[UPDATED 13th November 2020: There is now a single snowshoe track up from Round Valley to Wellman Divide. This helps with navigation, although postholing will be challenging and snowshoes remain preferable on that section. Above Wellman Divide the Peak Trail is consolidated and spikes are sufficient.]
[UPDATED 11th November 2020: greatly increased hiker traffic on today’s Veterans Day holiday has changed the condition of several trails. My snowshoe track to San Jacinto Peak via the Wellman and Peak trails will be far more consolidated by the 17 people we passed during our descent today. There is still no broken trail up from Round Valley to Wellman Divide. Three people put in a (very ugly looking) posthole trail up Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails to the Peak yesterday.]
This is an update on conditions following the first snow storm of winter 2020/21, with most of the snow falling on Saturday 7th, followed by a little more on Sunday 8th.
I had a very pleasant day in the high country today, breaking trail from Humber Park to San Jacinto Peak. Conditions were near perfect, with unusually little wind. I recorded a rambling video summary at San Jacinto Peak – complete with ice in the beard! – late this morning, which gives a feel for conditions around the high peaks. As discussed in the video, the storm produced an unusually even snowfall almost everywhere from 6000′ upwards. Snow level was at about 4700′.
On my descent this afternoon I was surprised to see no tracks other than my own up to Saddle Junction. The significance of this is that there are currently no tracks on Willow Creek Trail, to Chinquapin Flat or Tahquitz Peak, or around the meadows.
Currently most major trails have not been traveled and are somewhat 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 drifting, snow is often deeper in the trails themselves.
Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing in the high country above about 8000‘, potentially lower on less traveled trails. Spikes are recommended for at least the next few days as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. They may be especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted (e.g. Devil’s Slide, Ernie Maxwell, and lower Deer Springs trails).
Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for recent temperatures at San Jacinto Peak today).
For details regarding hiking permits, camping restrictions, ranger station access, and the Tramway, please see this previous Report, or contact the State Park or Forest Service as indicated on their websites.
The USFS gate at Humber Park remains open, and the parking area was plowed on Sunday 8th.
WEATHER For the remainder of ths week, every day is forecast to be progressively warmer. Temperatures currently forecast to be well above seasonal next week (15th-20th) will result in rapid and extensive snowmelt at all elevations.
At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Monday 9th November 2020 at 1005 the air temperature was 19.0°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.3°F (-11°C), 51% relative humidity, and a very light due North breeze sustained at 1.0 mph gusting to 5.3 mph.
At the Peak on 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.
All trails above about 5500′ are snow-covered. By this afternoon, rapid melting was already underway below 7000′. Reliable tracks are currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail through to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman Divide, and for the Ernie Maxwell Trail. The greatly reduced hours and capacity 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.
Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 [updated 11th November] has steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are treacherous. Currently spikes are strongly recommended. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow.
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 USFS.
SNOW DEPTHS measured today, 9th November 2020, are as follows. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds there is extensive drifting, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.
San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 9″
Wellman Divide (9700′): 8″
Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070′): 8″
Long Valley (8600′): 5″
Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 8″
Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 8″ early this morning, already melted to 2-4″.
Idyllwild (at 5550′): 6.5″, melting steadily today.
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