Snow and trail update 18th April 2019

[ACCESS UPDATE: Caltrans has announced that starting Saturday 21st April there will be limited access on Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet, in two time windows 0500-0800 and 1800-0000.]

This morning we hiked Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails to San Jacinto Peak. Two days earlier we hiked to and from San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman Divide, in damp, cloudy, windy conditions.

Road access issues and the status of various water sources were updated last week (linked here) and will only be revised when there are noteworthy changes to report.

I recorded the following video on 16th April at San Jacinto Peak.

Shortly after I recorded the video, we were very briefly snowed on as we descended through 10,000′, just some tiny rounded grains that completely failed to accumulate. In Idyllwild we received barely 0.02″ of drizzle, mainly in the afternoon, when the high country was above the cloud. Trail and snow conditions are largely unchanged from last week, other than some continued melting.

Microspikes in combination with hiking poles continue to be recommended throughout the high country above 8500′ (and lower in some areas, e.g., Fuller Ridge). Microspikes are sufficient to hike all of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains at present.

WEATHER After a very brief reminder of winter on 16th, summer returned the next day. Temperatures will be above (or well above) average for the foreseeable future, with very rapid snow melt continuing at all elevations. There is no notable precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, 18th April 2019, at 0900 the air temperature was 41°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 31°F (-1°C), 38% relative humidity, and a cool NE wind at 11 mph gusting to 14 mph.

At the Peak on 16th April 2019 at 0855, the air temperature was 25.5°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 7.7°F (-14°C), 100% relative humidity, and a bitter due West wind at 10 mph gusting to 26 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 12th April 2019 at 0910, the air temperature was 22°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.8°F (-16°C), 55% relative humidity, and a moderate due North wind at 8 mph gusting to 18 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Many trails above about 8700′ remain largely snow-covered, although this is changing rapidly. Details for specific routes are below. Despite warmer weather overall, hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or near freezing in the high country (and colder when considering windchill effects).

Waterproof footwear is useful on approach trails (e.g., Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs) due to multiple stream crossings and considerable water flowing in the trails. It will also be invaluable for the next few weeks in soft melting snow.

Many major trails are now well traveled, and have obvious, consolidated tracks. Routefinding is challenging in places for those not familiar with the area due to wandering, inaccurate tracks however, so use caution. Some PCT marker posts above 8500′ remain snow-covered.

Pacific Crest Trail The trail is clear of snow from Highway 74 (Mile 151) to about Mile 173, except for the challenging area at Apache Peak, Mile 169.5. Most hikers will find microspikes useful for that area, although it is now passable without spikes for those experienced on angled snow travel in appropriate footwear. Between about Mile 174 and Mile 191, much of the trail averages about 80% snow-covered, but with more snow-free areas opening up every day. Miles 179-181 and 182-184.5 are largely free of snow.

Fuller Ridge Trail is best traversed with microspikes and at least hiking poles. The short sections that face south and on top of the ridge are now largely snow-free, but the majority of the trail remains snow-covered and challenging. PCT hikers not comfortable with angled snow/ice travel should continue to consider the Black Mountain Road alternative.

Black Mountain Road is clear of snow until about 7000′ (5 miles up). From the Boulder Basin junction to the PCT/Fuller Ridge campground (miles 5 to 8) there is only about 10% snow cover. No microspikes are required to hike to the PCT. Note that Black Mountain Road is currently accessible to vehicles to about 4.5 miles up from Highway 243. Beyond the Fuller Ridge campground turning, the road is continuously snow-covered at 1-3 feet deep down to about 7000′ elevation. Black Mountain Road is being graded over the next ten days, and should be passable to vehicles (at least to Fuller Ridge) by about 25th April.

Skyline Trail is clear of snow to 7200′. Microspikes and hiking poles are sufficient above that elevation, although an ice axe (if you know how to use it) could be useful on the traverse chutes. There is an obvious track to follow through the snow-covered section.

Devil’s Slide Trail is clear of snow, with short icy snow patches near Saddle Junction.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction (8100′). Snow is limited to patches for the next mile north, before becoming continuous near the Marion Mountain Trail junction. The track above the Fuller Ridge junction up to San Jacinto Peak largely does not approximate to the true trail, and is steep and postholey in places.

