Brief trail update 12th December 2019

We spent this morning briskly hiking to and from San Jacinto Peak via the east side (Devil’s Slide to East Ridge Trail via Wellman Divide). This allowed for a comparison of snow and trail conditions with three days ago. That update from Monday 9th (linked here) contains much more detail for trails all around the mountain and a more thorough discussion of the current snow situation.

Hiking conditions were unexpectedly good early this morning on reasonably firm snow, and I ascended to San Jacinto Peak with minimal postholing and without need for the spikes or snowshoes I was carrying. Microspikes were useful for the descent down to about 7800′ on Devil’s Slide Trail however, and by the late morning I was postholing fairly badly in the rapidly softening snow.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. In summary, all elevations above 6500′ have lost 3-5″ of snow depth since Monday, and consequently trails below about 7800′ are now largely snow-free.

Microspikes are recommended and will become increasingly useful especially for descending trails when icy and compacted. Snow depths are currently adequate for snowshoeing off-trail above about 8800′ elevation. Snowshoes will be useful on trails from the late morning onwards for the next couple of days to avoid postholing in soft snowmelt.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering windchill effects (especially after Saturday 14th December).

WEATHER Warm conditions well above seasonal are forecast for the next two days. Obviously rapid snowmelt will continue at all elevations. Temperatures are forecast to return to seasonal norms – well below freezing in the high country – starting Sunday 15th December (with a possibility of precipitation forecast starting Sunday 23rd).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Thursday 12th December 2019 at 0940 the air temperature was 40.2°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 27.7°F (-3°C), 71% relative humidity, and a brisk NW wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 25.7 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 9th December 2019 at 1100 the air temperature was 21°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.7°F (-16°C), 64% relative humidity, and a cool due North wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 17.2 mph.


All trails above about 7700′ are snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

The Peak Trail above 10,300′ has not been traversed since before the late November storms. The only defined trail is the steeper option up the East Ridge Trail (even that was partly obscured today by spindrift).

Round Valley Trail from the Tram through to Wellman Divide has been well-traveled and a good track through the snow is easy to follow.

Devil’s Slide Trail is virtually free of snow to 7700′, with a compacted snow track thereafter to Saddle Junction (about 90% coverage). Note that Humber Park is now open.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is completely clear of snow.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Please note that average depth is given; drifts are much deeper than the average in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 25″ (36″ on 4th December)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 10″ (16″ on 4th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 11″ (18″ on 4th December)

Long Valley (8600′): 2″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 5″ (13″ on 4th December)

Wellman Divide this morning 12th December 2019 (above), and the same view three days earlier on 9th December (below).