[UPDATED 12th February: I have amended gear advice below following my hike today to San Jacinto Peak, when I broke trail from Saddle Junction to the Peak, almost entirely just in boots (with no additional traction gear). Melting has been even more rapid than expected, and conditions may start to resemble the Report from 4th February (below) perhaps as soon as this weekend.]
A brief update on the eleventh storm of this winter (but the first significant storm of 2020) which hit the San Jacinto mountains overnight and this morning. A short video from San Jacinto Peak this morning gives a feel for current conditions.
In general forecasters had a terrible time accurately predicting the timing and impact of this storm due to its unusual track and fragmentation in storm cells. Overall snowfall was less than had been expected, with fewer than 6″ in the high country, and less than an inch at Idyllwild, but snowfall may vary more by location than elevation.
Winds were very strong so drifting in trails is considerable. Snow fell as graupel and rounded grains, and as we descended this morning Kyle Eubanks accurately described it as like walking through bird seed. Depths were not sufficient to completely obscure tracks in most places. However winds remain strong for the next 24+ hours, so extensive drifting is expected.
Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Currently most major trails have not been traveled and may be partly obscured by snowfall. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.
Microspikes are useful, but not required, above about 7500′ elevation, especially on the snow overlying compacted icy trails. Exposed trails with southerly aspects (e.g., South Ridge, PCT north of Saddle Junction, lower Deer Springs) are melting very rapidly up to 8500′, and spikes may not be needed much below 9000′. [Updated 15th Feb: I ascended San Jacinto Peak easily with no microspikes early this morning.]
Crampons (with an ice axe) may be useful, but certainly not required, in compacted areas above about 9500′. Snowshoes are of limited use only off-trail above about 9500′ elevation.
Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering windchil effects (see below for weather recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).
Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 5th February. Humber Park has been plowed, so it is unlikely that the gate will be closed again soon.WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be at or even slightly below seasonal for the next week. Steady daytime snow melt is expected, especially on exposed slopes. No additional precipitation is in the forecast.
At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Monday 10th February 2020, at 0845 the air temperature was 15.3°F (-9°C), with a windchill of -7.8°F (-22°C), 99% relative humidity, and a sharp NNE wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 28.1 mph.
In marked contrast, at the Peak on Thursday 6th February 2020 at 0955 the air temperature was 31.9°F (0°C), with a windchill of 23.7°F (-5°C), 69% relative humidity, and a light WSW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.0 mph.
PACIFIC CREST TRAIL
The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has stated there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. The video report from 7th October (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.
Microspikes are not required, but may be useful (especially cold early mornings) on the PCT for increasingly patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 158 and 192, depending upon your comfort level on fresh powder and icy snow.
PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Options for thru-hikers are Strawberry Junction and Little Round Valley.
All trails above about 6500′ are snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).
Reliable tracks are currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail. From Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, and from the Tram through to Wellman Divide, trails have been hiked but tracks will be largely obscured by wind-driven snow.
Devil’s Slide Trail has a good track to follow, and microspikes are useful but not required.
Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely clear of snow. A few tiny icy patches remain, mainly near Humber Park. No spikes required.
South Ridge Trail [updated 13th Feb] is clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, but with some remnant very thin snow patches. Snow cover is fairly patchy (<50%) higher up, and the soft thin snow is easily hiked. Microspikes are not required.
Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 [updated 13th Feb] is clearing surprisingly quickly, snow drifts are softening, and crampons are no longer required (but some hikers may prefer them). Microspikes are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it). In the morning, overnight wind conditions and the freeze-thaw cycle may well have covered the existing steps through the angled icy snow for 0.1-0.2 mile.
SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows, with snow accumulation from this latest storm given first, followed by total average depth in parentheses. Please note that averages are given; drifts are much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.
Many thanks to Kyle Eubanks for data from Round and Long valleys.
San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 5″ (21″)
Wellman Divide (9700′): 4″ (6″)
Round Valley (9100′): 4″ (8″)
Annie’s Junction (9070′): 3.5″ (14″)
Long Valley (8600′): 4″ (5″)
Saddle Junction (8070′): 2″ (3″)
Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 1.5″ (1.5″)
Idyllwild (at 5550′): 0.5″ (already melted by this afternoon)
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