Marion Mountain Trail is clear of snow to the viewpoint at 7500′. Above that there is only patchy snow at about 20% coverage all the way to the PCT at 8700′ elevation. Microspikes are not required for the ascent, but are useful for descending the uppermost 0.5 mile.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat remains very treacherous. There are no tracks or steps to follow. Crampons in conjunction with an ice axe are very strongly recommended for this section. It is possible to pass between the PCT and Tahquitz Peak along the top of Tahquitz Ridge with caution.

South Ridge Trail is almost completely clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. Above Old Lookout Flat (7800′) there are occasional snow patches, mainly near the Peak, but with very well-defined steps. Microspikes are not required. South Ridge Road is clear of snow, but is impassable near the top due to severe storm damage.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 16th and 18th April are as follows. Current average depth is given; drifts can be much greater than the average depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 28″ (75″ on 22nd March)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 24″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 16″ (43″ on 22nd March)

Pacific Crest Trail at south end of Fuller Ridge Trail (8950′): 20″

Pacific Crest Trail at top of Marion Mountain Trail (8700′): 17″

Annie’s Junction (PCT at State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction) (9050′): 14″ (34″ on 22nd March)

Long Valley (8500′): 0.5″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 1″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 2″ (20″ on 22nd March)

Trail junction sign at Wellman Divide (9700′) on 16th April 2019 (above) and on 1st April (below)

Trail update 12th April 2019

This morning we hiked to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman Divide, descending the same way. The past few days have included hikes on the north and south ends of Fuller Ridge, Black Mountain Road, Deer Springs Trail, and Spitler and Apache peaks.

Detailed trail conditions are discussed below, with measured snow depths at the foot of this post. Road access issues and the status of various water sources were updated earlier this week (linked here) and for the foreseeable future will only be revised when there are noteworthy changes to report.

I recorded the following vlog this morning at San Jacinto Peak.

Microspikes in combination with hiking poles (or in some situations an ice axe if you know how to use it) continue to be recommended throughout the high country. Microspikes are sufficient to hike all of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains at present.

WEATHER Temperatures will be at or above average for the foreseeable fuure, with extensive snow melt continuing at all elevations. There is no notable precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today 12th April 2019 at 0910, the air temperature was 22°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.8°F (-16°C), 55% relative humidity, and a due North wind at 8 mph gusting to 18 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 8th April at 0905 the air temperature was 49°F (9°C), with a windchill temperature of 48°F (9°C), 19% relative humidity, and a barely discernible West breeze at 2 mph gusting to 4 mph.

California Milkmaids (Cardamine californica) of a pink flowered form, Spitler Peak Trail, 9th April 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Most trails above about 8500′ remain largely snow-covered. Trail conditions will continue to change rapidly with more melting. Details for specific routes are below. Despite warmer weather overall, hikers should still be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country (and colder when considering windchill effects).

Waterproof footwear is useful on approach trails (e.g., Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs) due to multiple stream crossings and considerable water flowing in the trails. It is also invaluable in the soft melting snow in many areas, especially after mid-morning.

Many major trails have been well traveled in the past week, so they have obvious, well consolidated tracks. Routefinding is challenging in places for those not familiar with the area due to wandering, inaccurate tracks however, so use caution. Some signage above about 8500′ remains snow-covered, including PCT marker posts.

Pacific Crest Trail The trail is clear of snow from Highway 74 (Mile 151) to about Mile 173, except for the challenging section at Mile 169.5, discussed in detail a few days ago. Between about Mile 174 and Mile 191, much of the trail averages 90% snow-covered, but with more snow-free areas opening up every day. Miles 180-181 and 182-184 are now largely free of snow.

Fuller Ridge Trail should not be attempted without microspikes and at least hiking poles. Significant sections remain challenging. PCT hikers not familiar with angled snow/ice travel should consider the Black Mountain Road alternative to Fuller Ridge, at least for the next few days.

Black Mountain Road is clear of snow until about 7000′ (5 miles up). From the Boulder Basin junction to the PCT/Fuller Ridge campground (miles 5 to 8) there is only about 10% snow cover. No microspikes are required to hike to the PCT. Note that Black Mountain Road is currently accessible to vehicles to about 4.5 miles up from Highway 243. Beyond the Fuller Ridge campground turning, the road is continuously snow-covered at 1-3 feet deep down to about 7000′ elevation.

