Major storm update 18th January 2019

More-or-less exactly as forecast, an unusual sequence of three storms ran into each other over the past four days, Monday 14th – Thursday 17th. This brought almost continuous precipitation to the mid elevations, and started with heavy snowfall in the high country on Monday and Tuesday. The upper mountain was above the cloud for most of Wednesday. Unfortunately the two later storms were very mild systems which brought rain up to about 7500′ (Wednesday) and then heavy rain all the way up to 9300′ elevation (Thursday), plus freezing rain to San Jacinto Peak. This washed/melted much of the snow off trees and turned powder to atrocious slush in many areas below 8000′, and melted and compacted the snow even at the highest peaks. Some pre- and post-storm photos are at the foot of this posting.

Today we hiked to San Jacinto Peak from Humber Park via Wellman Divide, descending Deer Springs Trail to The Suicide Rock Trail, then back to Humber via the Climbers Trail. Specific information for some trails is discussed at the end of this posting. I recorded this vlog in spectacular conditions at San Jacinto Peak late this morning.

At 5550′ elevation in Idyllwild, we ended up with an impressive 4.31″ of rain plus about one inch of snow (which never had the chance to settle) over the four days.

Despite above-average temperatures forecast for the remainder of January, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures at or near freezing in the high country (>8000′ elevation), and below freezing at the high peaks (with possible severe cold when considering windchill effects).

Note that during the federal government shutdown, the U.S. Forest Service Idyllwild Ranger Station is closed. The gate to Humber Park is also closed, limiting parking to just a handful of vehicles, and is being patrolled by the Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer during the shutdown. Adventure Passes are currently required to park in the available places at Humber Park, although town has largely run out of passes for sale (and new ones cannot be issued during the shutdown). Currently Nomad Ventures apparently has the only remaining supply of passes in Idyllwild. Once the supply of passes has been exhausted, I will notify the USFS LEO, and presumably they will no longer be required.

Measured snow depths are as follows. Only the average depth is given, due to the complexitu of past storms and recent melting. Strong winds have led to considerable drifting, mainly above 10,000′, often double the reported depth in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 3-4 feet (with drifts to 5 feet)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 3 feet

Wellman Divide (9700′): 30″

Wellman’s North Cienega (9300′): 18″

Fuller Ridge Trail at junction with Deer Springs Trail (8950′): 24″

Annie’s Junction (State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction) (9050′): 17″

Marion Mountain Trail at junction with Deer Springs Trail (8800′): 21″

Saddle Junction (8100′): 13″ (had been 20″ on 15th)

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 8″

Humber Park (6500′): 1″ (was 4″ on 16th)

Weather As has been the pattern this winter (in a world of changing climate), a notable warming trend is forecast to follow this week’s storm event. This trend may well last for the remainder of January, and will include temperatures above freezing at San Jacinto Peak on some days, and reaching as high as 60°F on several days in Idyllwild. Needless to say, this will result in extensive and rapid melting below 8000′, and even higher on sun-exposed slopes.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Friday 18th January 2019, at 1045 the air temperature was 32°F (0°C), with a windchill temperature of 18.7°F (-7°C), 72% relative humidity, and a brisk 11 mph due North wind gusting to 17.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Almost all trails above about 7000′ are largely or completely snow-covered at this time. Measured average snow depths are listed above.

Snowshoes are currently essential everywhere above 8000′. Microspikes are useful on almost all trails above about 7000′.

Waterproof footwear is recommended on the approach trails (below 8000′) due to multiple stream crossings and water flowing in the trails.

Routefinding will be challenging for those not very familiar with the area. No trails had been broken whatsoever on my circuit of the mountain today. My snowshoe tracks on the east side ascent will be quickly invisible due to melting and ice fall. My tracks on the Deer Springs Trail will be more obvious as I postholed in the soft afternoon snow.

Deer Springs Trail below Strawberry Junction was largely clear of snow below 7700′ this afternoon (no microspikes required).

