On the "summit" of Pine Mountain you can see that you really aren't on the summit at all. Pine Mountain is topped by an impressive granite monolith that stands about 60 feet tall. It looks inaccessible, although it also looks like there might be a cairn on the top. In April we didn't venture over to the monolith to take a closer look, but now we decided to see if we could climb it.
Thus, Sunday morning saw Shawn Jin, Patsy and I arrived at the Morris Ranch Road trailhead. This time we came prepared with a climbing rope, harnesses and shoes, along with a small rack of hardware. The Morris Ranch Road offers the fastest access to the Desert Divide, only about an hour to reach the saddle. We headed south and soon caught sight of the monolith on Pine Mountain.
The hardest part of the hike is the section from the trail to Pine Mountain. From the obvious saddle between the trail and the peak a well-ducked trail leads around the SW side of the mountain. Make sure you find this trail! We reached the false summit of Pine Mountain at noon. The Sierra Club calls this Pine Mountain #2 and opines that, "It is not necessary to climb the large, plinth-shaped rock at the south end of the summit ridge."
We ate lunch before heading over to the monolith. Encrusted on the closest face was black lichen and it looked impregnable, something out of "2001 A Space Odyssey". Multi-dimensional and inaccessible. We believed that there might be a way to climb this face; it even looked like someone else had tried to. It also looked desperate and so we walked around looking for another approach. The SE, lichen-free, prow offered the way. We roped up and I led off. Easy moves led to a step across a chasm and then up and traverse right beneath a vertical step (good pro). Climbing up and back to the left led to the exposed, yet easy, prow itself. I would rate the climbing about 5.3. I was soon on the broad summit. There *was* a cairn! There were also two bolts for the rappel. Excellent! Who put these bolts there? There was no register on the top.
As we rapped off the black lichen crumbled beneath our feet like ball bearings. I'm so glad I didn't have to try climbing the first route that we looked at.
We headed back, taking a detour along the way to check out Cedar Spring campground. There was a decent flow of water so this is likely a reliable water source. There were also two very large campfire rings and adequate camping space for a couple of dozen hikers.
This exploratory climb turned out to be an enjoyable Sunday romp. We had no idea whether we were carrying the rope in vain. Maybe it would be too easy and a rope unnecessary, or perhaps it would be too hard. We were lucky and it was just good fun.
Richard replies to a questioner:
> Where is Pine Mtn?
It's on the "Desert Divide" a spur ridge which runs S off the San Jacinto Massif.