Trail update 12th April 2019

This morning we hiked to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman Divide, descending the same way. The past few days have included hikes on the north and south ends of Fuller Ridge, Black Mountain Road, Deer Springs Trail, and Spitler and Apache peaks.

Detailed trail conditions are discussed below, with measured snow depths at the foot of this post. Road access issues and the status of various water sources were updated earlier this week (linked here) and for the foreseeable future will only be revised when there are noteworthy changes to report.

I recorded the following vlog this morning at San Jacinto Peak.

Microspikes in combination with hiking poles (or in some situations an ice axe if you know how to use it) continue to be recommended throughout the high country. Microspikes are sufficient to hike all of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains at present.

WEATHER Temperatures will be at or above average for the foreseeable fuure, with extensive snow melt continuing at all elevations. There is no notable precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today 12th April 2019 at 0910, the air temperature was 22°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.8°F (-16°C), 55% relative humidity, and a due North wind at 8 mph gusting to 18 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 8th April at 0905 the air temperature was 49°F (9°C), with a windchill temperature of 48°F (9°C), 19% relative humidity, and a barely discernible West breeze at 2 mph gusting to 4 mph.

California Milkmaids (Cardamine californica) of a pink flowered form, Spitler Peak Trail, 9th April 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Most trails above about 8500′ remain largely snow-covered. Trail conditions will continue to change rapidly with more melting. Details for specific routes are below. Despite warmer weather overall, hikers should still be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country (and colder when considering windchill effects).

Waterproof footwear is useful on approach trails (e.g., Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs) due to multiple stream crossings and considerable water flowing in the trails. It is also invaluable in the soft melting snow in many areas, especially after mid-morning.

Many major trails have been well traveled in the past week, so they have obvious, well consolidated tracks. Routefinding is challenging in places for those not familiar with the area due to wandering, inaccurate tracks however, so use caution. Some signage above about 8500′ remains snow-covered, including PCT marker posts.

Pacific Crest Trail The trail is clear of snow from Highway 74 (Mile 151) to about Mile 173, except for the challenging section at Mile 169.5, discussed in detail a few days ago. Between about Mile 174 and Mile 191, much of the trail averages 90% snow-covered, but with more snow-free areas opening up every day. Miles 180-181 and 182-184 are now largely free of snow.

Fuller Ridge Trail should not be attempted without microspikes and at least hiking poles. Significant sections remain challenging. PCT hikers not familiar with angled snow/ice travel should consider the Black Mountain Road alternative to Fuller Ridge, at least for the next few days.

Black Mountain Road is clear of snow until about 7000′ (5 miles up). From the Boulder Basin junction to the PCT/Fuller Ridge campground (miles 5 to 8) there is only about 10% snow cover. No microspikes are required to hike to the PCT. Note that Black Mountain Road is currently accessible to vehicles to about 4.5 miles up from Highway 243. Beyond the Fuller Ridge campground turning, the road is continuously snow-covered at 1-3 feet deep down to about 7000′ elevation.

Skyline Trail is clear of snow to 7200′. Microspikes and hiking poles are sufficient above that elevation, although an ice axe (if you know how to use it) could be useful on the traverse chutes. There is an obvious track to follow through the snow-covered section.

Devil’s Slide Trail is clear of snow, with a short icy snow section near Saddle Junction.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction (8100′), except for a few tiny patches near the Junction. Snow is limited to patches for the next mile north, before becoming continuous near the Marion Mountain Trail junction. The track above the Fuller Ridge junction up to San Jacinto Peak does not approximate to the true trail, and is steep and postholey in places.

Marion Mountain Trail has been hiked and has a reasonable track to follow. Snow is patchy above about 7600′ and is nearly continuous above about 8300′.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat remains very treacherous. Last week I made the first traverse of this trail for several weeks. There are no tracks or steps to follow. Crampons in conjunction with an ice axe are very strongly recommended for this section. It is possible to pass between the PCT and Tahquitz Peak along the top of Tahquitz Ridge with caution.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

South Ridge Trail is almost completely clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. Above Old Lookout Flat (7800′) there are occasional snow patches, mainly near the Peak, but with very well-defined steps. Microspikes are not required. South Ridge Road is clear of snow, but is impassable near the top due to severe storm damage.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows, with additional data from 8th April included. Total depth is given. Drifts can be much greater than the average depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 35″ (75″ on 22nd March)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 34″ on 8th April

Wellman Divide (9700′): 19″ (43″ on 22nd March)

Pacific Crest Trail at south end of Fuller Ridge Trail (8950′): 30″ on 8th April

Pacific Crest Trail at top of Marion Mountain Trail (8700′): 25″ on 8th April

Annie’s Junction (PCT at State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction) (9050′): 15″ (34″ on 22nd March)

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 2″ on 8th April

Saddle Junction (8070′): 3″ (20″ on 22nd March)

Peak Trail at 9800′ above Wellman Divide today 12th April 2019 (above) and on 1st April (below).

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