Skyline Trail is clear of snow to 7200′. Microspikes and hiking poles are sufficient above that elevation, although an ice axe (if you know how to use it) could be useful on the traverse chutes. There is an obvious track to follow through the snow-covered section.

Devil’s Slide Trail is clear of snow, with a short icy snow section near Saddle Junction.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction (8100′), except for a few tiny patches near the Junction. Snow is limited to patches for the next mile north, before becoming continuous near the Marion Mountain Trail junction. The track above the Fuller Ridge junction up to San Jacinto Peak does not approximate to the true trail, and is steep and postholey in places.

Marion Mountain Trail has been hiked and has a reasonable track to follow. Snow is patchy above about 7600′ and is nearly continuous above about 8300′.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat remains very treacherous. Last week I made the first traverse of this trail for several weeks. There are no tracks or steps to follow. Crampons in conjunction with an ice axe are very strongly recommended for this section. It is possible to pass between the PCT and Tahquitz Peak along the top of Tahquitz Ridge with caution.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

South Ridge Trail is almost completely clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. Above Old Lookout Flat (7800′) there are occasional snow patches, mainly near the Peak, but with very well-defined steps. Microspikes are not required. South Ridge Road is clear of snow, but is impassable near the top due to severe storm damage.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows, with additional data from 8th April included. Total depth is given. Drifts can be much greater than the average depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 35″ (75″ on 22nd March)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 34″ on 8th April

Wellman Divide (9700′): 19″ (43″ on 22nd March)

Pacific Crest Trail at south end of Fuller Ridge Trail (8950′): 30″ on 8th April

Pacific Crest Trail at top of Marion Mountain Trail (8700′): 25″ on 8th April

Annie’s Junction (PCT at State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction) (9050′): 15″ (34″ on 22nd March)

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 2″ on 8th April

Saddle Junction (8070′): 3″ (20″ on 22nd March)

Peak Trail at 9800′ above Wellman Divide today 12th April 2019 (above) and on 1st April (below).

Apache ice update 9th April 2019

Anabel and I hiked back-and-forth across the snow on the north-east flank of Apache Peak (PCT Mile 169.5) early this morning. Conditions are much improved, and it is fairly easy to cross with care and microspikes. I met a few hikers who were making the wise decision (for their comfort level) of using the Spitler Peak Trail alternate to avoid this section. I recorded the following video on site (in a wild wind storm, sorry).

[If you have any trouble viewing this video, it is also available at this link on YouTube.]

All other trail and snow info is in yesterday’s full update.

Snow, trail and water update 8th April 2019

This morning I hiked to San Jacinto Peak up the eastern side from Devil’s Slide Trail via Wellman Divide, descending the western side down Deer Springs Trail. The past week has included hikes on half-a-dozen local parts of the PCT, plus Spitler Peak Trail, Cedar Springs Trail, Tahquitz Peak and the Tahquitz area meadows.

Detailed trail conditions are discussed below, and measured snow depths and current access problems are described near the foot of this posting. Access to Black Mountain Road from Idyllwild became possible this afternoon due to a short section of Highway 243 reopening.

I have also added the status of various water sources, mainly for the benefit of thru-hikers. Some sources in the high country are still inaccessible under snow, while I have noticed some minor ephemeral streams are already drying up. Of course snow is available for melting in the high country also.

The most challenging PCT hiking problem continues to be around Apache Peak. I talked to many thru-hikers on Sunday about their experiences in this area, and I plan to check it again tomorrow.

I recorded the following vlog this morning at San Jacinto Peak.

In the blog I describe fairly good snow conditions for my ascent this morning. The descent was softer with more postholing, especially through Little Round Valley. Overall snow conditions are more reminiscent of mid May than early April. Temperatures above seasonal have resulted in substantial snow melt at all elevations. Melting has also made snow conditions more uniform (and hence easier underfoot when cold and hard) and consolidated trails are good for fairly easy hiking. However, soft snow from mid morning onwards can result in some postholing and sliding later in the day.

