Snow and trail update 3rd May 2019

Today we hiked to Red Tahquitz (above PCT Mile 174) from home, ascending via Devil’s Slide Trail and the Tahquitz meadows, then returning via Tahquitz Peak and South Ridge. This allowed an assessment of PCT Miles 174-179, an area that traditionally holds stubborn late icy snow patches. Other trails hiked in recent days include San Jacinto Peak via Fuller Ridge Trail and both east and west sides, upper Deer Springs Trail, and Marion Mountain Trail. I recorded a short vlog at about 0900 this morning at Red Tahquitz, available here on YouTube.

Snowmelt has continued rapidly, with almost all areas below about 9000′ now clear or largely clear of snow. The PCT in the San Jacinto mountains is now safely passable for most hikers without microspikes. Depending on confidence and experience on icy snow, some PCT hikers will still prefer to use microspikes, especially on the north end of Fuller Ridge (about Miles 189-191).

Microspikes are still recommended above 9000′ in many areas, especially descending from San Jacinto Peak, in particular on the western (Deer Springs Trail) route. We hiked the traverse from Chinquapin Flat (about PCT Mile 178.5) to Tahquitz Peak this morning and found that it remains challenging even in microspikes. Although this is melting fast, an ice axe and extreme care remain advisable for the next few days at least.

As reported in the previous update, the mix of snow and bare patches seems to have obscured tracks in several places, and I have witnessed and heard stories of folks losing the trail in recent days. As always, snow travel requires cautious navigation.

WEATHER After another warm weekend, the following week (6th-12th May) will have below average temperatures, with considerable cloud and chances of light precipitation on several days, at least at mid-elevations (San Jacinto Peak has been above the cloud for three of the four most recent storms).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on 1st May 2019, at 0845 the air temperature was 34°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 23.6°F (-5°C), 14% relative humidity, and a brisk West breeze at 12 mph gusting to 17.4 mph.

At the Peak on 29th April 2019, at 0910 the air temperature was 33°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 26.9°F (-3°C), 46% relative humidity, and a light but chilly WSW breeze at 3 mph gusting to 5 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Many trails above about 9000′ remain largely or partly snow-covered, although this is changing rapidly. Details for specific routes are below. Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country (well below freezing when considering windchill effects). All main trails are now well traveled, and have good tracks.

Pacific Crest Trail The trail is clear of snow from Highway 74 (Mile 151) to about Mile 174 (Red Tahquitz) after which the trail is only 20% snow-covered to about Mile 178. Miles 179-181 and 182-186 are clear of snow. Many nobo PCT hikers are missing the hard left uphill turning at Annie’s Junction (approx. Mile 181.8) in the patchy snow.

Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. PCT Miles 186-191) can be traversed without microspikes, although they are useful for those less experienced on angled icy snow. Snow patches are frequent enough to use microspikes for parts of the five mile length of the Fuller Ridge Trail, specifically Miles 187.5-188, and 189-191. Particularly on the northernmost two miles, the track does not follow the trail in many places, and there are a couple of steep challenging descents. Use caution. PCT hikers not comfortable with angled snow/ice travel could consider the Black Mountain Road alternative. Fuller Ridge campground is clear of snow.

San Jacinto Peak trails On the eastern side, the Wellman Trail from Annie’s Junction (PCT turning near Mile 181.8) 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 is now only partly snow-covered and the track now largely follows the trail route, but microspikes remain useful, especially for descending. On the western side, the upper Deer Springs Trail from Little Round Valley to the Peak remains about 90% snow-covered, and note that the consolidated tracks are steep and do not closely follow the trail route. Microspikes are recommended.

Black Mountain Road is clear of snow to the PCT. No microspikes are required to hike to the PCT. Beyond the Fuller Ridge campground turning there are some small snow patches down to about 7200′ elevation. For vehicular access, Black Mountain Road has been cleared, repaired, and partially graded to the turning to Boulder Basin, and cleared and repaired to the Fuller Ridge campground.

Skyline Trail is clear. C2C hikers have not been encountering snow until well past Long Valley Ranger Station.

Devil’s Slide Trail is now completely clear of snow to Saddle Junction.

Tahquitz meadows trails are largely clear of snow with only occasional patches to cross. No microspikes required.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction (8100′) and largely clear to the Seven Pines Trail junction. There is about 70% snow cover from there to the Fuller Ridge Trail junction, and microspikes are useful. The track above the Fuller Ridge junction now more closely follows the trail and there is only about 50% snow cover to Little Round Valley. Through and above Little Round Valley the tracks largely do not approximate to the true trail, and are steep and postholey in places, with about 90% snow cover (microspikes useful again, especially for descending).

Marion Mountain Trail is clear of snow, with just a couple of tiny patches very near the PCT. Microspikes are not required.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat There are some steps to follow through the snow. Microspikes in conjunction with hiking poles (or ideally an ice axe if you know how to use it) are strongly recommended for this perilous trail until it is completely clear of snow.

South Ridge Trail is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. South Ridge Road is clear of snow, but is impassable to vehicles near the top due to severe storm damage.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on various recent dates (as indicated in parentheses) are as follows. Current average depth is given; drifts can be much deeper than the average in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 20″ (on 1st May; was 75″ on 22nd March)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 20″ (on 1st May)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 0″ (but with drifted patches nearby)

Pacific Crest Trail at south end of Fuller Ridge Trail (8950′): 4″ (on 1st May)

Annie’s Junction (PCT Mile 181.5 at State Park boundary) (9050′): 6″

Long Valley (8500′): 0″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 0″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 0″ (was 20″ on 22nd March)

Trail junction sign at south end of Fuller Ridge Trail (8940′) on 1st May 2019 (above) and two weeks earlier on 18th April 2019 for comparison (below)

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