Devil’s Slide Trail was largely clear to about 6800′ early this morning.

Yesterday we hiked the Ernie Maxwell Trail in the pouring rain. It was largely clear of snow, but some of the few areas of compacted icy snow/slush were very slippery.

South Ridge Road is currently impassable without excellent 4WD, snow tyres, and/or chains. On Wednesday there was an average of 5″ of snow on the upper sections of this road, with patches to 8″.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat is definitely challenging. I have not re-checked this trail since the last snow, but it is certain that conditions will be very difficult. Crampons (or microspikes if you are very comfortable with their use), in conjunction with hiking poles or preferably an ice axe, are recommended. [I would discourage carrying an ice axe if you aren’t familiar with how to use it.]

Suicide Rock Trail has only a few short snow patches either side of the Marion Creek crossing (flowing strongly) and near to Suicide Rock. Microspikes are not necessary.

Suicide Rock Climbers Trail is largely clear of snow, except on the branch that leads to the North Face.

The sign at Wellman Divide (above) today Friday 18th January and (below) on Saturday 12th January.

The sign just below San Jacinto Peak at the junction of the Peak and Deer Springs trails (above) today Friday 18th January and (below) on Saturday 12th January.

Snow update 12th January 2019

[UPDATE Wednesday 16th January 2019 It finally stopped raining (for the time being)this afternoon in Idyllwild. More rain is forecast for tomorrow, with a light dusting of snow for the high country. Current storm total for Idyllwild at 5550′ is 2.50″ rain and about 1″ snow (which did not settle). The system turned much warmer overnight, and it rained to at least 7500′ elevation, washing off or melting all snow from the trees and Tahquitz and Suicide rocks below that elevation. The quality of the snow below about 7000′ is atrocious, basically white slush. Microspikes are very useful above 6000′, and snowshoes invaluable above 7500′. The higher elevations were above the cloud for some of the night and all of today, so new snow accumulations were minimal. Humber Park (6500′) is unchanged at 4″, Saddle Junction (8100′) has 20″, and Long Valley is reporting 22″. The trailhead for South Ridge Trail (top of South Ridge Road, 6500′) had an average of 5″ this afternoon, but with patches to 8″. Please note that South Ridge Road is currently impassable without good 4WD, snow tyres, and/or chains. The status of the high country snow conditions will be updated tomorrow and/or Friday.]

[UPDATE Tuesday 15th January 2019 It won’t stop snowing! I checked Devil’s Slide Trail and Saddle Junction this morning. Saddle Junction (8100′) had a total of 17″ of snow, of which about 8″ were new snowfall since the weekend. Humber Park (6500′) had a total of about 4″ by noon today, of which three inches were new in the past day. However snow was continuing to accumulate at as much as 0.5″ per hour, and it has largely continued to snow lightly all afternoon. Snow level has fluctuated around 6000′ elevation, with mainly rain and occasional sleet in Idyllwild at 5550′. At Long Valley, little precipitation fell overnight (less than an inch of snow added to yesterday’s total), but between 0600-1200 about another 2-3″ were added, for a storm total of about 8″, on top of the existing 4″.]

[UPDATE Monday 14th January 2019 light but steady precipitation started at about 1100 and continued all day. By dusk, Long Valley (8500′) had about 5″ of fresh snowfall, Humber Park (6400′) had less than one inch of snow, and Idyllwild (5550′) had recorded 1.12″ of rain with no settled snow. After dark it continues to drizzle at mid elevations, and lightly snow above about 6500′.]

There was a light snowfall everywhere above about 7000′ overnight, descending to about 5000′ briefly this afternoon. Yesterday afternoon I hiked to San Jacinto Peak up Deer Springs Trail, descending this morning via Wellman Divide to Humber Park. The only other person I saw in the high country today was Kham, friend of the Trail Report, who was postholing up beyond Wellman Divide. I recorded a brief vlog at San Jacinto Peak this morning.

