Trail update 5th April 2020

[UPDATE 8th April: I recorded a short video summary of the current storm situation this morning at Saddle Junction. Current snow depths are 5″ in Idyllwild (plus 2.3″ rain earlier), 8″ at Humber Park, and 14″ at Saddle Junction.]

The extent to which the Covid-19 crisis is impacting hiking in the San Jacinto mountains continues to evolve rapidly. Idyllwild-Pine Cove had its first confirmed case yesterday, with three in nearby Anza. All trailhead parking is now closed (see paragraph i on Page 2 of the Public Health Order now dated April 6th).

Adjacent National Forests such as the Angeles and Cleveland have closed parts of their trail systems, and this may happen here in the San Bernardino NF soon. Mount San Jacinto State Park “remains open for locals…visiting parks near their primary residences”. As trails are now open only to local residents who can walk to access them, the Trail Report will reduce its level of coverage accordingly.

This rapidly evolving situation coincides with the arrival of a potentially dangerous multi-day spring snow storm. The conditions are reminiscent of the May 2005 storm that famously led to the disappearance and subsequent death of PCT hiker John Donovan. PCT hikers who remain anywhere near the San Jacinto mountains are strongly advised to leave the trail and find safe shelter for the duration of this storm. I posted a video discussion of the major snow storm, and some frank and honest suggestions for PCT hikers to safely deal with the conditions, on YouTube a few days ago, which seems to have been well-received. In addition to weather considerations, unequivocal statements by the PCTA and US Forest Service regarding the Covid-19 situation, plus numerous federal, state, and county orders, should give any remaining PCT hikers abundant reason to reconsider their hike at this time.

We have hiked to San Jacinto Peak three of the previous five days, with hikes on the Ramona and South Ridge trails on the intervening days, to assess conditions. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting.

Trail conditions have not significantly changed since the last update available here. Starting tonight this situation will change dramatically however, with substantial snowfall expected everywhere above 6000′ elevation between 6th-9th April.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering windchill effects.

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March). The USFS gate at Humber Park has been closed since 18th March.

WEATHER A dramatic spring snow storm (including an “atmospheric river” event) arrives tonight, and is forecast to last up to four days. Snowfall in Fern Valley (6000′) may be as much as 6-9 inches, with 1-2 feet possible at San Jacinto Peak. Snow may be mixed with periods of rainfall from 5000′-7000′, potentially creating very challenging conditions underfoot in that elevation range. Predictably, this storm will be followed by rapid warming, accompanied by considerable melting, starting on Saturday 11th and extending into the following week.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Sunday 5th April 2020, at 1055 the air temperature was 27.4°F (-3°C), with a windchill of 10.4°F (-12°C), 78% relative humidity, and a sharp SW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 19.8 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 3rd April 2020, at 0850 the air temperature was 30.3°F (-1°C), with a windchill of 19.2°F (-7°C), 32% relative humidity, and a cool WNW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 11.9 mph.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today. Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 20″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 7″

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 14″

Long Valley (8600′): 2″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 0″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 2″

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6550′): 0″ (0″)

These signs appeared at several trailheads in the San Jacinto mountains this weekend, this one at Devil’s Slide Trail photographed today 5th April 2020.