[UPDATE 8th May: we hiked South Ridge to Tahquitz Peak this morning. South Ridge Road was repaired and fully graded yesterday. I have updated the status of the challenging Tahquitz Peak to Chinquapin Flat trail also.]
This morning we briskly hiked to and from San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman Divide. Other trails surveyed in recent days were outlined in the previous update three days ago. I recorded a short video at about 0900 this morning just below Miller Peak, available on YouTube. There was some very light rain in Idyllwild this afternoon, totaling 0.26″ at 5550′ elevation, but yet again the high country was above the cloud.
Snowmelt has continued rapidly, with many areas below about 9000′ now clear or largely clear of snow, and sun-exposed slopes below 10,400′ largely clear too. 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 9500′ in many areas, especially descending from San Jacinto Peak, and in particular on the western (Deer Springs Trail) route. We hiked the traverse from Chinquapin Flat (about PCT Mile 178) to Tahquitz Peak on 3rd May and found that it remains challenging even in microspikes.
WEATHER Temperatures this week will be below average for early May, with considerable cloudiness and light precipitation possible on several days, at least at mid-elevations (San Jacinto Peak has been above the cloud for four of the five most recent storms). Light rain at mid elevations and light snow in the high country are most likely on Friday and Saturday (10-11 May) with a few inches of snow possible, mainly above about 8500′.
At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, 6th May 2019, at 0830 the air temperature was 29°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 20°F (-7°C), 54% relative humidity, and a very light SSW breeze at 3 mph gusting to 6 mph.
At the Peak on Wednesday 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 mph.
Many trails above about 9000′ remain at least partly snow-covered. Details for specific routes are below. Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country this week (well below freezing when considering windchill effects). All main trails are now well traveled, and have good tracks to follow.
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 patchily 20% snow-covered to about Mile 179. There is almost continuous snow either side of Mile 181. Many nobo PCT hikers are missing the hard left uphill turning at Annie’s Junction (approx. Mile 181.5) 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 approx. Miles 187.5-188, and 189-191. Particularly on the northernmost two miles, the track does not follow the trail in places, and there are a couple of steeper descents. PCT hikers not comfortable with angled snow/ice travel could still consider the Black Mountain Road alternative. Fuller Ridge campground (Mile 191) is clear of snow.
San Jacinto Peak trails On the eastern side, the Wellman Trail from Annie’s Junction (PCT turning near Mile 181.5) to Wellman Divide (9700′) is largely clear of snow, but microspikes are useful for descending those areas where stubborn icy snow patches remain. The Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to the Peak is 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 80% snow-covered, and note that the consolidated tracks are steep and do not closely follow the trail route. Microspikes are recommended, especially for descending.
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 7300′ 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 clear of snow.
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 not required.
Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat [UPDATED 8th May] There are some steps to follow through the short (but steep) remaining sections of snow. Microspikes in conjunction with hiking poles (or ideally an ice axe if you know how to use it) remain strongly recommended for this challenging trail until it is clear of snow (likely one to two more weeks).
South Ridge Trail is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. South Ridge Road [UPDATED 8th May] was repaired and graded yesterday and is passable to he top to all vehicles.
Peak Trail looking north at 9800′ just above Wellman Divide today 6th May 2019 (above) and the same view two weeks earlier on 22nd April (below).
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′): 19″ (on 6th 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′): 4″ (on 6th May)
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)