The snow today came in three phases. In the early hours there was a light snowfall at the higher elevations (mainly above 7000′), totaling about 3″ at San Jacinto Peak, accompanied by howling, bitter southerly winds, ending around 0800. A second snow between 1000-1300 today fell mainly from 6500′ to 10,000′ (the highest elevations were largely above the cloud. Finally a brief but intense snow of larger, wet flakes, fell around 5000′ to 7000′ on the western side (especially around Idyllwild) early this afternoon.

Trail conditions Snowfall was insufficient to completely obscure the established tracks in the snow at all elevations. Details of the trail conditions prior to today’s snowfall are discussed in the previous report linked here. Microspikes are very useful, but not essential, on all trails above about 7000′ at this time (see snow depth details below). Snowshoes are currently very helpful everywhere above about 9000′, and locally above 8000′ (e.g., Tahquitz area meadows, Long Valley).

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country (>8000′ elevation), and well below freezing at the high peaks (with possible severe cold when considering windchill effects).

Note that during the federal government shutdown, the U.S. Forest Service Idyllwild Ranger Station is closed. Please note that the gate to Humber Park is now closed, limiting parking to just a handful of vehicles, and is being patrolled by the Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer during the shutdown (I had another chat with him there this afternoon). Adventure Passes are required to park in the available places at Humber Park.

Weather Storm systems on Monday 14th and then again on Thursday 17th may produce significant precipitation this week. Forecasts initially suggested as much as 3″ of rain at the elevation of Idyllwild, and snowfall of perhaps more than 1.5 feet at San Jacinto Peak. Most recent estimates forecast much less precipitation however. Most (all?) of the precipitation may occur in the first storm, arriving Monday.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Saturday 12th January 2019, at 0850 the air temperature was 17°F (-9.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 2.0°F (-17°C), 88% relative humidity, and a cool 7 mph due South wind gusting to 11.2 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 11th January, at 1710 the air temperature was 29°F (-1.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 13.8°F (-10°C), a remarkable 14% relative humidity, and a bitter 14 mph SSW wind gusting to 22 mph.

Looking NW from San Jacinto Peak at about 0900 this morning.

Measured snow depths are as follows. The first number is new accumulation measured today, the second (in parentheses) is the maximum depth at that location including the existing snow from earlier storms. Very strong winds led to considerable drifting, mainly above 10,000′ elevation, often double the reported depth in places. Note that with so much melting between storms this winter, the deepest snow is very patchy, and at all elevations there are some bare areas. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 3-4″ (24″), with drifts >30″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 2″ (12″)

Annie’s Junction (State Park boundary north of Saddle Jn) (9050′): 1.5″ (10″)

Saddle Junction (8100′): 1″ (7″)

Humber Park (6500′): 1″ (2″)

Snow conditions 9th January 2019

I spent all day today in the high country, ascending San Jacinto Peak via Saddle Junction and Wellman Divide, then descending all the way down Deer Springs Trail. I had not intended to record another vlog so soon after the last just three days ago, but I wanted to let folks know about the scrappy state of the snow.

All high elevation trails (>6800′) remain snow-covered, with thin patchy snow in places down to about 6000′ on many trails (discussed in detail below for those trails I have surveyed). For details of the snow that fell last weekend, see the posting from Sunday 6th January.

Microspikes are useful on all trails above about 6000′ at this time. They are especially helpful in the early morning when snow is icy, and for descending. Snowshoes are currently recommended everywhere above about 9000′, and they are helpful in many areas above about 8000′. There is already rapid melting occurring below 8000′, and even higher on sun-exposed slopes, and this will continue for the next two days as warm temperatures are forecast to continue.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country (>8000′ elevation), and well below freezing at the high peaks (with possible severe cold when considering windchill effects).

