Brief update 14th December 2020

Please see last week’s report (available here) for details of specific trail conditions, traction recommendations, and of the various closures. With temperatures in the high country near or below freezing, and the sun at its lowest potency of the year, melting of ice has slowed and hence overall trail conditions have not significantly changed in recent days. Furthermore with the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway closing again from 12th December, and Mount San Jacinto State Park encouraging visitation to be confined to local residents only (both measures due to the coronavirus crisis), it seems of limited value at this time to provide additional detail.

I continue to average several ascents to the highest peaks of the San Jacinto mountains every week by diverse routes. Our family ascent of San Jacinto Peak on Friday 11th December was my 200th of the year, far beyond the previous record of 147 in a calendar year. Recent hikes have also included South Ridge, and most sections and side trails of the PCT along the Desert Divide.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for weather recently recorded at San Jacinto Peak).

Due to continuing elevated fire risk, all camping remains prohibited in both the Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, as does all stove use. See the State Park or Forest Service websites for further information. All developed campgrounds are also closed, most seasonally, but now including the Pinyon Flat campground and Ribbonwood Equestrian campground, which closed on 8th December due to the coronavirus crisis.

WEATHER Temperatures at all elevations are forecast to be at or slightly above seasonal averages into late December. The warmest spell, with temperatures well above average, is currently forecast for 19th-22nd December. There continues to be no significant precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 14th December 2020 at 0925 the air temperature was 23.7°F (-5°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.4°F (-16°C), 15% relative humidity, and a wild WNW wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 36.3 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 11th December 2020 at 0840 the air temperature was 31.3°F (0°C), with a windchill temperature of 16.8°F (-8°C), 13% relative humidity, and a sharp NW wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 21.8 mph.

Looking north-east to Joshua Tree and beyond from San Jacinto Peak, 9th December 2020.
The northern Desert Divide as seen from May Valley Road near sunset, 13th December 2020 (Tahquitz Peak is on the left, Antsell Rock on the right).

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