First snow storm of winter 7th November 2020

[UPDATED 8th November 2020: In Idyllwild and the high country it continued snowing yesterday afternoon. At mid elevations on the western slope it also snowed briefly overnight and again this morning. Total snow accumulation as of late this morning: Idyllwild 5.75″, Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park 7.0″. The high country has been periodically above the cloud this morning. Snow accumulation as of late yesterday afternoon: San Jacinto Peak 8″, Wellman Divide 6″, Long Valley 4″ (many thanks to Kyle Eubanks for data from yesterday.) The next detailed update is expected to be tomorrow afternoon.]

This is a brief update on conditions following the first snow storm of winter 2020/21. We apparently completely bypassed autumn, heading straight from summer-like conditions just two days ago (it was nearly 80°F in Idyllwild on Thursday!) into temperatures far below seasonal for the first week of November.

I recorded a short video on my hike to San Jacinto Peak this morning, which gives a feel for conditions in the high country. The storm today produced at least 3-4 inches of snow at all elevations above about 6000′ (it was still actively snowing at most of the locations where I recorded depths this afternoon, so depths will likely increase).

Currently almost all major trails have not been traveled and are obscured by snowfall. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting, but note that due to heavy drifting, snow is often deeper in the trails themselves.

At present postholing through shallow snow is relatively easy in most areas, especially below 10,000′. I used spikes this afternoon to assist with descending from San Jacinto Peak, although they were not essential. Spikes are recommended for at least the next few days as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. They are especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted (e.g. Devil’s Slide and lower Deer Springs trails). Snow depths may be suitable for snowshoeing in the high country by tomorrow, especially above about 9500‘.

For the foreseeable future, hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, with potentially dangerous cold when considering windchill effects (see below for temperatures at San Jacinto Peak today).

For links and details regarding hiking permits, camping restrictions, ranger station access, and the Tramway reopening, please see the previous Report.

Currently the USFS gate at Humber Park remains open. The parking area had not been plowed as of this afternoon.

WEATHER Another storm system tomorrow (Sunday 8th) is forecast to produce another light snowfall at mid and upper elevations (possibly less snow than today). Milder, brighter weather on 9th-13th will lead up to temperatures well above seasonal on 14th-16th, which will doubtless result in rapid and extensive snowmelt.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Saturday 7th November 2020 at 1005 the air temperature was 15.4°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -6.6°F (-21°C), 100% relative humidity, and a bitter WNW wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 23.9 mph.

For comparison, at the Peak on Wednesday 4th November 2020 at 0600 the air temperature was 42.2°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 39.1°F (4°C), 16% relative humidity, and a light ESE wind sustained at 3 mph gusting to 4.3 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6000′ are snow-covered, with depth increasing somewhat with elevation. Reliable tracks are currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail. My track to and from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman Divide was disappearing within minutes due to strong winds. The partial closure of the Tram will result in very light hiker traffic to the highest peaks via the Peak Trail, and limited traffic on the Long and Round Valley trails.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-traveled track to follow. A major new treefall hazard just past the second switchback is readily passable for hikers and has been reported to the agencies.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely under a continuous 1-2″ of snow cover.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Total measured is first, followed by time of day and comments in parentheses. Note that average depth is given, drifting was deeper in the trails due to strong winds and light snow. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 4″ (by 1100)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 3″ (by 1145)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070′): 2.5″ (by 1215)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 2.5″

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 2″ settled (at 1345, but judging by snow on my truck, as much as 4″ may have fallen)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 1.25″ (again, more had fallen but not settled)(also 0.14″ rain fell overnight)

Wellman Divide (9700′) at about noon on 7th November 2020.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With such a challenging year, and a busy winter already underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Wellman’s Cienega North Spring (9300′) early this afternoon, 7th November 2020.

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