Note that during the federal government shutdown, the U.S. Forest Service Idyllwild Ranger Station is closed. Adventure passes and wilderness permits are not required (or at least unenforceable) until the shutdown ends. Please note that the gate at Humber Park is now closed, so parking is very limited.

Weather After two more mild days on 10th and 11th, a period of cold conditions with precipitation is forecast for at least one week. A moderate storm seems likely on Friday night, with a few inches of snow forecast for San Jacinto Peak at least. Thereafter, precipitation is possible at all elevations on some or all days from 14th-17th January.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Wednesday 9th January 2019, at 1115 the air temperature was 33°F (0.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 20°F (-7°C), 28% relative humidity, and a cool 11 mph SW wind gusting to 15.7 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 6th January 2019, at 0730 the air temperature was 15.8°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -5.8°F (-21°C), 100% relative humidity, and a sharp 15 mph WSW wind gusting to 25.6 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Devil’s Slide Trail is almost continuously covered in 1-2″ snow, increasing to 4-6″ higher up. Microspikes are sufficient.

Pacific Crest Trail north from Saddle Junction has continuous snow cover. Depth at Saddle Junction was down to 7″, and at 9000′ to about 8-9″. Microspikes were adequate to about 9000′, but snowshoes were essential beyond there (to Wellman Divide in fact) as the only set of tracks occasionally visible between drifts were my own from three days earlier.

Peak Trail From Wellman Divide up, this trail has received only a handful of hikers since the snowfall three days ago. With strong winds and heavy drifting, much of the trail was obscured again this morning. Snowshoes were ideal all the way to San Jacinto Peak.

Deer Springs Trail has been relatively well traveled since the snow three days ago. Snow depth is at about 20″ in Little Round Valley, with some deeper drifts nearer San Jacinto Peak. There is a poorly consolidated snowshoe trail for the entire length of Deer Springs Trail above Strawberry Junction. Snow depth at Strawberry Junction averaged 4″. Below Strawberry Junction (8100′) the trail is largely snow-covered (only a few inches deep) above the Suicide Rock Trail junction, and largely clear below that junction. Microspikes are not needed in this section..

Marion Mountain Trail has been relatively well-traveled, with a good snowshoe track to follow. Thin snow starts at the trailhead, increasing to about 7″ at the junction with the PCT/Deer Springs Trail.

Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT and Seven Pines Trail have shown no signs of use since November, so route finding will be very challenging, especially for those not completely familiar with these trails.

Snow update 6th January 2019

There was a heavier-than-forecast snowfall everywhere above about 5000′ overnight. I hiked to San Jacinto Peak yesterday from home via South Ridge Trail, Tahquitz Peak, Saddle Junction, and Wellman Divide, then descended late this morning to Humber Park. Many thanks to Kyle Eubanks who joined me up top, and provided the snow depths for Round and Long valleys on his descent. Credit to the only other people I saw in the high country all day, Monica and Kham, two energetic young ladies who had postholed to Annie’s Junction (9100′). They said very nice things about the Trail Report, including that it had inspired them to come out hiking in the snow today. I recorded the following vlog at San Jacinto Peak late this morning.

Very fine light snow started at about 1300 yesterday afternoon in the high country, continuing all night, and finally stopping just after sunrise. In Idyllwild at 5550′, we had about 0.25″ rain, followed by 2.0″ snow.

Microspikes are useful, but not essential, on all trails above about 6000′ at this time (see snow depth details below). Snowshoes are currently very useful everywhere above about 8000′. This will continue for at least a couple of days until melting and compacting by foot traffic makes microspikes more practical. There is already rapid melting occurring below 7000′, and this will likely extend higher in the next few days as mild temperatures are forecast.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country (>8000′ elevation), and well below freezing at the high peaks (with possible severe cold when considering windchill effects).

Note that during the federal government shutdown, the U.S. Forest Service Idyllwild Ranger Station is closed. Adventure passes and wilderness permits are not required (or at least unenforceable) until the shutdown ends. Please note that Humber Park is being patrolled by the Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer during the shutdown (I had a chat with him there today).

