Snow storm update 2nd March 2020

[UPDATE 4th March: melting has been very rapid as expected, and conditions, especially below 9000′, already resemble the previous Report from 27th February. I broke trail again today to the Peak, as it had been eliminated by extensive spindrift the previous day and apparently no one hiked up from the Tram yesterday. There are currently no tracks on the PCT between Mile 181.8 (Annie’s Junction) and about Mile 191 where the continuous snow cover ends.]

[UPDATE 3rd March: last night Kyle Eubanks reported that my tracks to the Peak had been almost eliminated by drifting snow. Very strong Santa Ana winds overnight will likely have obscured almost all tracks above 8000′ elevation by this morning. Very cautious navigation is recommended everywhere, and it is typical for hiking times to almost double in heavily drifted snow.]

A very brief update on the thirteenth storm of this winter (the sixth of 2020), partly because it has been a long day, but mainly because conditions are expected to change quickly with rapid melting.

I recorded this video discussion of the conditions near San Jacinto Peak late this morning.

Contrary to many forecasts, this storm lasted well into today, with snowfall continuing to mid-afternoon, and produced more snow than was generally predicted (4-6″ in most of the high country). I hiked to San Jacinto Peak breaking trail from Humber Park early this morning, ascending in near blizzard conditions, and then broke the trail again on my descent as fresh snowfall and strong winds had largely obliterated my tracks.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Other than Devil’s Slide Trail, most trails remain largely or completely obscured by fresh snowfall and spindrift, so very cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

I ascended and descended San  Jacinto Peak from Humber Park in just boots this morning, as the footing in 2-6″ of fresh snow was reasonable. Hiking poles are currently more useful than spikes. Microspikes may be useful, but are 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 already melting rapidly up to 7600′. Snowshoes may be of limited use off-trail above about 9500′ elevation.

Despite unseasonably warm temperatures this week, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near or 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).

[Updated 4th March] Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 4th March having been briefly closed 1st-3rd March.

WEATHER Temperatures will be above seasonal for the remainder of this week, and very rapid snow melt is expected, especially on sun-exposed slopes. A potentially significant storm is currently forecast for 10th-12th March, with rainfall (>1″) below 7000′ elevation, and at least several inches of snow at higher elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Monday 2nd March 2020, at 1020 the air temperature was 12.8°F (-11°C), with a windchill of -10.4°F (-24°C), 100% relative humidity, and a sharp NNW wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 24.7 mph, while lightly snowing.

At the Peak yesterday, Sunday 1st March 2020 at 0845 the air temperature was 16.6°F (-9°C), with a windchill of -3.6°F (-20°C), 92% relative humidity, and a bitter WSW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 25.6 mph.


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 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. However melting is rapid today, and will be even faster over the next few days, so conditions will ameliorate very quickly.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a good track to follow, and microspikes are useful but not required.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clearing rapidly of snow. A few patches remain, mainly near Humber Park. No spikes required.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows, with snow accumulation from this latest storm given first, followed by current total average depth in parentheses. Please note that averages are given; drifts are much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 6″ (17″)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 6″ (7″)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 5″ (12″)

Long Valley (8600′): 4″ (4.5″)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 4″ (5″)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 3″ (already largely melted to <1″)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 1.5″ (completely melted by this afternoon)

Peak Trail at 9800′ just above Wellman Divide today 2nd March 2020 (above) and the same view yesterday 1st March (below).

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Textbook example of “mountaineers beard” from this morning. Blizzard-like weather combined with a sub zero windchill are perfect growing conditions for this occupational hazard!