Snow storm update 20th May 2019

Today we hiked to San Jacinto Peak ascending on the east side via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman Divide, then descending the west side down Deer Springs Trail. This included two short sections of the PCT (roughly Miles 180-182 and 184-186). I broke trail through fresh snowfall almost all of the ascent and then back down to the south end of Fuller Ridge.

Well we got our May snowstorm! Seemingly without fail – even in very dry years – we get at least one snow event in May. Credit to NOAA/National Weather Service, who typically wildly overestimate their snowfall predictions, they got this one almost exactly right, with 9″ of fresh snow at San Jacinto Peak (measured snow depths today are listed below). It looks like we may quickly follow up with a second snow storm on Wednesday 22nd. In Idyllwild at 5550′ we received 1.29″ of rainfall, and <0.25″ of snow, in the past 24 hours.

I was pleased to see that many of the PCT hikers that I had spoken to yesterday at Nomad Ventures in Idyllwild had taken advice to get back on the trail today, taking advantage of a decent weather window. Even on the short sections of the trail I did, I encountered close to 30 thru hikers heading north. One of them, Don Kreitz, accompanied me to the Peak, and was treated to a spectacular (if chilly) morning up there.

I recorded a video at about 1045 this morning at San Jacinto Peak in a strong and frigid NW wind, available on YouTube here.

At present the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains is passable for most hikers without microspikes. Depending on confidence and experience on angled icy snow, some PCT hikers will prefer to use microspikes, especially on Fuller Ridge. However this situation may change rapidly as freeze-thaw cycles, and the possibility of additional snowfall, make the snow increasingly icy and treacherous. IF IN DOUBT, CARRY MCROSPIKES.

Microspikes remain recommended for ascending and descending from San Jacinto Peak, at least. Snow depths were marginal for snowshoeing, but it would be possible above about 9000′ elevation.

WEATHER Rain is possible again tomorrow, Tuesday 21st, especially overnight into Wednesday 22nd. Further rain is likely in the middle of the day Wednesday, including the possibility of light snowfall down to 6000′. Snow is forecast throughout the mountain that day, with several inches likely in the high country. Drier and slightly warmer weather is likely starting Thursday 23rd May.

Hikers must be prepared for temperatures below seasonal averages everywhere, below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing with windchill.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, 20th May 2019, at 1050 the air temperature was 19°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -2.0°F (-19°C), 88% relative humidity, and an icy NW wind at 14 mph gusting to 25 mph.

At the Peak on 16th May 2019, at 1345 the air temperature was 27°F (-3°C), with a windchill temperature of 8.4°F (-13°C), 100% relative humidity, and a sharp SW wind at 15 mph gusting to 24 mph.

San Gorgonio as seen from San Jacinto Peak this morning, 20th May 2019, with cloud pouring through the pass at about 9000′ elevation.


All trails above 6000′ were completely snow-covered this morning, but by this afternoon some rapid melting meant that most areas below 7000′ were already clear of snow, trails below 8000′ were melting fast, and there was partial melting of exposed sections of trail below 9000′.

Almost all trails above 7500′, including much of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains, are currently under continuous light snow cover 2-9″ deep.

Reliable tracks to follow are already in place for the PCT at least from Saddle Junction (approx PCT Mile 179.7) all the way through Fuller Ridge.

Reliable tracks are also in place for Devil’s Slide Trail, the Wellman and Peak trails on the east side, and the entire Deer Springs Trail on the west side. Good friend of the Trail Report Kyle Eubanks also broke reliable trail from Wellman Divide through Round and Long valleys to the Tram this morning.

Marion Mountain and Seven Pines trails have not been hiked since the fresh snowfall.

Pacific Crest Trail Snow cover is likely thin and patchy from about Mile 158 to 163, and then increasingly continuous thereafter, through to about Mile 194.

Deer Springs Trail was rapidly clearing of snow below Strawberry Junction (8100′) this afternoon, although much of the trail was through wet slushy snow, or was a meltwater creek, so waterproof footwear is recommended.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today 20th May are as follows (for those areas that still had snow remaining from the winter, the combined total is indicated in parentheses). Average depth is given, drifts may be significantly deeper than the average in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 9″ (total 17″)

Peak Trail (at and above 10,000′): 8″

Little Round Valley (9800′): 7″ (total 22″)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 6″

Pacific Crest Trail at south end of Fuller Ridge Trail (8950′): 6″

Annie’s Junction (PCT Mile 181.5 at State Park boundary) (9050′): 5″

Long Valley (8500′): 2″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 3″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 4″

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 1.5″ (at 0600 this morning, now largely melted)

Wellman Divide on 20th May 2019 (above) and on 16th May 2019 for comparison (below).

Junction sign at south end of Fuller Ridge Trail (8940′) on 20th May 2019 (above), and ten days earlier on 10th May 2019 for comparison (below)

3 thoughts on “Snow storm update 20th May 2019

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