UPDATED 5th November 2022: Weather forecasts are now confident that the San Jacinto mountains will be hit by our first significant snow storm of the season on 7th-9th November, with most of the precipitation falling on Tuesday 8th. The snow level may eventually drop below 5000 ft (around the lower end of Idyllwild) while estimates for snowfall above 10,000 ft elevation currently range from 10-30 inches. Rainfall below 6000 ft may be periodically intense and total 1-3 inches depending on location and elevation. Southbound PCT hikers in particular should continue to closely track forecasts (and the Trail Report) if they expect to be passing through the San Jacinto mountains in November. Spikes will almost certainly be recommended throughout the high country and on some of the PCT through the San Jacinto mountains for days (or possibly even weeks in places) following this storm. Snowshoes will likely be recommended above about 8000-9000 ft for several days at least, until trails become established and compacted (which can be slow at this time of year), and certainly for off-trail travel.
The first snow in the San Jacinto mountains of the 2022/23 winter fell on the morning of Thursday 3rd November as the second phase of a two stage (but overall very minor) storm system. I hiked up to San Jacinto Peak through the most active snowfall early that day. The final accumulation above 10,000 ft was 0.5 inch, with about 0.25 inch above 9200 ft, and a trace elsewhere down to 5500 ft in Idyllwild. By early afternoon all ice had melted completely below 7000 ft.
Much more striking than the snow were very cold temperatures in the high country, exceptional for early November. I recorded an air temperature of 10.8°F (-12°C) at San Jacinto Peak at 0930, with a windchill temperature of -13.7°F (-25°C). These temperatures will not persist however, and indeed a rapid warming trend will make for above average temperatures in the high country by this weekend. Most or all of the snow will consequently melt quickly.
I recorded a short video summarizing the conditions and the forecast for the next week from San Jacinto Peak this morning, available here on YouTube.
The first part of the storm system involved a periodic light rain on the morning of Wednesday 2nd which produced 0.16 inch in Idyllwild (at 5550 ft). We hiked briskly that morning in the thick cloud and drizzle to Tahquitz Peak (8840 ft), where the air temperature was 30°F, with a windchill down to 18°F (-8°C). Patchy rime was forming above 8500 ft elevation (see photo below), but at the same time there were occasional patches of blue sky above us, and the cloud ceiling was at about 9000 ft. Consequently at that time the high country was above the cloud and remained dry.
No additional traction devices are currently required or recommended (although that will almost certainly change by Tuesday 8th November, see Weather discussion below).
Note that another snow storm – expected to produce substantially more precipitation than the one reported here – is currently forecast as for Monday 7th to Wednesday 9th November.
Hikers should be prepared for temperatures generally near freezing in the high country, and often below freezing around the high peaks when considering wind chill effects (see below for my latest weather observations from San Jacinto Peak). On 7th-9th November temperatures above 10,000 ft elevation are forecast to be far below freezing, with potentially dangerous windchills below 0°F (-18°C).
For discussion of specific trail condition and water information (prior to this minor snowfall), please see the previous Report (and others linked therein) available here.
Southbound PCT hikers in particular should continue to closely track forecasts (and the Trail Report) if they will be passing through the San Jacinto mountains in the first half of November.
Forest Service revised the closure order for areas impacted by the Fairview Fire valid until 24th January 2023. Details and a map are available here. The closed area is substantially reduced from the original September 2022 order, and is now largely confined to the actual burn scar in northern Bautista Canyon, plus the Red Mountain area.
The passage of Tropical Storm Kay on 9th September brought down many trees and branches, and hikers should anticipate finding new and additional treefall hazards and branches on trails.
Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues.
Temperatures briefly climb again to near or even above average over the weekend, before another storm system, potentially quite major for so early in the winter, is expected to arrive on Monday 7th November, continuing throughout Tuesday 8th into Wednesday 9th. Temperatures will again drop to far below seasonal, and at least moderate precipitation is currently forecast at all elevations, including 8-20 inches of snow in the high country, a freeze level down to Idyllwild (5000 ft) or even lower, and as much as 1-2 inches of rain at mid elevations.
At San Jacinto Peak (3295 m/10,810 ft) on Thursday 3rd November 2022 at 0930 the air temperature was 10.8°F (-12°C), with a windchill temperature of -13.7°F (-25°C), 100% relative humidity, and a bitter WNW wind sustained at 19 mph gusting to 28.7 mph.
At the Peak on Monday 31st October 2022 at 0850 the air temperature was 41.7°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.0°F (1°C), 11% relative humidity, and a steady NE wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 10.0 mph.
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