[UPDATE Sunday 24th April 2022 @ 1030: a minor fire reported just inside the State Park 1.6 miles up Marion Mountain Trail is currently being contained by Forest Service personnel. The fire was only a few feet square and surrounded by light snow. Judging by the size and location, it was likely an illegal campfire.]
This is a very brief summary of a minor storm that passed over the San Jacinto mountains on Friday 22nd April. With very warm, sunny conditions forecast for the next week, I will not go into too much detail as rapid melting will quickly return general conditions back to those described in the previous Report.
Rain started in Idyllwild (at 5550 ft) just after midnight, eventually accumulating to an impressive 0.64 inch by about 0500, before turning to a very light sleety snow (<0.25 inch accumulation).
Overall precipitation was, thankfully, above most forecasts, with 2-5 inches of snow in the high country (depending on elevation), and a dusting of snow down to about 5000 ft. Snow depths measured on 22nd April are detailed near the foot of this post.
Early on Friday 22nd we ascended San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide, PCT, Wellman, and Peak trails, breaking trail by postholing the entire ascent, and then descending the same route (other than descending the East Ridge down to 10,400 ft). Although I carried spikes, I never thought of using them in nice light, dry, powder which afforded good grip.
I recorded a short video summary of conditions – in a wild westerly wind, sorry for the mediocre sound – at San Jacinto Peak late morning on 22nd April.
Current conditions for individual routes are discussed in detail below where known. These will change rapidly with warming temperatures and widespread melting in the next few days. Although useful tracks are already in place for some major trails (mentioned below), including the entire PCT, cautious navigation remains recommended everywhere.
Some hikers will find that spikes are currently helpful depending upon comfort level on thin snow cover. They are not generally required however, as thin, soft snow is providing reasonable traction to footwear suitable for mountain hiking in winter conditions. This will change over the next couple of days in differing ways, as some high country trails rapidly melt in very warm temperatures, while others become compacted and icier with freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are generally especially valuable on well-consolidated tracks, on colder mornings when conditions are icy, and (as always) for descending and traversing. Snow conditions are extremely poor for snowshoeing with very thin snow plus rapid melting expected.
Despite unseasonably warm temperatures in the next week, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures around freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my recent observations from San Jacinto Peak).
The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road remain open. Humber Park was largely clear of snow by the afternoon of 22nd April.
Temperatures are forecast to rise rapidly to above seasonal by Sunday 24th, be very warm on 25th-27th, then drop slightly to near seasonal from Thursday 28th. Snowmelt will be very rapid and widespread at all elevations.
At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Friday 22nd April 2022 at 1130 the air temperature was 16.5°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -11.7°F (-24°C), 98% relative humidity, and a wild WSW wind sustained at 23 mph gusting to 47.3 mph. The latter was the strongest wind gust recorded at San Jacinto Peak this winter.
At the Peak on Wednesday 20th April 2022 at 0750 the air temperature was 30.5°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.1°F (-11°C), 61% relative humidity, and a strong due West wind sustained at 22 mph gusting to 32.1 mph.
All trails above about 6500 ft are currently partially obscured by light snow, with thin snow cover continuous above about 7000 ft. Melting was already underway on 22nd April and will accelerate very rapidly over the next week.
The entire PCT through the San Jacinto mountains already has a well-traveled track through the fresh snow. By the time I descended on the afternoon of 22nd, I was pleased to see well-defined tracks following my route north from Saddle Junction, and continuing on round to Strawberry Junction. A well-traveled track came in to Saddle Junction from the south, and discussions with various thru hikers I passed indicated that the PCT north and south of the area I covered was hiked by multiple groups in the afternoon of 22nd.
Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177).
Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, initially “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. Although the trail is now clear of significant ice problems, Ranger Station staff have indicated that the trail remains closed indefinitely. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock.
The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 had good steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These steps will have been largely obscured by the fresh snowfall. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Spikes are strongly recommended for this weekend at least. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.
Devil’s Slide Trail has a very well-defined track to follow. Sections were already close to clearing (and/or turning to slush) by the afternoon of 22nd April, especially below 6700 ft.
The Ernie Maxwell Trail is already partly clear of snow, and will clear completely this weekend.
My shallow posthole track is largely well-defined from Annie’s Junction to San Jacinto Peak, via the Wellman and Peak trails. Tracks were disappearing quickly under spindrift snow in wind-exposed areas above 9900 ft elevation.
SNOW DEPTHS measured on Friday 22nd April 2022 are as follows. The only number given is the new snowfall. As mentioned in the previous Report, although many areas retain some extensive patches of older snow, average mweasurements were functionally zero inches in all locations prior to this latest storm. Due to strong winds accompanying this storm note that there is considerable drifting in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.
San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 5 inches
Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 3.5 inches
Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 3.5 inches
Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 2.5 inches
Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 1.5 inches (largely melted by afternoon of 22nd)
Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): <0.25 inch (all melted by afternoon of 22nd)
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