Minor snow storm summary 16th February 2022

This is a brief summary of conditions following the only snow storm so far in February 2022 (and only the second storm of the calendar year to date). For full details of trail closures, Forest road closures, trail conditions (other than their current snow situation), and weather, please see the previous Report linked here.

The snowfall overnight was at the upper end of forecast projections. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting, but note that due to strong winds associated with the storm (that continued today) drifted snow is often deeper in the trails themselves.

As is increasingly the trend with a rapidly changing climate in recent years, there was little difference in snowfall between the mid and upper elevations, with 2.25 inches measured in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) through to 5.0 inches at San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft). The storm system was colder than forecast at lower elevations, with a dusting of snow down to about 4000ft.

Early this morning we broke trail through light snow from Devil’s Slide to San Jacinto Peak via the PCT, Wellman, and Peak trails, descending the same way. Based on the anticipated snow conditions and depths I carried crampons, ice axe, and spikes. I did not use the latter, but eventually put on crampons at 9300 ft on the ascent, using them down to about 8800 ft on the descent. Crampons were essential as underlying icy snow areas were obscured by the fresh powder, and only crampons could grip through the surface powder into the harder icy snow below.

By early afternoon very rapid melting was already underway below 9000 ft and on sun-exposed slopes. Parts of the PCT north of Saddle Junction, and much of Devil’s Slide Trail below 7700 ft, both of which had had a solid covering of several inches of fresh snow in the morning, were already clear by this afternoon. Conversely above 9000 ft many of my tracks from the morning were already disappearing under spindrift in persistent gusty winds.

Spikes are recommended for at least the next few days everywhere above about 6000 ft, and in the high country for the foreseeable future. As described above crampons are recommended for many areas above about 9000 ft for at least the next few days. Anywhere that crampons are needed, an ice axe is also needed (along with the knowledge of how to use this equipment). Snow depths are currently insufficient for snowshoeing even in the high country. Indeed snowshoes are potentially dangerous in any angled terrain at present due to the presence of underlying ice.

Note that relatively warm temperatures are forecast for the next few days. This will lead to significant melting and freeze-thaw cycles which will combine to steadily change trail conditions and, in places, the preferred equipment for the terrain. Be prepared for very icy trails (especially mornings) but also very wet, slushy trails (as was the case this afternoon on Devil’s Slide).

Currently very few major trails have been traveled and all are completely or largely obscured by snowfall and/or drifting snow. On my descent early this afternoon mine were the only tracks beyond 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. Beyond Saddle Junction, at the time of writing my posthole tracks to San Jacinto Peak are the only traveled high country trail. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

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

The USFS gate at Humber Park remains open and the parking area was already essentially clear of snow by the afternoon of 16th.

WEATHER For details of the forecast for the next week or so, please see the previous Report.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 16th February 2022 at 0955 the air temperature was 20.3°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -0.2°F (-18°C), 74% relative humidity, and a stiff due North wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 21.1 mph.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 16th February 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, with most of the snow remaining from storms in late December, while the new snow added in this latest storm given in parentheses. Due to strong winds accompanying this and previous storms, and rapid and differential melting, there is considerable variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 17 inches (5 inches added on 15th February)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 11 inches (5 inches added on 15th February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 11 inches (4 inches added on 15th February)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 4-5 inches (4 inches added on 15th February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 3 inches (all added on 15th February, but already largely melted by afternoon of 16th)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 2.25 inches (all added on 15th February, but almost completely melted by afternoon of 16th).

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on private donations to cover operating costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Looking south across the San Jacinto high country from San Jacinto Peak on the morning of 16th February 2022 (above), and two days earlier on 14th February (below).
The best known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega on 16th February 2022 (above), and on 7th February 2022 for comparison (below).

2 thoughts on “Minor snow storm summary 16th February 2022

  1. Jon,
    How many years have you lived in the area? You remark that the weather has changed from typical … just wondering your frame of reference.
    As always, thanks for the detailed reports- so interesting


    1. Hi Diane, I have been hiking in the San Jacinto mountains for 25 years. I enjoyed talking to my mum-in-law about changes in the weather, she had lived in the area since the 1950s. I have spent a lot of time (as a biostatistician) analyzing publicly available meteorological data for Idyllwild and other mountain locations which date back to the middle of last century. Sadly many changes have been obvious just in the decade we have lived in Idyllwild full time.


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