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Devil's Backbone Trail
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mini location map2014-09-20
15 by photographer avatarslegal
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Devil's Backbone TrailLos Angeles, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Hiking avatar Sep 20 2014
Hiking8.40 Miles 3,500 AEG
Hiking8.40 Miles   5 Hrs      1.68 mph
3,500 ft AEG
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Every time I’ve hiked the Devil’s Backbone I’ve purchased a lift ticket and ridden up the chairlift to the restaurant at the base of the main ski area. The chairlift gets you to the restaurant in about 15 minutes and saves you 2.1 miles and about 1,300 feet of climbing. I’ve been hiking a lot this year and decided to hike up from the parking lot rather than take the chairlift.

The initial climb out of the parking lot is very steep. I’ve come down this way a few times and it’s tough going down because it’s is so slippery. I climbed at a good pace. In hindsight, it was too fast a pace. I paid dearly later in the hike for my initial burst of energy at the beginning of this hike.

About 400 vertical feet up the access trail meets the trail to the restaurant. The slope on this section is fairly steady and not too steep. I continued up this section at a brisk pace. The trail passes under the restaurant and then it’s a straight shot to the Devil’s Backbone trail.

I continued on up the Backbone at a pretty good pace until I started hitting a wall on the climb up the side of Mt. Harwood. The pace slowed to a crawl. The combination of too fast a pace, strong winds and maybe the 6 mile hike I did the night before were are working against me.

The trail flattens out for a long stretch along the side of Mt. Harwood. My pace picked up again on this section. The wind was howling and it was getting pretty cold. I was entertaining thoughts of calling it quits and turning around. I was too close at this point though, so I trudged on.

The final climb up to Mount San Antonio was brutal. The wind was knocking me off balance at every turn. I was not only tired from the climb, but now I was using a lot of energy trying to keep my balance. After a painfully slow ascent I finally reach the summit. Today was a perfect example of why so many wind shelters have been built up on the summit out of rocks.

I found a nice wind shelter to settle down at and eat lunch. I estimate that the temperature was in the 40’s. Not good whether for shorts and a t-shirt. I put on a sweater that I had in my pack, but I was definitely not prepared for how cold and windy it was.

While eating I was fascinated by all of the clouds that were forming out of nowhere. Looking down in the canyon, a small cloud would form out of nothing and build within a minute or two to a large cloud and then rise up above the summit.

On the way down the wind was so strong and it was so cold that I altered my course to a section that I thought was better protected from the wind. I was wrong. I could have really used a pair of gloves. Fortunately, once I was on the side of Mt. Harwood, the wind and the temperature were more tolerable.

About half way down I ran into a couple girls that were clearly on the mountain for the first time. They showed me the map that they picked up from the ski area and wanted to know how they could get to the Baldy Bowl Trail. It was after 4 PM, so there was less than 3 hours of daylight left. I tried to convince them that they didn’t have enough daylight to hike down the Baldy Bowl Trail. One of the girls said that she didn’t want to go back down the section of trail that they had just climbed. She was afraid of the exposure. I get a little scared on that section too. I tried to tell them that it’s a tall steep mountain and there are other sections that they may not like ahead and that they should go back down the Backbone. They chose to go to the Baldy Bowl Trail. I hope they are OK.

I was so tired when I reached the restaurant that I bought a lift ticked down to the parking lot rather than hike an extra 2.1 miles down with the punishing 400 vertical foot final descent. The hike was definitely not one my better hikes up this mountain, but I made it and had a smile on my face when I looked up the mountain as I rode the lift down.
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