Pine Mountain via Acorn trail and North Backbone
This week I came up with the idea of giving Pine Mountain a shot. I had done the North Backbone before in summer and knew how exposed and steep it was. I started wondering what it would be like in winter with snow on it. So, I decided to drive out to Wrightwood on Saturday, hike up the Acorn trail to Blue Ridge Rd and pick up the North Backbone from there. That would make for roughly 9 miles round-trip and about 3700 gain (net gain, I later realized I forgot the up-and-down parts)
Breaking my own Acorn 'trail'.
We kind of got a late start (9:30am) but I was pretty sure we could make it back before dark (6pm). The Acorn trail is not heavily traveled but I was hoping somebody snow shoed it and there would be some old tracks I could follow. That was bad thinking of my part! Nobody had been up there since the latest storms. At first I tried to find the trail with my GPS but way too much snow and bad reception made me resort to the bare essentials: map and compass. I broke trail (= “a” trail) the whole way up and got pretty tired even before going up the ridge to Pine Mountain
Pine Mountain and the North Backbone lying ahead.
I had some food before we hit the backbone and felt better. It was clear we had to stay to the right as there were huge drifts of snow hanging over the other side; stepping on one of those would most definitely be disastrous.
Huge snow drifts hanging over the east side of the backbone.
It seemed like the winds had been blowing hard from the west, leaving almost no snow on one side and several feet of high drifts on the east side.
Steepest section of the backbone.
The conditions on the trail were pretty annoying, next to the huge drifts, there were bare rocky parts and some ice. The first part felt pretty safe (more snow covered) until we hit the steepest section. It had some loose snow/rock + icy parts and I knew coming down this would be sketchy. Moreover, the wind was blowing at 40+ mph and there were clouds rolling in. I knew we had to get the hell out of there as being in a snowstorm is the last thing you want on the backbone!
Storm closing in.
Coming back down the steepest part, I was very cautious. Nonetheless I still managed to slip twice but plunged my axe in the mountain in a fraction of a second! Crampon traction wasn’t a guarantee on the mixture of snow, ice and rock. The clouds closed in right behind us and once we made it down the backbone, it was totally hidden in the clouds. I don’t get scared fast but I was really happy to be of that mountain. I was glad we turned around.
Then we still had to snow shoe down Blue Ridge Rd and the Acorn trail. Boy, was I tired! I definitely started paying the price for all the trail-breaking earlier in the day.
I might try Pine Mountain again in winter but a fully snow covered backbone would definitely be safer; no sharp rocks to cut you up in case you would fall.
All respect to this mountain!
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