Microspikes, in combination with hiking poles or, in some situations, an ice axe (if you know how to use it) are recommended throughout the high country. Microspikes are sufficient to hike all of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains at present. Crampons (always with an ice axe) may be useful for those hikers who are less confident on angled snow and ice. Snowshoes continue to have some use for off-trail travel only, in flatter terrain, and especially in softer afternoon snow. I saw tracks of folks hiking the Peak and PCT without spikes, but also much evidence of them slipping and sliding.

The PCT at Chinquapin Flat (approx Mile 178) on 4th April 2019, with the San Jacinto high country in the distance.

WEATHER Temperatures will be below seasonal for the next few days, resulting in excellent snow hiking conditions, then above average thereafter, with extensive snow melt resuming at all elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 8th April 2019 at 0905, the air temperature was 49°F (9°C), with a windchill temperature of 48°F (9°C), 19% relative humidity, and a barely discernible West breeze at 2 mph gusting to 4 mph.

Weather at the Peak on 1st April 2019 was almost identical to today. At 0930 the air temperature was 49°F (9°C), with a windchill temperature of 48°F (9°C), 17% relative humidity, and largely calm conditions with an occasional West breeze to 2 mph.

Pit toilet in Little Round Valley today. Not a good option if you need a restroom urgently.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Most trails above about 8200′ remain largely snow-covered. Trail conditions will continue to change rapidly with more melting. Details for specific routes are below. Despite warmer weather overall, hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country (>8,000’/2300m elevation) over the next few days, and even colder when considering windchill effects.

Waterproof footwear is useful on approach trails (e.g., Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs) due to multiple stream crossings and considerable water flowing in the trails. It is also invaluable in the soft melting snow in many areas, especially after mid-morning.

Many major trails have been well traveled in the past week, so they have obvious, well consolidated tracks. Routefinding is challenging in places for those not familiar with the area due to wandering, inaccurate tracks however, so use caution. Some signage above about 8500′ remains snow-covered, including many PCT marker posts.

Pacific Crest Trail The trail is clear of snow from Highway 74 (Mile 151) to about Mile 173, except for the challenging section at Mile 169.5. Between about Mile 173 and Mile 191, the trail averages 90% snow-covered, but with more snow-free areas opening up every day. Miles 182 to 184 are now largely free of snow.

Fuller Ridge Trail should not be attempted without microspikes, ideally with an ice axe (if you know how to use one), or at least hiking poles. Significant sections remain challenging. PCT hikers not familiar with angled snow/ice travel should consider the Black Mountain Road alternative to Fuller Ridge, at least for the next few days.

Black Mountain Road is clear of snow until about 7000′ (5 miles up). From the Boulder Basin junction to the PCT/Fuller Ridge campground (miles 5 to 8) snow cover is patchy. Note that Black Mountain Road is now accessible due to the reopening of a short section of Highway 243.

Skyline Trail is clear of snow to 7200′. Microspikes and hiking poles are sufficient above that elevation, although an ice axe (if you know how to use it) could be useful on the traverse chutes. There is an obvious track to follow through the snow-covered section. [Thanks to Chris Dow and others for this update.]

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow, with a few icy snow patches near Saddle Junction. Some hikers will find microspikes useful, especially for descending.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction (8100′), except for a few tiny patches near the Junction. Snow is limited to patches for the next mile north, before becoming continuous near the Marion Mountain Trail junction. The track above the Fuller Ridge junction up to San Jacinto Peak does not approximate to the true trail, and is steep and postholey in places.

Marion Mountain Trail has been hiked and has a reasonable track to follow. Snow is patchy above about 7500′ and is nearly continuous above about 8200′.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat remains very treacherous. Last week I made the first traverse of this trail for several weeks. Crampons in conjunction with an ice axe are very strongly recommended for this section. It is possible to pass between the PCT and Tahquitz Peak along the top of Tahquitz Ridge with caution.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

South Ridge Road is clear of snow, but is impassable near the top due to severe storm damage. South Ridge Trail is largely clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. Above Old Lookout Flat (7800′) there is about 30% patchy snow coverage. Microspikes are valuable for descending – and can be useful for ascending – the switchbacks above 8500′, especially when icy in the early morning.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Current total depth is given. Drifts can be much greater than the average depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 38″ (75″ on 22nd March) (online reports of 6-8 feet at the Peak are wildly inaccurate!)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 34″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 23″ (43″ on 22nd March)

