Snow and trail update 17th December 2018

Our hike today to San Jacinto Peak ascended from Humber Park via Wellman Divide and descended Deer Springs Trail. The video below covers the basics, with details in the text.

 

All high elevation trails (>8000′) remain largely or completely snow-covered. With unusually mild weather (today notwithstanding), melting continues to be extensive, with many more inches of snow depth lost at all elevations in the past few days. Some examples of the snow loss are shown in photos at the end of this blog post.

Microspikes are useful, but not essential, on most trails above about 8000′ at this time (see details below). They are usually most valuable in the early morning when conditions may be icy, and for descending. Snowshoes are currently useful only for travel off-trail.

With the exception of the next few warm days, in general hkers should be prepared for temperatures near freezing at the highest elevations (well below freezing when considering windchill effects). (See weather data below.)

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat has an average depth of about 10″ of snow, however some drifted sections are about 20-24″ deep. There is a reasonable trail from foot traffic at the weekend. Conditions are currently so mild overnight that the snow is not icy and the consolidated soft snow conditions are good for traversing this trail in microspikes, preferably with an ice axe. Microspikes (with hiking poles or axe) are recommended. I would discourage carrying an ice axe if you aren’t familiar with how to use it.

South Ridge Trail is almost entirely clear of snow from the top of South Ridge Road to Old Lookout Flat (the plateau at 7800′), and microspikes are not required. From 7800′ to Tahquitz Peak the trail is almost continuously snow-covered, with about 2″ depth lower down, rising to 4-6″ nearer Tahquitz Peak. There are some deeper drifts on the uppermost switchbacks. Depending on the firmness of the snow, microspikes are not necessary for ascending, but they are useful for descending to about 8000′.

Eastern slope trails All the main trails have been well traveled and are well consolidated. This includes all the Long Valley and Round Valley trails, and the East Ridge Trail on San Jacinto Peak.

Western slope trails These have still been less traveled than the east side, and as such require more care, but nevertheless largely have clear, firm tracks to follow (with some exceptions discussed below). Snow melt has been less dramatic on the western side, which isn’t exposed to the morning sun and is much more heavily forested, especially above about 9000′.

Deer Springs Trail The track between Little Round Valley and San Jacinto Peak is now more obvious (but steep) and microspikes are sufficient.

The trail is completely clear of snow below 8000′, and microspikes are not required below 8400′.

Marion Mountain Trail has been heavily traveled, and the trail is largely clear of ice and snow below about 7700′.

Fuller Ridge Trail and Seven Pines Trail still show no signs of use since last week’s storm, so route finding will be very challenging for those not fully familiar with these trails.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow below 7800′. Hikers comfortable with snow travel will find microspikes are not required to Saddle Junction.

Weather Today was a lovely cold winter day on the mountain, but regrettably above-average temperatures will continue for the next few days, before a return to normal next weekend (whatever normal is these days). There is a chance of waking up to a white Christmas, with a possibility of precipitation forecast for the early morning of 25th December.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Monday 17th December, at 0915 the air temperature was 21.4°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.8°F (-16°C), 85% relative humidity, and a fresh 9 mph due West wind gusting to 17 mph.

By contrast, at the Peak on Wednesday 12th December, at 0930 the air temperature was 34.6°F (1.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.3°F (-6°C), 24% relative humidity, and a moderate 8 mph NW wind gusting to 20 mph.

The Peak Trail just above Wellman Divide (above) today Monday 17th December 2018 and (below) the same view ten days earlier on Friday 7th December.

The trail junction sign at Wellman Divide (above) today Monday 17th December 2018 and (below) the same view ten days earlier on Friday 7th December.

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