This is a brief summary of conditions following the second snow storm in February 2022. This storm proved to be unexpectedly significant, and may well prove to be the most substantial of this winter.
It started snowing very lightly at mid elevations on the morning of Tuesday 22nd, with the high country initially above the cloud. Snow started falling at San Jacinto Peak in early afternoon, getting steadily heavier throughout the night. Although originally forecast to stop snowing on the morning of Wednesday 23rd, it continued off-and-on until late afternoon at all elevations.
Snowfall totals were well above the upper end of forecasts, especially for the high country where I measured snow depths generally double what had been expected. To be fair to the meteorological community, they don’t get this stuff too wrong, too often (at least in Southern California).
With such a cold storm, the snow was exceptionally fine, light, and dry, some of the best powder I have ever seen up here. The quality was more typical of continental snow (as in the Rockies) rather than the maritime snow more typical of California and the Cascades.
Snow depths measured on my descent this afternoon are listed at the foot of this posting. However because of the extremely light powder, in combination with very strong winds before, during, and after the snowfall, there is massive drifting everywhere, and in particular drifts are deep in the trails where snow tends to accumulate.
Snow level was initially down to about 4500 ft on the eastern slope (Skyline Trail) but then fell during the course of Wednesday much lower, with a dusting down to 2500 ft on the Maynard Mine Trail (many thanks to Florian Boyd for these observations from the Palm Springs side).
Currently no major trails have been traveled and all are totally obscured by snowfall and heavily drifted snow. My tracks from this afternoon descending from San Jacinto Peak via the East Ridge, Peak, Wellman, and Devil’s Slide trails will have already been largely obliterated by drifting snow (and in some places I did not follow the established trail routes). There were no other tracks anywhere above Humber Park, not even on lower Devil’s Slide Trail. Extremely cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.
Snowshoes are very strongly recommended for at least the next few days everywhere above at least 6000 ft (lower in places), and in the high country for the foreseeable future (at least for off trail travel once trail routes become established). Spikes will become increasingly useful above 4000 ft as trails become more heavily traveled and hence compacted, and as they become icy with freeze-thaw cycles as temperatures warm. By next week spikes may only be needed above about 6000 ft.
Note that a return to unseasonably warm temperatures is forecast within a few days. This will lead to significant melting, especially on sun-exposed slopes and below 9000 ft, plus freeze-thaw cycles which will combine to steadily change trail conditions and, in places, the preferred equipment for the terrain. While trails are currently under deep snow, by next week be prepared for very icy trails (especially mornings) but also very wet, slushy trails especially on sun-exposed mid elevation slopes (e.g., lower Deer Springs and Devil’s Slide trails).
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 my recent observations from San Jacinto Peak).
The USFS gate at Humber Park was closed on Tuesday 22nd February.
WEATHER Temperatures will be well below seasonal (i.e. very cold) for the next few days, before rapidly warming to well above seasonal starting 28th February and lasting for the first few days of March.
At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 22nd February 2022 at 1130 the air temperature was 12.6°F (-11°C), with a windchill temperature of -16.4°F (-27°C), 93% relative humidity, and a bitter WSW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 33.1 mph.
At the Peak on Monday 21st February 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 20.1°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.6°F (-20°C), 36% relative humidity, and a brutal due West wind sustained at 25 mph gusting to 32.2 mph.
SNOW DEPTHS measured on 23rd February 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, including the snow remaining from storms in late December (and from 15th February at higher elevations) while the new snow added in this latest storm is given in parentheses. Due to strong winds accompanying this and previous storms, and widespread differential melting between snowfalls events, note that there is huge variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.
San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 33-37 inches (20 inches added 22nd-23rd February)
Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 25 inches (18 inches added 22nd-23rd February)
Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 28 inches (18 inches added 22nd-23rd February)
Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 15-16 inches (15 inches added 22nd-23rd February)
Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 15 inches (all added 22nd-23rd February)
Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 10.5 inches (all added 22nd-23rd February).
Mountain Center (4400 ft): 4-5 inches (all added 22nd-23rd February, melting rapidly by 25th).
Garner Valley (4200 ft): 2 inches (all added 22nd-23rd February, melting rapidly by 25th).
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