Annie’s Junction (PCT at State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction) (9050′): 20″ (33″ on 12th March)

Pacific Crest Trail at south end of Fuller Ridge Trail (8950′): 30″

Pacific Crest Trail at top of Marion Mountain Trail (8700′): 25″

Annie’s Junction (PCT at State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction) (9050′): 16″ (34″ on 22nd March)

Long Valley (8500′): 2″ (per State Park)

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 2″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 6″ (20″ on 22nd March)

Wellman’s Cienega North Spring today, 8th April 2019.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley faucet is not flowing (per Mount San Jacinto State Park).

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing well. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Valley is flowing.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing well at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing well further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177).

Skunk Cabbage Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing well.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is not accessible under snow where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail above Fuller Ridge. It is accessible where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.4) on Fuller Ridge Trail is flowing well.

The spring in the creek in Little Round Valley is wholly under snow but is close to being snow-free.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is currently hidden under snow.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is wholly snow-covered. [PCT hikers note: almost all PCT guides and apps confuse the Deer Springs crossing with the North Fork of the San Jacinto River. The latter is another 0.5 miles further north on the Fuller Ridge Trail, see above.]

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is flowing well.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is flowing well.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Jolley, Middle, and Powderbox springs are all flowing strongly, as are several unnamed ephemeral creeks.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow very well, as do several other creeks that cross the trail.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Highway 74 There is a water cache where the PCT crosses Highway 74, on the south side of the highway. This appears to be reliably maintained, but never assume water caches will definitely be there.

Pool 3.5 miles north of Highway 74 is flowing.

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing well. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough just upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing fairly well, but the access tail off the PCT is unclear. Easier to get water from Spitler Creek described below.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is already drying up and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing well). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing very well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek.

ACCESS CLOSURES The Valentine’s Day flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from north of Bay Tree Spring to just north of Lake Fulmor. The remaining closed section may not reopen until July or later. Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet may partially reopen – with a pilot car and restricted hours – by May. Whitewater Preserve (PCT Mile 218.5) recently announced that they will not be able to accommodate day use or overnight PCT hikers this year, due to severe damage to Whitewater Canyons roads and trails. Currently the trail from the PCT to Whitewater is non-existent and requires a wide water crossing with quickly flowing water.

Trail sign at Wellman Divide (9700′) today 8th April 2019 (above), last week on 1st April (below), and 17 days ago on 22nd March (bottom).

Snow and trail update 1st April 2019

This morning we hiked briskly to San Jacinto Peak from Devil’s Slide Trail via Wellman Divide, descending the same way. On Saturday we hiked to Tahquitz Peak via South Ridge. Detailed trail conditions are discussed below and both measured snow depths and current access problems are described near the foot of this posting.

Currently the most challenging PCT problem is around Apache Peak. I talked to many thru-hikers on Sunday about their experiences in this area, and I will be checking it again tomorrow. I recorded the following vlog this morning at San Jacinto Peak.

Sadly, snow conditions are more reminiscent of 1st May than of 1st April. Temperatures above seasonal norms have resulted in significant snow melt at all elevations. San Jacinto Peak has lost 15″ to 35″ of snow in the past 20 days, depending on specifc location, due to melting and consolidation. Melting has also made snow conditions more uniform (and hence easier underfoot in the mornings) and consolidated trails are currently virtually perfect for fast easy hiking. However, soft snow from late morning onwards can result in some postholing and sliding later in the day.

Microspikes, in combination with hiking poles or, in some situations, an ice axe (if you know how to use it) are recommended throughout the high country. With prior experience on angled snow, and considerable care, microspikes are sufficient to hike all of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains at present. Crampons (always with an ice axe) will be useful for those hikers who are less confident on angled snow and ice, especially around Apache Peak for the next couple of days. Snowshoes continue to have some use for off-trail travel in flatter terrain, especially in softer afternoon snow.

Be Bear Aware. One of several fairly fresh prints at Annie’s Junction (9050′) today, 1st April 2019 (the lip balm for size reference is 2.5″ long).

