Snow conditions 9th January 2019

I spent all day today in the high country, ascending San Jacinto Peak via Saddle Junction and Wellman Divide, then descending all the way down Deer Springs Trail. I had not intended to record another vlog so soon after the last just three days ago, but I wanted to let folks know about the scrappy state of the snow.

All high elevation trails (>6800′) remain snow-covered, with thin patchy snow in places down to about 6000′ on many trails (discussed in detail below for those trails I have surveyed). For details of the snow that fell last weekend, see the posting from Sunday 6th January.

Microspikes are useful on all trails above about 6000′ at this time. They are especially helpful in the early morning when snow is icy, and for descending. Snowshoes are currently recommended everywhere above about 9000′, and they are helpful in many areas above about 8000′. There is already rapid melting occurring below 8000′, and even higher on sun-exposed slopes, and this will continue for the next two days as warm temperatures are forecast to continue.

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 possible 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. Please note that the gate at Humber Park is now closed, so parking is very limited.

Weather After two more mild days on 10th and 11th, a period of cold conditions with precipitation is forecast for at least one week. A moderate storm seems likely on Friday night, with a few inches of snow forecast for San Jacinto Peak at least. Thereafter, precipitation is possible at all elevations on some or all days from 14th-17th January.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Wednesday 9th January 2019, at 1115 the air temperature was 33°F (0.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 20°F (-7°C), 28% relative humidity, and a cool 11 mph SW wind gusting to 15.7 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 6th January 2019, at 0730 the air temperature was 15.8°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -5.8°F (-21°C), 100% relative humidity, and a sharp 15 mph WSW wind gusting to 25.6 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Devil’s Slide Trail is almost continuously covered in 1-2″ snow, increasing to 4-6″ higher up. Microspikes are sufficient.

Pacific Crest Trail north from Saddle Junction has continuous snow cover. Depth at Saddle Junction was down to 7″, and at 9000′ to about 8-9″. Microspikes were adequate to about 9000′, but snowshoes were essential beyond there (to Wellman Divide in fact) as the only set of tracks occasionally visible between drifts were my own from three days earlier.

Peak Trail From Wellman Divide up, this trail has received only a handful of hikers since the snowfall three days ago. With strong winds and heavy drifting, much of the trail was obscured again this morning. Snowshoes were ideal all the way to San Jacinto Peak.

Deer Springs Trail has been relatively well traveled since the snow three days ago. Snow depth is at about 20″ in Little Round Valley, with some deeper drifts nearer San Jacinto Peak. There is a poorly consolidated snowshoe trail for the entire length of Deer Springs Trail above Strawberry Junction. Snow depth at Strawberry Junction averaged 4″. Below Strawberry Junction (8100′) the trail is largely snow-covered (only a few inches deep) above the Suicide Rock Trail junction, and largely clear below that junction. Microspikes are not needed in this section..

Marion Mountain Trail has been relatively well-traveled, with a good snowshoe track to follow. Thin snow starts at the trailhead, increasing to about 7″ at the junction with the PCT/Deer Springs Trail.

Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT and Seven Pines Trail have shown no signs of use since November, so route finding will be very challenging, especially for those not completely familiar with these trails.

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