This morning we hiked to and from San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman Divide. In recent days I have hiked South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak, Deer Springs Trail, Marion Mountain Trail, and the southern end of Fuller Ridge Trail. The status of various water sources is largely unchanged from an earlier report (linked here). I recorded the following video at 0910 this morning at San Jacinto Peak.
Just like last Tuesday 16th, there was some brief precipitation later in the day after I recorded the video. In Idyllwild we received 0.1″ of rain in the afternoon, but again the high country was largely above the cloud. Other than continued rapid melting of snow, trail conditions are not substantially changed from last week.
Microspikes in combination with hiking poles continue to be recommended throughout the high country above 8700′ (and lower in some areas e.g., Fuller Ridge). Microspikes are sufficient traction to hike the PCT throughout the San Jacinto mountains.
WEATHER Despite cooler conditions today, temperatures will be at or above average for the foreseeable future, with very rapid snow melt continuing at all elevations. There is no notable precipitation in the forecast before May.
At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, 22nd April 2019, at 0900 the air temperature was 29°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 11.8°F (-11°C), 55% relative humidity, and a brisk due North wind at 11 mph gusting to 17 mph.
At the Peak on 18th April 2019, at 0900 the air temperature was 41°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 31°F (-1°C), 38% relative humidity, and a cool NE wind at 11 mph gusting to 14 mph.
At the Peak on 16th April 2019 at 0855, the air temperature was 25.5°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 7.7°F (-14°C), 100% relative humidity, and a bitter due West wind at 10 mph gusting to 26 mph.
Many trails above about 8700′ remain largely or partly snow-covered, although this is changing rapidly. Details for specific routes are below. Despite warmer weather overall, hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or near freezing in the high country (and colder when considering windchill effects).
Many major trails are now well traveled, and have obvious, consolidated tracks. Routefinding is challenging in places for those not familiar with the area due to wandering, inaccurate tracks which often do not match the established trail routes, so use caution.
Pacific Crest Trail The trail is clear of snow from Highway 74 (Mile 151) to about Mile 174, except for some small icy snow patches at Apache Peak, Mile 169.5. Some hikers will find microspikes useful for that area, although it is now passable without spikes for those experienced on angled snow travel in appropriate footwear. Between about Mile 174 and Mile 178, the trail averages about 90% snow-covered, but with more snow-free areas opening up every day. Miles 179-181 and 182-184.5 are largely free of snow.
Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) is best traversed with microspikes and at least hiking poles. The short sections that face south and on top of the ridge are now largely snow-free, but the majority of the trail remains snow-covered and is challenging in places. PCT hikers not comfortable with angled snow/ice travel should continue to consider the Black Mountain Road alternative.
San Jacinto Peak trails On the eastern side, the Wellman Trail from Annie’s Junction (PCT turning at Mile 181.6) to Wellman Divide (9700′) is largely clear of snow, but microspikes are useful on those areas where stubborn icy snow patches remain. The Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to the Peak remains completely snow-covered and microspikes are recommended. There are multiple meandering tracks, most of which do not closely follow the trail route, so some caution with navigation is required. On the western side, the upper Deer Springs Trail from Little Round Valley to the Peak remains almost completely snow-covered, and note that the consolidated tracks are steep and do not closely follow the trail route. Microspikes are strongly recommended.
Black Mountain Road is clear of snow to the PCT/Fuller Ridge campground. No microspikes are required to hike to the PCT. Beyond the Fuller Ridge campground turning, the road is partly snow-covered at up to 2 feet deep down to about 7200′ elevation. Black Mountain Road has been graded and is now passable to vehicles to the PCT crossing near Fuller Ridge campground.
Skyline Trail is clear of snow to about 7200′. Microspikes are useful but not essential above that elevation. There is an obvious track to follow through the short snow-covered patches.
Devil’s Slide Trail is clear of snow, with a couple of tiny icy patches near the top.
Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction (8100′). Snow is limited to small patches for the next mile north, before becoming largely continuous near the Marion Mountain Trail junction. The track above the Fuller Ridge junction up to San Jacinto Peak largely does not approximate to the true trail, and is steep and postholey in places.
Marion Mountain Trail is clear of snow to the viewpoint at 7500′. Above that there is only patchy snow at about 20% coverage all the way to the PCT at 8700′ elevation. Microspikes are not required for the ascent, but are useful for descending the uppermost 0.5 mile.
Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat remains very treacherous. There are no tracks or steps to follow. Crampons in conjunction with an ice axe are strongly recommended for this section. It is possible to pass between the PCT and Tahquitz Peak along the top of Tahquitz Ridge with caution.
South Ridge Trail is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. There are a few small snow patches 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 (and on 18th April as indicated) are as follows. Current average depth is given; drifts can be much greater than the average depth. Altitudes are approximate.
San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 25″ (75″ on 22nd March)
Little Round Valley (9800′): 24″ (on 18th April)
Wellman Divide (9700′): 12″ (43″ on 22nd March)
Pacific Crest Trail at south end of Fuller Ridge Trail (8950′): 20″ (on 18th April)
Pacific Crest Trail at top of Marion Mountain Trail (8700′): 17″ (on 18th April)
Annie’s Junction (PCT at State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction) (9050′): 10″ (34″ on 22nd March)
Long Valley (8500′): 0″
Strawberry Junction (8100′): 1″ (on 18th April)
Saddle Junction (8070′): 0″ but with some drifted patches (20″ on 22nd March)