The view from the top. Looking toward Coachella Valley this morning from San Jacinto Peak.

Weather Most of the coming week will be relatively mild, with considerable melting likely below 8000′ and on sun-exposed slopes. Starting on Friday night, further precipitation is forecast at all elevations in the period 12th-15th January. Currently, snowfall in the high country is forecast to be concentrated in the early morning of Saturday 12th and again overnight on Sunday 13th to Monday 14th.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Sunday 6th January 2019, at 0730 the air temperature was 15.8°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -5.8°F (-21°C), 100% relative humidity, and a sharp 15 mph WSW wind gusting to 25.6 mph.

By way of remarkable contrast, at the Peak on Thursday 3rd January, at 0840 the air temperature was 36°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 29.3°F (-2°C), 20% relative humidity, and a mellow 4 mph NNE wind gusting to 6.4 mph.

Measured snow depths are as follows. The first number is new accumulation measured today, the second (in parentheses) is the maximum depth at that location including the existing snow from earlier storms. Very strong winds have led to extreme drifting, often double the reported depth in places. Note that with so much melting between storms this winter, the deepest snow is very patchy, and at all elevations there were bare areas until last night. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 12″ (22″), with drifts of 30-40″ on East Ridge

Wellman Divide (9700′): 8″ (14″)

Round Valley (9100′): 9″ (13″)

Annie’s Junction (State Park boundary north of Saddle Jn) (9050′): 8″ (14″)

Long Valley (8500′): 6″ (8″).

Saddle Junction (8100′): 7″ (8″)

Humber Park (6500′): 4″ (4″)

The Peak Trail at about 9800′ just above Wellman Divide around noon today (above) and yesterday afternoon (below).

Cold! 1st January 2019

[UPDATE 3rd January 2019: Yesterday we hiked South Ridge Trail, then this morning I hiked to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail. I have incorporated new info from those hikes into the report below. The swing in temperatures has been astounding, with San Jacinto Peak already above freezing early this morning (36°F). Consequently, melting has been very rapid, with many trails below 8000′ clearing fast. Only a handful of hikers have made it to San Jacinto Peak in recent days via all routes, with extremely few tracks visible in the high country, so trails remain a little slow-going in heavily drifted areas. Next full update will be after the snowstorm (fingers crossed) on Sunday.]

If today was a sign of things to come, 2019 will be an exciting year in the San Jacinto mountains! Early this morning I hiked to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman Divide, descending via Deer Springs Trail. Conditions at all elevations were very cold, with a howling northerly gale, and spindrift snow flying in all directions. I observed yet another record low windchill temperature at San Jacinto Peak, as discussed in the video.

I briefly described the snow that fell yesterday in the final update of 2018. All trails above about 6700′ are snow-covered, with patchy thin snow to 5700′ (discussed in detail below). With such strong winds, drifting has been very widespread, making tracks disappear within minutes, and route-finding complicated at times for those unfamiliar with the area.

Despite the cold conditions in the past week, a remarkable amount of melting had occurred in the days prior to the light snow yesterday. The 1-2″ of snow that fell yesterday may melt quickly on exposed slopes in the warmer temperatures expected for the rest of this week (see Weather below).

Microspikes are useful, but are not essential, on most trails above about 7800′ at this time (see details below). They are most valuable in the early morning when snow is icier, and for descending. Snowshoes are useful for travel off-trail and in some areas of the high country above about 9800′.

In general, hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or near freezing in the high country (>8000′ elevation), and well below freezing at the highest peaks (with potential for severe cold when considering windchill effects).

Note that during the federal government shutdown, the U.S. Forest Service Idyllwild Ranger Station is closed. Adventure passes and wilderness permits are not required (or at least unenforceable) until the shutdown ends.