WEATHER Temperatures will be seasonal for the next few days, then well above average thereafter, with extensive snow melt at all elevations. Highs may reach near-summer temperatures next week. There is a possibility of light precipitation overnight on 4th-5th April, with a light dusting of snow in the high country.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 1st April 2019, at 0930 the air temperature was 49°F (9°C), with a windchill temperature of 48°F (9°C), 17% relative humidity, and largely calm conditions with an occasional West breeze gusting to 2 mph.

In contrast, at the Peak on Thursday 28th March 2019, at 0935 the air temperature was 28°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 9.9°F (-12°C), 15% relative humidity, and a sharp 15 mph West wind gusting to 27 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Almost all trails above about 8000′ remain snow-covered. With melting, trail conditions will continue to change rapidly. Details for specific routes are below. Despite warmer weather overall, hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing around the highest peaks (>10,000’/3000m elevation), and even colder when considering windchill effects.

Waterproof footwear is useful on approach trails (e.g., Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs) due to multiple stream crossings and considerable water flowing in the trails. It is also advisable due to the somewhat slushy quality of melting snow in many areas, especially after mid-morning.

Many major trails have been well traveled in the past week, so they have obvious, well consolidated tracks. Routefinding is challenging in places for those not familiar with the area due to wandering, inaccurate tracks however, so use caution. Some signage above about 9000′ remains snow-covered, including many PCT marker posts.

Pacific Crest Trail The trail is basically clear of snow from Highway 74 to about Mile 173, except for the challenging section at Mile 169.5. Between about Mile 173 and Mile 192, the trail is largely snow-covered, depths in places up to two feet, but with more snow-free areas opening up every day. Based on my own assessment, and in discussion with PCT hikers who have completed both areas, the icy snow at Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) is currently more treacherous than Fuller Ridge.

Fuller Ridge Trail should not be attempted without a minimum of microspikes, ideally with an ice axe (if you know how to use one), or at least hiking poles. Significant sections remain an icy snow slope. PCT hikers not familiar with angled snow/ice travel should consider the Black Mountain Road alternative to Fuller Ridge, at least for the next few days.

Black Mountain Road is clear of snow until about 7000′ (5 miles up). From the Boulder Basin junction to the PCT/Fuller Ridge campground (miles 5 to 8) snow cover is patchy. [Note that Black Mountain Road is not currently accessible to private vehicles due to the closures on Highway 243.]

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow, with a few extended icy snow patches near Saddle Junction. Some hikers will find microspikes useful, especially for descending in the morning.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow to Strawberry Junction (8100′). There are confusing multiple tracks through the snow from near Marion Mountain Trail junction through to Fuller Ridge (roughly PCT Miles 184-186). Careful navigation is required. The track above the Fuller Ridge junction up to San Jacinto Peak does not closely approximate to the true trail, so again navigation is tricky.

Marion Mountain Trail has been hiked and has a reasonable track to follow. Snow is patchy above about 7000′ and is nearly continuous above about 7900′.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat remains very treacherous even as the snow softens. [UPDATE 4th April] After the first 0.1 mile, there are no tracks to follow and no sign of any attempt to traverse this trail for several weeks. Crampons in conjunction with an ice axe are very strongly recommended for this section. It is possible to pass between the PCT and Tahquitz Peak along the top of Tahquitz Ridge with caution.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

South Ridge Road is clear of snow, but is impassable near the top due to severe storm damage. South Ridge Trail is largely clear of snow below Old Lookout Flat (7800′), but is about 50% snow-covered above it. Microspikes are valuable for descending – and can be useful for ascending – the switchbacks above 8500′, especially when icy in the early morning.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Current total depth is given. Drifts can be much greater than the average depth. Altitudes are approximate. For some snow depths on the western side trails last week, see the previous report linked here.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 52″ (75″ on 22nd March)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 28″ (43″ on 22nd March)

Annie’s Junction (PCT at State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction) (9050′): 22″ (34″ on 22nd March)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 9″ (20″ on 22nd March)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6500′): 0″ (5″ on 22nd March)

ACCESS CLOSURES The Valentine’s Day flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from north of Bay Tree Spring to just north of Alandale. The section from near Alandale to Lake Fulmor will reopen in late April – allowing access to Black Mountain Road – but the remainder may not reopen until July or even later. Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet will partially reopen – with a pilot car and restricted hours – by May. Whitewater Preserve (PCT Mile 218.5) recently announced that they will not be able to accommodate day use or overnight PCT hikers this year, due to severe damage to Whitewater Canyons roads and trails. Currently the trail from the PCT to Whitewater is non-existent and requires a wide water crossing with quickly flowing water.

