Snow storm update 27th May 2019

[UPDATE 29th May 2019: U.S. Forest Service has confirmed that the trail is NOT closed at the rock slide near PCT Mile 172.5. An official assessment will be made in the next few days. A closure notice would then take several more days to come into effect. Hence the trail will remain open at least into next week. Any signs to the contrary on the trail are not official and not accurate.]

[UPDATE 28th May 2019: we hiked to the PCT via South Ridge and Tahquitz Peak this morning, mainly to assess the challenging snow slope on the north side of Tahquitz, updated in the text below, with photo.]

This morning I had my last true snow hike of a memorable season, to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman Divide, descending the same way. Our third snow storm in the last eight days! It was still snowing very finely on me as I hiked up Devil’s Slide Trail past Saddle Junction until about 8600′, when I broke out into spectacular sunshine for the rest of the morning.

A light snowfall coated the entire mountain down to about 5500′, with five fresh inches at San Jacinto Peak. On top of the two storms last week, the Peak has had 20″ of snowfall in late May this year! Last night’s snow was an extremely fine grain powder, reminiscent of sand, and was so light that it was heavily drifting in the strong wind. It was delightful to hike in, with minimal postholing, and I didn’t use microspikes all the way to San Jacinto Peak (although I did use them on the uppermost descent).

Yesterday and overnight in Idyllwild we had drizzle and rain (0.53″ at 5550′), which briefly turned to snow early this morning (0.25″).

Exceptionally rapid melting was already well underway during my descent. It felt like it was raining coming through the wooded sections with so much snow melt falling from the trees. Devil’s Slide Trail below 7000′ was already completely clear of snow by noon today, when just five or so hours earlier I had hiked up in a continuous couple of inches of lovely fresh powder. There was no sign that Humber Park or Idyllwild had even received any overnight snow by early this afternoon.

I recorded an unneccessarily long and rambling video (sorry!) just after 0900 this morning at San Jacinto Peak, available on YouTube here.

Melting is so rapid, and with a very strong warming trend forecast, that equipment recommendations may change daily. Currently, I suggest microspikes will be useful for some trails above about 7000′, especially early tomorrow morning, and likely for a few more days at the highest elevations, especially for descending San Jacinto Peak. The PCT will largely clear in the next day or two, at least below 8000′.

Waterproof or water resistant footwear is strongly recommended on approach trails at least (e.g., Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs) due to considerable water flowing in the trails and slushy melting snow everywhere. It will also be invaluable for at least the next few days elsewhere in soft melting snow.

Tahquitz Peak and Tahquitz Rock emerging from the cloud at around noon today, 27th May 2019.

WEATHER Other than what I recorded at the Peak this morning (see below), the weather will be warm the rest of this week, hot next week. A very significant warming trend will commence tomorrow, leading to almost complete melting everywhere by or in the first week of June. There is a slim chance of brief afternoon thunderstorms tomorrow and Wednesday, May 28th and 29th. For the rest of May hikers should still be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and potentially below freezing with windchill on some days.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, 27th May 2019, at 0855 the air temperature was 25°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 5.5°F (-14°C), 52% relative humidity, and a very sharp WNW wind at 12 mph gusting to 28.6 mph.

At the Peak on 23rd May 2019 at 1055 the air temperature was 24.4°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 9.5°F (-12.5°C), 100% relative humidity, and a brisk West wind at 10 mph gusting to 15.5 mph.

Jean Peak (10,670′) early this morning, 27th May 2019, from the Peak Trail.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above 6000′ were completely covered with 1-5″ of fresh snow this morning, but by this afternoon very rapid melting meant that most areas below 8000′ were already becoming very wet and slushy, or were already clear (<7000′).

All trails above 9000′ are currently under continuous snow cover roughly 4-20″ deep but this situation will change dramatically with melting in the next few days.

Reasonable tracks to follow are already in place for the PCT throughout the San Jacinto mountains. Reliable, well-traveled tracks are also in place for Devil’s Slide Trail, and the Wellman and Peak trails on the east side, and through Round and Long valleys to the Tram. It is likely that Deer Springs and Marion Mountain trails will be hiked today given the holiday and the traffic I witnessed on the lower trails on my descent.

Pacific Crest Trail Early this morning snow cover was thin and patchy from about Mile 158 to 163, and then continuous thereafter, and at least a couple of inches deep, through to at least Mile 194. See however the comments above regarding melting. Microspikes are unlikely to be needed anywhere on the PCT by about Thursday 30th May.

Note that the much-reported rockfall at about Mile 172.5 (Antsell-South Peak) is basically one huge rock and is passable with some minor scrambling (thanks to multiple PCT hikers for confirming this information). The area was assessed today by the PCTA Trail crew. USFS will make a determination as to any possible closure shortly and I will update as necessary.

Tahquitz Peak trail from the PCT/ Chinquapin Flat is tricky again with the recent snowfalls. Microspikes (in conjunction with an ice axe, if you are familiar with its use) and considerable caution are recommended for this section. There are reasonable steps to follow in the softening snow, but with a couple of short steep icy patches. The situation is improving rapidly with considerable melting.

The steepest section of trail on the north side of Tahquitz Peak, mid-morning of 28th May 2019

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 27th May are as follows (for those areas that had snow remaining from the winter, plus snow from last week’s stroms, the combined average total is indicated in parentheses). For locations that were measured on 20th May and then [estimated] on 23rd May, see those data in the previous report (I have not re-estimated those locations due to the rapid nature of recent melting). Average depth is given, drifts may be significantly deeper than the average in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 5″ (total 20″)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 4″ (total 10″)

Annie’s Junction (PCT Mile 181.5 at State Park boundary) (9050′): 3″ (total 6″)

Long Valley (8500′): 2″ (almost completely melted by the time of writing)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 2″ (total 3″, largely melted by this afternoon)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 0.5″ (now all melted)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 0.25″ (now completely melted)

Trail sign at Annie’s Junction (9050′) today 27th May 2019 (above) and just eleven days earlier on 16th May 2019 (below).

2 thoughts on “Snow storm update 27th May 2019

  1. Great reports. This is probably your last snow report of this very spectacular season. I’m lookin* forward to some light backpacking trips in June. Trying to recall reliable sources of water I can treat with my Katadyn. Any recommendations assuming I am coming from the tram side? Thank you, Jon.

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  2. The Round Valley faucet is running well, and should stay that way most of the summer. This year there are many ephemeral sources through Long and Round valleys that will probably still be running in June. Wellman’s Cienega will run all year this year.

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