Weather The next few days may be a microcosm of the highly erratic weather we have experienced so far this winter. The severe cold of the last few days will be replaced by relatively warm weather (with likely extensive melting) for the rest of this week, which may then end abruptly with a snow storm at the weekend. The latter was originally forecast to be comparable to the notable storm of early December 2018, but more recent forecasts have greatly reduced the predicted snow volumes.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Tuesday 1st January 2019, at 0900 the air temperature was 0.7°F (-17°C), with a windchill temperature of -33.4°F (-36°C), 58% relative humidity, and a bitter 25 mph due North wind gusting to 49.7 mph.

At the Peak yesterday, Monday 31st December 2018, at 0930 the air temperature was 16.5°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of 0.7°F (-17°C), 100% relative humidity, and a cool 6 mph WSW wind gusting to 12 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat is challenging, and the conditions are described in detail in this earlier report. I have not re-checked this trail since then, but with an inch or so of fresh snow, plus extreme wind-blown drifting, it is certain that conditions will be no less difficult. Crampons (or microspikes if you are very comfortable with their use), in conjunction with hiking poles or preferably an ice axe, are recommended. [I would discourage carrying an ice axe if you aren’t familiar with how to use it.]

South Ridge Trail has barely 1″ depth of patchy snow from the top of South Ridge Road to Old Lookout Flat (the plateau at 7800′). From 7800′ the trail is largely snow-covered at 1-2″ deep, with 3-5″ near Tahquitz Peak. There are some deeper drifts on the upper switchbacks. Due to the nature of the snow, microspikes are not essential, but some hikers will find them useful especially for descending the uppermost switchbacks. [Note that South Ridge Road is very icy, and challenging for both 2WD vehicles and hikers.]

Eastern slope trails The major trails had been well traveled and were fairly well consolidated until 30th December. However minimal hiker traffic and heavy drifting from strong winds since then has made the trails harder to follow. This includes the main Long Valley and Round Valley trails. The East Ridge Trail on San Jacinto Peak, the Sid Davis Trail, and the Old Tamarack Trail, have received no visible traffic, and require caution and snowshoes.

Deer Springs Trail has been lightly traveled since the snow on Christmas Day. Snow depth is at about 8-10″ in Little Round Valley, with deeper drifts nearer San Jacinto Peak. There is no consolidated trail between Little Round Valley and San Jacinto Peak, with tracks of just a few people, and these only approximate to the route of the trail.

Deer Springs Trail below Little Round Valley has continuous snow to Strawberry Junction. At the latter, snow depth is only 1″. Below Strawberry Junction there is very shallow patchy snow, and microspikes are not required in this section.

Marion Mountain Trail has been well traveled today. Thin snow starts at the trailhead, increasing to about 5″ at the junction with the PCT/Deer Springs Trail. Areas that had cleared following the earlier December snows, below about 7800′, are already starting to clear in patches.

Fuller Ridge Trail and Seven Pines Trail show no signs of recent use, so route finding will be very challenging for those not completely familiar with these trails.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow below 7600′. Snow cover is more-or-less continuous above that elevation, but very shallow and not too icy. Snow depth at Saddle Junction averages 2″. Most hikers will find microspikes are not required for the majority of this trail. There is a small but very treacherous patch of black ice at Middle Spring, about 1.4 trail miles above Humber Park.

Ernie Maxwell Trail has only patchy snow at no more than 1″ depth. Microspikes are not required. [Many thanks to Anne and Anabel King for this information.]

Skyline Trail has light patchy snow above about 6000′, which is then more continuous from the Traverse upwards (>7200′) at about 2-4″ deep. The trail is consolidated and fairly obvious. Some hikers are carrying microspikes and poles or ice axes, but report not needing to use them. [Many thanks to various correspondents for this information.]

Pacific Crest Trail north from Saddle Junction currently has only patchy snow to near 9000′. Microspikes are of limited use up to that elevation, but are then helpful from there to Annie’s Junction (the State Park boundary).

