My hike today went up Deer Springs Trail – including a partial check of Fuller Ridge – to San Jacinto Peak, returning via Wellman Divide and Saddle Junction through to Tahquitz Peak, then back-tracking to descend Devils Slide Trail to Humber Park.
Overview A very mild storm system on 10 March produced rain (and some melting) at elevations below 9000′, and only 1-3″ snow higher up. The PCT was unaffected by new snowfall, and most sections of all trails below about 8100′ are completely clear. In addition, all trails have been well traveled and have obvious sets of tracks to follow. Unusually for this area, new snowfall was greater on the east side of the mountain than the west, with 1″ at Little Round Valley (9800′) increasing to 3″ at San Jacinto Peak, but with 2″ down to Wellman’s Cienega (9250′) and 1″ to about 9000′ near Annie’s Junction. The snow that fell was wet and fell largely on warm surfaces, so melting has been very rapid, and some trails were already clearing this morning barely 24 hours after the storm passed, especially on south and east aspects. Microspikes remain useful in places for descending, and in the early morning, but are not essential anywhere.
Due to a family health issue, the next update will not be until March 22-23. The weather for the next week will be mixed, with disagreement between forecasts about the balance of snow versus rain at different elevations. High elevations will receive some snowfall, but projections are for inches rather than feet, and perhaps nothing significant until 20-21 March. It is unlikely that more than microspikes will be required anywhere, but routefinding will be more challenging after fresh snowfalls than at present.
The following trails are largely or completely clear of snow/ice: Ernie Maxwell Trail, Devils Slide Trail, South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak), Deer Springs Trail (Hwy 243 to Strawberry Junction), Marion Mountain Trail.
South Ridge Trail (from Tahquitz Peak to Chinquapin Flat/PCT) has improved significantly from just four days ago, but microspikes are still advisable, especially descending (northbound). This section of trail remains completely snow covered, but there is now a good set of steps and tracks to follow, and considerable melting has reduced the ice hazards along this notoriously treacherous section.
Pacific Crest Trail The PCT is predominantly clear from Chinquapin Flat (mile 178) through Fuller Ridge, but with some extended areas of melting ice/snow generally only about 1-2″ deep. Most significant of these is about 0.7 miles long from just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction to the Fuller Ridge turning. Fuller Ridge averages about 40% snow cover, typically 1-2″ of soft snow, with a few deeper drifts. There are now several sets of tracks along Fuller Ridge Trail, making routefinding relatively easy.
For thru-hikers the water situation has improved significantly. Almost all ephemeral and perennial streams and springs are flowing. Above 8500′ elevation, many remain heavily or partially frozen, but flows of rainwater and meltwater are now accessible. The two crossings of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (on Fuller Ridge and on the upper Deer Springs Trail) are still largely frozen, but in each case there is accessible water a few yards upstream from the trail.
San Jacinto Peak trails On the west side, the Upper Deer Springs Trail above the Fuller Ridge Trail junction has 50% ice/snow cover to about 9500′, then 95% snow cover to San Jacinto Peak. The route has been well traveled and is largely thin compacted snow, but there are patches of dangerous ice.
On the east side, there is continuous, but rapidly melting, snow (mainly 1-3″ deep) from just south of Annie’s Junction (the State Park boundary) through Wellman Divide to San Jacinto Peak. There is a short section of deeper, drifted snow around 10,000′ elevation. The lightly-traveled East Ridge Trail (from Miller Saddle to the Peak) is fully snow covered, mainly 3-5″ deep, but with drifts to 10-12″.