Snow update 12th January 2019

[UPDATE Wednesday 16th January 2019 It finally stopped raining (for the time being)this afternoon in Idyllwild. More rain is forecast for tomorrow, with a light dusting of snow for the high country. Current storm total for Idyllwild at 5550′ is 2.50″ rain and about 1″ snow (which did not settle). The system turned much warmer overnight, and it rained to at least 7500′ elevation, washing off or melting all snow from the trees and Tahquitz and Suicide rocks below that elevation. The quality of the snow below about 7000′ is atrocious, basically white slush. Microspikes are very useful above 6000′, and snowshoes invaluable above 7500′. The higher elevations were above the cloud for some of the night and all of today, so new snow accumulations were minimal. Humber Park (6500′) is unchanged at 4″, Saddle Junction (8100′) has 20″, and Long Valley is reporting 22″. The trailhead for South Ridge Trail (top of South Ridge Road, 6500′) had an average of 5″ this afternoon, but with patches to 8″. Please note that South Ridge Road is currently impassable without good 4WD, snow tyres, and/or chains. The status of the high country snow conditions will be updated tomorrow and/or Friday.]

[UPDATE Tuesday 15th January 2019 It won’t stop snowing! I checked Devil’s Slide Trail and Saddle Junction this morning. Saddle Junction (8100′) had a total of 17″ of snow, of which about 8″ were new snowfall since the weekend. Humber Park (6500′) had a total of about 4″ by noon today, of which three inches were new in the past day. However snow was continuing to accumulate at as much as 0.5″ per hour, and it has largely continued to snow lightly all afternoon. Snow level has fluctuated around 6000′ elevation, with mainly rain and occasional sleet in Idyllwild at 5550′. At Long Valley, little precipitation fell overnight (less than an inch of snow added to yesterday’s total), but between 0600-1200 about another 2-3″ were added, for a storm total of about 8″, on top of the existing 4″.]

[UPDATE Monday 14th January 2019 light but steady precipitation started at about 1100 and continued all day. By dusk, Long Valley (8500′) had about 5″ of fresh snowfall, Humber Park (6400′) had less than one inch of snow, and Idyllwild (5550′) had recorded 1.12″ of rain with no settled snow. After dark it continues to drizzle at mid elevations, and lightly snow above about 6500′.]

There was a light snowfall everywhere above about 7000′ overnight, descending to about 5000′ briefly this afternoon. Yesterday afternoon I hiked to San Jacinto Peak up Deer Springs Trail, descending this morning via Wellman Divide to Humber Park. The only other person I saw in the high country today was Kham, friend of the Trail Report, who was postholing up beyond Wellman Divide. I recorded a brief vlog at San Jacinto Peak this morning.

The snow today came in three phases. In the early hours there was a light snowfall at the higher elevations (mainly above 7000′), totaling about 3″ at San Jacinto Peak, accompanied by howling, bitter southerly winds, ending around 0800. A second snow between 1000-1300 today fell mainly from 6500′ to 10,000′ (the highest elevations were largely above the cloud. Finally a brief but intense snow of larger, wet flakes, fell around 5000′ to 7000′ on the western side (especially around Idyllwild) early this afternoon.

Trail conditions Snowfall was insufficient to completely obscure the established tracks in the snow at all elevations. Details of the trail conditions prior to today’s snowfall are discussed in the previous report linked here. Microspikes are very useful, but not essential, on all trails above about 7000′ at this time (see snow depth details below). Snowshoes are currently very helpful everywhere above about 9000′, and locally above 8000′ (e.g., Tahquitz area meadows, Long Valley).

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. Please note that the gate to Humber Park is now closed, limiting parking to just a handful of vehicles, and is being patrolled by the Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer during the shutdown (I had another chat with him there this afternoon). Adventure Passes are required to park in the available places at Humber Park.

Weather Storm systems on Monday 14th and then again on Thursday 17th may produce significant precipitation this week. Forecasts initially suggested as much as 3″ of rain at the elevation of Idyllwild, and snowfall of perhaps more than 1.5 feet at San Jacinto Peak. Most recent estimates forecast much less precipitation however. Most (all?) of the precipitation may occur in the first storm, arriving Monday.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Saturday 12th January 2019, at 0850 the air temperature was 17°F (-9.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 2.0°F (-17°C), 88% relative humidity, and a cool 7 mph due South wind gusting to 11.2 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 11th January, at 1710 the air temperature was 29°F (-1.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 13.8°F (-10°C), a remarkable 14% relative humidity, and a bitter 14 mph SSW wind gusting to 22 mph.

Looking NW from San Jacinto Peak at about 0900 this morning.

Measured snow depths are as follows. The first number is new accumulation measured today, the second (in parentheses) is the maximum depth at that location including the existing snow from earlier storms. Very strong winds led to considerable drifting, mainly above 10,000′ elevation, often double the reported depth in places. Note that with so much melting between storms this winter, the deepest snow is very patchy, and at all elevations there are some bare areas. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 3-4″ (24″), with drifts >30″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 2″ (12″)

Annie’s Junction (State Park boundary north of Saddle Jn) (9050′): 1.5″ (10″)

Saddle Junction (8100′): 1″ (7″)

Humber Park (6500′): 1″ (2″)

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