Pacific Crest Trail south from Saddle Junction has continuous snow cover (at only 2-4″ deep) to 8300′, and then about 3-6″ deep, but with a clear consolidated track, to 8400′ at Chinquapin Flat. There has been no recent foot traffic on the PCT south from Chinquapin Flat.

Wellmans Cienega North spring, 1st January 2019.

Finally, a huge thank you to all those supporters and donors who helped make 2018 such a remarkably successful year for the San Jacinto Trail Report, far, far beyond my most optimistic expectations for the project. All those supporters are listed here. If you found the Report to be useful to you in the past year, please consider visiting the Donate page. Many thanks. Happy New Year and safe hiking.

Snow update 31st December 2018

Just a brief update prior to a more comprehensive posting tomorrow afternoon. This morning we hiked to San Jacinto Peak from Humber Park, for what was my 126th ascent of the calendar year. On the way up we left the lower elevation cloud behind around 9000′, but it returned and started lightly snowing on us at about 10,000′ elevation. Snowfall at the Peak was erratic, with the cloud level right around 10,800′, and after we left we could see the high country bathed in sunshine again.

It was snowing lightly and intermittently on the descent, and had largely stopped by Saddle Junction. Fresh snowfall totals were: San Jacinto Peak 0.5″, Wellman Divide 1.0″, Wellman’s Cienega 1.5″, Saddle Junction 0.75″, Humber Park 0.5″. Settled snow in Idyllwild was barely 0.25″; although apparently more had fallen (at least 1.0″), it was too mild to settle.

It was chilly at the Peak, although nowhere near as cold as forecast, and much warmer than on Friday as outlined in the previous report. At San Jacinto Peak today at 0930 the air temperature was 16.5°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of 0.7°F (-18°C), 100% relative humidity, and a light 6 mph WSW wind gusting to 12 mph.

I recorded a brief video at the Peak this morning, which gives a feel for the conditions.

 

 

Finally, a huge thank you to all those supporters and donors who helped make 2018 such a remarkably successful year for the San Jacinto Trail Report, far, far beyond my most optimistic expectations for the project. All those supporters are listed here. If you have found the Report to be useful to you this year, please consider visiting the Donate page. Many thanks. Happy New Year and safe hiking.

Cold and snow update 28th December 2018

I spent yesterday and today in the high country. My descent from San Jacinto Peak today was via Saddle Junction, Tahquitz Peak, and South Ridge Trail. I had anticipated exceptional cold overnight and was not disappointed, as I mention in the video below.

 

All high elevation trails (>8500′) remain snow-covered, with thin patchy snow in places down to about 6000′ on many trails (discussed in detail below). For details of the snow that fell on Christmas Day, see the previous posting linked here.

Despite the cold conditions, a remarkable amount of melting has occurred in the past few days. The 2-4″ of snow that fell on Christmas Day has largely melted in many of the areas that had previously cleared in December, with the fresh snow mainly remaining only on top of pre-existing snow cover.

Yesterday afternoon as I hiked to San Jacinto Peak, there was a little light snowfall above 9000′. No more than about 0.25″ accumulated, but it was a good example of how unpredictable mountain weather can be, as no precipitation had been forecast whatsoever.

Microspikes are useful, but are not essential, on most trails above about 7800′ at this time (see details below). They are most valuable in the early morning when snow is icier, and for descending. Snowshoes are useful for travel off-trail and in some areas of the high country above about 9800′. The traverse on the north side of Tahquitz Peak is especially challenging, as discussed below.

For the foreseeable future hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or near freezing in the high country (>8000′ elevation), and well below freezing at the highest peaks (with potential for severe cold when considering windchill effects).

Note that during the federal government shutdown, the U.S. Forest Service Idyllwild Ranger Station is closed. Adventure passes and wilderness permits are not required (or at least unenforceable) until the shutdown ends.