Trail sign at Wellman Divide (9700′) today 1st April 2019 (above), and ten days earlier on 22nd March (below).

Snow and trail update 28th March 2019

[UPDATE 30th March: we hiked South Ridge to Tahquitz Peak this morning, and Ernie Maxwell Trail yesterday, and I have amended the text below accordingly.]

This morning (28th March) I hiked with Jenn Murdock to San Jacinto Peak from Devil’s Slide Trail via Wellman Divide, descending the same way. Yesterday I hiked Deer Springs and Fuller Ridge trails for search-and-rescue reasons, on 26th I hiked Spitler Peak Trail and the PCT north around Apache Peak, and on 25th up Black Mountain Road to the north end of Fuller Ridge. Many thanks to Tim Dailey and Jenn for supplementary information on the trails around Tahquitz Peak from their hike on 26th.

Detailed trail conditions are discussed below and both measured snow depths and current access problems are described near the foot of this posting. Currently the most challenging PCT problem is around Apache Peak, which I discuss in detail in a posting from two days ago. I recorded the following vlog this morning at San Jacinto Peak.

Temperatures above seasonal norms have resulted in significant snow melt at all elevations. San Jacinto Peak has lost 12″ to 30″ of snow in the past 16 days, depending on specifc location, due to melting and consolidation. Melting has also made snow conditions more uniform (and hence easier underfoot in the mornings) by reducing the dangerous ice layer just under the surface snow. Snow conditions yesterday and today were virtually perfect on the consolidated trails for fast easy hiking. However, soft snow from late morning onwards does result in moderate postholing later in the day.

Microspikes, in combination with hiking poles or, in some situations, an ice axe (if you know how to use it) are strongly recommended throughout the high country. With prior experience on angled snow, and considerable care, microspikes are sufficient to hike all of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains at present. Crampons (always with an ice axe) will be useful for those hikers who are less confident on angled snow and ice, especially around Apache Peak for the next few days. Snowshoes continue to be useful for off-trail travel in flatter terrain, especially in softer afternoon snow.

WEATHER Temperatures will continue to be at or above average into early April, with extensive snow melt at all elevations, especially on sunny aspects and below 9000′. Highs may reach as high as 70°F (21°C) in Idyllwild on 1st April, and 90°F (32°C) in the desert. There is no notable precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today, Thursday 28th March 2019, at 0935 the air temperature was 28°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 9.9°F (-12°C), 15% relative humidity, and a sharp 15 mph West wind gusting to 27 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 22nd March 2019, at 1230 the air temperature was 29°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 16.3°F (-9°C), 29% relative humidity, and a light 7 mph NW wind gusting to 11 mph.

Fuller Ridge Trail at about PCT Mile 186, on 27th March 2019. A fairly average example of the “trail” conditions. If that doesn’t look like fun to you, an alternative route might be a good idea.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Almost all trails above about 7700′ remain snow-covered. With rapid melting, trail conditions will continue to change rapidly. Details for specific routes are below. Despite warmer weather overall, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures around freezing around the highest peaks (>10,000’/3000m elevation), and colder when considering windchill effects.

Waterproof footwear is useful on approach trails (e.g., Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs) due to multiple stream crossings and considerable water flowing in the trails. It is also advisable due to the somewhat slushy quality of melting snow in many areas, especially after mid-morning.

Many major trails have been well traveled in the past week, so they have obvious, well consolidated tracks. Routefinding is challenging in places for those not familiar with the area due to wandering, inaccurate tracks however, so use caution. Much signage above about 8500′ remains snow-covered, including many PCT marker posts.

Pacific Crest Trail The trail is essentially clear of snow from Highway 74 to about Mile 169. Between about Mile 174 and Mile 192, the trail is largely snow-covered, depths ranging from an inch to two feet. Based on my own assessment, and in discussion with PCT hikers who have completed the San Jacinto mountain section, the icy snow at Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) is currently more treacherous than Fuller Ridge.

