, but don't really present an obstacle. 


This is a pan composed of vertical shots because my wide angle wasn't wide enough otherwise, taken from the same outcropping as in the previous pan but this time looking up to the adjacent looming cliff face.  The route heads up around the backside of this cliff as it transitions into a ridge traverse.  The first of two amphitheater side canyons is just beyond this shadowy cliff, and the second is on the north side of Prominent Point.  


Backside of The Thumb, which I call Sunset Butte after hearing that name somewhere, it has a knack for catching the light of sunset.  I scared up a couple Coues Whitetail out of the brush near here.  Game trails and deer tracks were common, as well as some fairly fresh mountain lion tracks in the pockets of snow.  


The big ridge walk over to the final ascent, it's the best I've been on in southern Arizona.  At this point I couldn't tell if the fairly well beat-in path was from animals or people consolidating at the top of the ridge.  The cliffs of the first large amphitheater side canyon encountered along Pima Canyon fall away to the left of the ridge.  The right side drops steeply into broken cliffs above Finger Rock Canyon.  Prominent Point is the high point at center and Pontatoc Ridge is at far right with the Rincon Mountains in the background.  


Another pan of vertical shots looking across the big void at the northern end of the cliffs to the southwest slopes of Prominent Point.  The other side of these slopes fall away into the second amphitheater side canyon.    


View south down into Finger Rock Canyon with the trail visible running from the top of the white cliffs at bottom left all the way to the canyon bottom at far right.  Pontatoc Ridge is the large band of cliffs rising directly above the foothills area of Tucson and the Santa Ritas form the south horizon.   



The top portion of Finger Rock Canyon from the long rough final ascent.  The large block of rock in the upper left is Finger Rock Gaurd with Finger Rock hidden to its left.  It looked like the ridge on the bottom right was easily accessible and should provide a straight on view of Finger Rock.  I didn't notice any other easy place where it would be visible along the route.  Unfortunately I didn't have time to check out the view for myself.   


Nearing the summit which is lined by a series of cliffs and pinnacles.  Finger Rock Guard is still visible as the far right cliffs.  The far left cliffs lead up to the west summit of this route while the ramp running up the middle leads towards the east summit, and the deep vertical gap separating the two summits is out of view.


View of the three highest peaks of Pusch Ridge from the summit; Mount Kimball, Window Peak and Cathedral Peak, in order of increasing height and distance from this point with the latter two poking above Kimball Saddle.  I wish I had more time on the summit to poke around since it's difficult to get views up there.  I can't remember if the cliffs at right or the point behind them belonged to the east summit point.  It was also difficult to tell what the true highest point was, not that it matters much.  


Pan towards the relatively gentle summit of Mount Kimball to the northwest with the cliffs of Pima Canyon below to the left.  Samaniego Peak is the sharp point barely in view over the left flank of Mount Kimball.  


The steep view back to the ridge walk, more obviously lined by tall cliffs from this perspective.  This hike is strangely different from others in the area because the immediate surroundings are about as wild and rugged as it gets, yet it also feels very close to the city.   


Summit pan from nearly south to nearly north.  The top of one of the pinnacles along the west ridge of Prominent Point can be seen at far right.  I only spent a short time trying to get a better view of the dramatic north face of the summit which also forms the cliffs and pinnacles of the second amphitheater side canyon along Pima Canyon.  I wasn't able to see those cliffs well, though it seems like a good view wouldn't be too difficult to get to.
  

Back down at the upper end of the ridge walk along one of the narrower and more precipitous parts.  There are only a couple areas where the route narrows a bit between drop-offs or uses a little scrambling, but it's not technical by any means, speaking as a non-climber that isn't very fond of exposure.  In general the thickets of Pinyon Pine and other plants present more of an obstacle.


Table Mountain sometimes seems much closer across Pima Canyon than it is.  

   
This is the GPS track for this hike prominentpoint.gpx.  I'd recommend connecting with the creek bed of the side canyon sooner than I did.  I'd also recommend taking the right slope after the hook in the canyon and staying just above the creek bed.  It seemed easier on the way down than the left side, but this whole area at the bottom of the route looked pretty rough everywhere.  There's a good chance that I missed some better path choices though.  Once in the gully above the side canyon, the shindaggers thin out and the route becomes a somewhat obvious singular option.