White Christmas! 25th December 2018

In Idyllwild and the high country we received a light snow today. I hiked to San Jacinto Peak early this morning from Humber Park via Wellman Divide, descending the same way. I recorded the following video at San Jacinto Peak at about 0815 this morning, but some details of snow depths are revised in the text below.


There was snow down to 5000′ that fell between 0700-1200 this morning, with a little rain overnight beforehand. In Idyllwild at 5550′, we had 0.08″ rain, followed by 0.5″ snow.

The snowfall pattern was somewhat unusual as the cloud level was around 10,000-11,000′. Consequently snowfall was intermittent at the higher elevations, and the greatest accumulations (3-4″) were between 9000-9800′.

Microspikes are useful, but not essential, on most trails above about 6000′ at this time (see snow depth details below). There is already rapid melting occurring below 6000′ , and this will likely extend to 7000′ in the next couple of days. However very cold overnight temperatures will result in considerable icing on the trails for the foreseeable future. Microspikes are especially most valuable in the early morning when snow is less soft, and for descending. Snowshoes are currently useful mainly for travel off-trail.

For at least the next week, hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country (>8000′ elevation), and well below freezing at the high peaks (with severe cold when considering windchill effects).

Note that during the federal government shutdown, the U.S. Forest Service Idyllwild Ranger Station is closed. Adventure passes and wilderness permits are not required (or at least unenforceable) until the shutdown ends.

Weather Thankfully, after nearly three weeks of above average temperatures, cold weather will predominate for the remainder of December. There is no additional precipitation in the forecasts for the next week or so.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Tuesday 25th December, at 0810 the air temperature was 16.5°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -1.8°F (-19°C), 100% relative humidity, and a chilly 10 mph WSW wind gusting to 16 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 21st December, at 0845 the air temperature was 35.6°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 21.5°F (-5.5°C), 24% relative humidity, and a brisk 12 mph West wind gusting to 23 mph.

Measured snow depths are as follows. The first number is new accumulation today, the second (in parentheses) is the maximum depth at that location including the existing snow from earlier storms. Note that with so much melting this month, the deepest snow is very patchy, and at all elevations there were bare areas until this morning. Depths are averages, deeper wind-blown drifts will be encountered, especially at higher elevations. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 2″ (15″)

10,000′ elevation: 2″ (12″)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 4″ (10″)

Annie’s Junction (State Park boundary north of Saddle Jn) (9050′): 3″ (12′)

Saddle Junction (8100′): 1.5″ (4″)

Humber Park (6500′): 1.5″ (1.5″)

Idyllwild (5550′): 0.5″ (0.5″)

Comparative snow depths at 9700′. Wellman Divide trail junction sign (above) today 25th December 2018, (below) on 21st December, and (bottom) on 7th December!

One thought on “White Christmas! 25th December 2018

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