Weather and trail update 11th May 2019

This afternoon I hiked to and from San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman Divide, having done the same via Marion Mountain and upper Deer Springs trails on 10th May. On 8th May we hiked to Tahquitz Peak from home, checking trails all around that mountain. I recorded a video at 0920 on 10th May in the cloud at San Jacinto Peak available on YouTube at this link.

Today I wanted to see if there was any chance of snow in the high country as had been forecast. While the trees above 10,300′ were plastered with thick rime, alas no snow.

Idyllwild was in the cloud all morning on 10th and it was trying to drizzle in Pine Cove (6300′) at first light. On our ascent of Marion Mountain Trail we quickly emerged from the cloud, only to find another layer 3000′ higher enshrouding the high peaks. The lower cloud was a classic marine layer (“May grey”) coming from the west, while the upper layer was moving in the opposite direction driven by high elevation easterly winds. Where both levels were visible, the effect was spectacular.

Black Mountain (to the left) and Fuller Ridge as seen from Marion Mountain Trail, early morning of 10th May 2019.

Despite recent cooler weather, snowmelt has continued rapidly, with many areas below about 9500′ now clear or largely clear of snow, and sun-exposed slopes from San Jacinto Peak down now partly or 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 remain recommended above 9700′ in some areas, especially descending from San Jacinto Peak, and in particular on the western (Deer Springs Trail) route.

WEATHER There will be yet another rapid warming trend over the next couple of days. Light rain is possible on 12th May at all elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, 11th May 2019, at 1530 the air temperature was 30°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 15°F (-9°C), 97% relative humidity, and a fresh NE wind at 12 mph gusting to 20 mph.

At the Peak on 10th May 2019, at 0915 the air temperature was 29°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 15°F (-9°C), 100% relative humidity, and a cool ENE wind at 5 mph gusting to 15 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Many trails above about 9000′ remain partly snow-covered. Details for specific routes are below. Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country for several days this week (below freezing when considering windchill effects). All main trails are now well traveled, and have good tracks to follow which largely align with the established trail system.

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 10% snow-covered to about Mile 179. There is a short section with about 90% snow cover near Mile 181. Many nobo PCT hikers have been missing the hard left uphill turning at Annie’s Junction (approx. Mile 181.5) in the patchy snow. There is patchy snow on Miles 185-186 at about 30% coverage.

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, briefly around Miles 187.5-188, and then more continuously on Miles 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.

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 clear of snow. The Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to the Peak averages less than 40% snow-covered and the track now largely follows the trail route, but microspikes remain useful, especially for descending those areas where stubborn icy snow patches remain. The East Ridge Trail remains completely under snow. On the western side, the upper Deer Springs Trail from Little Round Valley is about 70% snow-covered through the Valley, 60% covered on the ascent to the Peak, and about 50% snow-covered at San Jacinto Peak itself. The tracks through the snow patches now largely follow the route of the Deer Springs Trail. Microspikes are recommended in places, especially for descending from the Peak to about 9600′.

Black Mountain Road is clear of snow. No microspikes are required to hike to the PCT. Beyond the Fuller Ridge campground turning there are some very limited 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 functionally clear of snow with only occasional patches to cross. No microspikes required.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction (8100′) and almost completely clear to the Seven Pines Trail junction. There is about 20% snow cover from there to the Fuller Ridge Trail junction, but microspikes are no longer required. The track above the Fuller Ridge junction now follows the trail and there is only about 20% snow cover as the trail nears Little Round Valley. For the section through and beyond Little Round Valley, see “San Jacinto Peak trails” above.

Marion Mountain Trail is clear of snow.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat There are some steps to follow through the short (but steep) remaining sections of icy 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).

Short but challenging section of trail from Tahquitz Peak to Chinquapin Flat, 8th May 2019.

South Ridge Trail is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. South Ridge Road was repaired and graded on 7th May and is passable to the trailhead to all vehicle types.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 10th May (or 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′): 10″ (was 75″ on 22nd March)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 15″ (with drifts 2-3 feet in places)

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

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

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)

Sign at upper end of Little Round Valley (9850′) on 10th May 2019 (above), and 1st May 2019 for comparison (below).

Junction sign at south end of Fuller Ridge Trail (8940′) on 10th May 2019 (above), and about three weeks earlier on 18th April 2019 for comparison (below)

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