Fuller Ridge Trail should not be attempted without a minimum of microspikes, ideally with an ice axe (if you know how to use one), or at least hiking poles. Significant sections remain largely a featureless icy snow slope. Crampons and ice axe remain recommended for those less comfortable on snow. PCT hikers not familiar with angled snow/ice travel should consider the Black Mountain Road alternative to Fuller Ridge.

Black Mountain Road is largely clear of snow for its lower four miles. Up to 7000′ (5 miles up) there is shallow patchy snow. From the Boulder Basin junction to the PCT/Fuller Ridge campground (miles 5 to 8) snow cover is extensive, from a few inches to two feet deep. At yellow post campsites 4 & 5, there is a large area clear of snow good for camping. Snow is largely soft and postholing is inevitable without snowshoes. Beyond Fuller Ridge, snow is largely 1-2′ deep, with deeper drifts, down to near Camp Lackey. [Note that vehicle access is currently not possible beyond 2.5 miles due to downed trees and snow. Black Mountain Road is not currently accessible to private vehicles due to the closures on Highway 243.]

Devil’s Slide Trail has only patchy snow to 7900′, but some patches are icy. The trail has been heavily traveled, is obvious, and some hikers will find microspikes ideal, especially for descending in the morning.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to the Suicide Rock turning, and largely clear of snow from there to about 7800′. From there to Strawberry Junction (8100′) there is extensive soft snow cover, with a few hazardous sections of water flowing under snow bridges or on the trail route.

There are confusing multiple tracks through the snow from near Marion Mountain Trail junction through to Fuller Ridge (roughly PCT Miles 184-186). Careful navigation is required. The track above the Fuller Ridge junction up to San Jacinto Peak does not closely approximate to the true trail, so again navigation is tricky.

Marion Mountain Trail has been hiked and has a reasonable track to follow. Snow is patchy above about 7000′ and is nearly continuous above about 7600′.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat remains very treacherous even as the snow softens. There are no tracks to follow and no sign of any attempt to traverse this trail in the past couple of weeks. Crampons in conjunction with an ice axe are strongly recommended for this section. It is possible to pass from Tahquitz Peak to the PCT along the top of Tahquitz Ridge with extreme caution.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow. [UPDATED 29th March]

[UPDATED 30th March] South Ridge Road is clear of snow, but is impassable near the top due to severe storm damage. South Ridge Trail is largely clear of snow below Old Lookout Flat (7800′), but is about 50% snow-covered above it. Microspikes are valuable for descending, and can be useful for ascending, the switchbacks above 8500′, especially when icy in the early morning.

PCT marker emerging from the snow on top of Fuller Ridge at about Mile 187.5, on 27th March 2019.

SNOW DEPTHS measured yesterday and today are as follows. Current total depth is given. Drifts can be much greater than the average depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 55″ (75″ on 22nd March)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 35″ (43″ on 22nd March)

Annie’s Junction (PCT at State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction) (9050′): 27″ (34″ on 22nd March)

Fuller Ridge Trail south end (8950′): 35″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 7″ (but ranging from 0-15″)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 11″ (20″ on 22nd March)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6500′): 0″ (5″ on 22nd March)

ACCESS CLOSURES The parking area at Humber Park has reopened, as has the trailhead access for Marion Mountain Trail. The Valentine’s Day flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway remains closed until 1st April (according to their website). Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from north of Bay Tree Spring to just north of Alandale. The section from near Alandale to Lake Fulmor may reopen in April – allowing access to Black Mountain Road – but the remainder may not reopen until July or even later. Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet will partially reopen – with a pilot car and restricted hours – by May. Several minor roads around Idyllwild-Pine Cove remain partly closed or damaged. Apple Canyon Road (access for the Spitler Peak trailhead) is still flooded at Hurkey Creek and is recommended only for 4WD/high clearance vehicles. Whitewater Preserve (PCT Mile 218.5) recently announced that they will not be able to accommodate day use or overnight PCT hikers this year, due to severe damage to Whitewater Canyons roads and trails. Currently the trail from the PCT to Whitewater is non-existent and requires a wide water crossing with quickly flowing water.

Wellman Divide (9700′) sign on 28th March 2019 (above), and six days earlier on 22nd March (below)