Weather Temperatures will remain cold until at least late next week, and there also appears to be a reasonable possibility of precipitation over the first weekend of 2019.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Friday 28th December, at 0640 the air temperature was -0.5°F (-18°C), with a windchill temperature of -30.1°F (-34.5°C), 78% relative humidity, and a blustery 11 mph due North wind gusting to 30 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 25th December, at 0810 the air temperature was 16.5°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -1.8°F (-19°C), 100% relative humidity, and a chilly 10 mph WSW wind gusting to 16 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat had been very lightly traveled by midday today. Strong winds overnight had left heavy spindrift across the slope, overlaying more solid (and treacherous) icy snow. The spindrift had a very polystyrene quality, and was carving off in small slabs which were collapsing like mini wind slab avalanches downslope. The average snow depth was about 10-12″, however some drifted sections were 20-24″ deep. Until there has been more foot traffic here, crampons (or microspikes if you are very comfortable with their use), in conjunction with hiking poles or preferably an ice axe, are strongly recommended. [I would discourage carrying an ice axe if you aren’t familiar with how to use it.]

Part of the tail from Chinquapin Flat to Tahquitz Peak, 28th December 2018. If this doesn’t look like fun to you, definitely best to turn back.

South Ridge Trail is largely clear of snow from the top of South Ridge Road to Old Lookout Flat (the plateau at 7800′), although there some extended sections of very shallow (<1″) snow. From 7800′ to Tahquitz Peak the trail is partly snow-covered with 2-4″ near Tahquitz Peak. There are some deeper drifts on the uppermost switchbacks. Due to the nature of the snow, microspikes are not necessary, but some hikers will find them useful especially for descending the uppermost switchbacks. [Note that the upper section of South Ridge Road is very icy, and dangerous for 2WD vehicles and hikers.]

Eastern slope trails All the major trails have been well traveled and are fairly well consolidated. This includes the main Long Valley and Round Valley trails. However the East Ridge Trail on San Jacinto Peak, the Sid Davis Trail, and the Old Tamarack Trail, have received no significant traffic, and require caution and/or snowshoes.

Deer Springs Trail has been very lightly traveled since the snow on Christmas Day. Snow depth is at about 12″ in Little Round Valley, with deeper drifts nearer San Jacinto Peak. There is no consolidated trail between Little Round Valley and San Jacinto Peak, with tracks of just 2-3 people, and these do not approximate to the trail. Snowshoes or mountaineering boots are recommended from Little Round Valley up.

Deer Springs Trail has patchy snow in exposed areas below 8000′, and microspikes are not essential in this section..

Marion Mountain Trail has only been lightly traveled. Thin snow starts at the trailhead, increasing to about 6-8″ at the junction with the PCT/Deer Springs Trail. Areas that had cleared following the earlier December snow, below about 7800′, are already starting to clear in patches.

Fuller Ridge Trail and Seven Pines Trail show no signs of recent use, so route finding will be very challenging for those not completely familiar with these trails.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow below 7600′. However the snow patches below this elevation are heavily compacted and icy. Most hikers will find microspikes are useful for at least the upper elevations of this trail.

Skyline Trail has light patchy snow above about 6500′, which is then more continuous from the Traverse upwards (>7200′) at about 2-4″ deep. The trail is consolidated and obvious. Some hikers are carrying microspikes and poles or ice axes, but report not needing to use them. [Many thanks to various correspondents for this information.]

Pacific Crest Trail north from Saddle Junction has only patchy snow to about 8700′, and then again from near Annie’s Junction to Strawberry Junction.

Pacific Crest Trail south from Saddle Junction has more-or-less continuous snow cover (at only 1-2″ deep) to 8300′, and then about 2-6″ deep, but with a clear consolidated track, to 8400′ at Chinquapin Flat. There has been no recent foot traffic on the PCT south from Chinquapin Flat.

The shadow cast by San Jacinto Peak in the low hazy cloud at sunrise this morning, 28th December 2018, as seen from the Peak.