I made several mistakes on this hike and put myself in a bad spot.
The plan was to go up Register Ridge (never before tried) and down Devil's Backbone. I had read here that Devil's Backbone was snow-free, and therefore assumed Register Ridge would be too because it is south-facing. I did have microspikes with me as a precaution.
I had not done Register Ridge before. It is very steep and very exposed (no shade). Not a problem going up but it would not be fun to go down this way. Shortly after starting on Register Ridge (from off the fire road), I stopped to de-layer and re-arrange my backpack. In the process, I forgot to re-attach my InReach and continued on without it. 500 vertical feet later, I realized it was missing. Choice – finish the hike solo with no ability to communicate, on a never-before-tried route, or descend 500ft of 30-40 degree slope with also no ability to communicate if I get hurt? I chose the latter, and made it back to the device.
Choice 2 – give up since it was now after 1pm, or go back up? And if so, which way? I've done the other routes a few times each so I knew Ski Hut/Baldy Bowl is the fastest. But I did not know the snow condition. I figured, I have microspikes, it's late-ish anyway, let's just go with Ski Hut and I can turn around if I hit too much snow.
There is no snow at all up to the Ski Hut, or across the bowl. When you get into the shady area after that, there was some snow but nothing too bad (see pic). I was making good progress. At ~9400 feet, though, snow covered most the ground and it was harder to find the trail. It doesn't matter much to be on the trail because up there, you can just walk straight up. But it was more tiring. I probably should have just turned here but now I'm less than a mile from the top.
At like 9700 feet, close enough to see the poles indicating the top, my heart was beating too fast. I could only walk 10-20 steps before needing a break. Going back down seemed like a bad idea – a fatiguing steep descent including several hundred feet of snow. I really wanted to get to the relative ease of the Backbone descent, but my heart was not having it. This is the “bad spot” – acquired by climbing alone, making a mistake which added 500 feet of climb and descent, and choosing a route with uncertainty (twice, really). I chose to push – it took almost 30 minutes to climb the last 300 vertical feet.
The initial descent was not the cakewalk I had hoped because it turns out there was a strong wind from the north – it made the backbone section nerve-wracking but not dangerous. Aside – I would say there is “inconsequential” snow on the Backbone – but there are some small patches in non-significant places.
I should have quit after recovering the InReach – the mistake was thinking Baldy is “easy” and that I could make up the lost time. Laying in bed last night, 3 hours after getting home, my HR was 95 (typically 60).