Trail update 9th December 2019

Anabel and I spent today ascending San Jacinto Peak via the east side (Devil’s Slide to East Ridge Trail) and descending the west side (Deer Springs Trail), affording a thorough survey of the snow and trail conditions around the mountain. Other hikes in recent days surveyed Spitler Peak, South Ridge, and Ernie Maxwell trails.

Hiking conditions were perfect early this morning on a firm layer of icy snow, and I ascended to San Jacinto Peak with minimal postholing and without need for the spikes or snowshoes I was carrying. Microspikes were useful for the descent down to about 7800′ however. Unfortunately these conditions will likely change this week with rapid warming expected at all elevations. These conditions are discussed in a short video recorded at San Jacinto Peak this morning.

The fourth storm of this winter passed through over the weekend, but was much warmer than the previous three, initially producing rain at all elevations and no measurable snowfall in the high country until Sunday evening, when 1-3″ inches fell above 8000′.

In Idyllwild (at 5550′) a total of 1.52″ of rain fell in the forty-eight hour period between late afternoon Friday 6th and the evening of Sunday 8th, with the most intense rainfall in a few hours on Sunday evening. On Saturday it rained all the way to San Jacinto Peak, leaving a firm, icy crust of freezing rain on top of snow from prior storms. By Sunday evening it was cold enough at higher elevations for a light snowfall, with an inch above 8000′, two inches above 9000′, and about three inches at San Jacinto Peak.

The USFS gate at Humber Park remains closed. There are nine legal parking spaces – available for all uses – just below the gate (near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead). The next closest legal parking is 0.1 mile downhill on Forest Drive.

Several major trails have been traveled and currently have reliable snowshoe or posthole tracks. These trails are: Humber Park to San Jacinto Peak, Deer Springs Trail, Marion Mountain Trail, and the Round Valley Trail from the Tram to Wellman Divide. For detail see Trail Conditions below.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. These data may change rapidly this week due to anticipated rapid melting.

Microspikes are recommended on many trails and will become increasingly useful at higher elevations over the next few days as melting makes snowshoe use impractical, established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic, and the trails undergo freeze-thaw cycles (or just thaw!). Spikes are especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted. Snow depths are currently adequate for snowshoeing almost everywhere above about 8500′ elevation. This may change with rapid melting anticipated over the next week (although ironically that may make snowshoes more useful to avoid postholing in soft snowmelt).

Waterproof footwear is strongly recommended on approach trails at least (e.g. Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs) due to extensive slush and water runoff in the trails. Snow will be soft and melting at all elevations over the next few days.

Despite relatively warm weather between storm systems, hikers should generally be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering windchill effects.

Be Mountain Lion aware. Lions are always very common in the San Jacinto mountains, although tracks in the snow are a useful reminder of just how common. Recently there has been a lot of lion activity in the Devil’s Slide Trail area, including adjacent parts of the PCT and Ernie Maxwell Trail. I was fortunate to see a lion twice on Devil’s Slide Trail, on 14th October and again on 4th November, both very early in the morning. Some recent track photos are at the foot of this update.

WEATHER Warm conditions well above seasonal are forecast for the next several days, with high temperatures well above freezing as high as San Jacinto Peak on 10th-15th December, and temperatures near 60°F forecast for mid-elevations (e.g., Idyllwild to about 6000′) on 12th-14th. Obviously this will lead to rapid snowmelt at all elevations. Temperatures are forecast to return to seasonal norms starting about Sunday 15th December (with no precipitation currently forecast).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Monday 9th December 2019 at 1100 the air temperature was 21°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.7°F (-16°C), 64% relative humidity, and a cool due North wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 17.2 mph.

During passage of last week’s storm, at the Peak on Wednesday 4th December 2019 at 1350 the air temperature was 25.4°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 9.0°F (-13°C), 100% relative humidity, and a sharp WSW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 21.4 mph.

North end of Little Round Valley today, 9th December 2019, currently under about two feet of snow.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 7500′ are snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

Round Valley Trail from the Tram through to Wellman Divide has been well-traveled and a good track through the snow is easy to follow.

Skyline Trail has been well-traveled since the last snow, and tracks exist through the remaining snow patches above about 7000′. However not all the snow tracks are reliable, so cautious navigation is recommended.

Devil’s Slide Trail is less than 50% snow-covered from the trailhead to 7500′, but there is extensive ice near water crossings at least early in the morning. It has a well-worn (but icy) track to follow, and microspikes are useful for descending, at least in the morning. Two new trees down on the trail about 1.7 miles up (just below Powderbox Spring) are easily passable. At Saddle Junction, trees are also down across the starts of the Caramba Trail and the PCT southbound.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear below 7100′. It will probably largely clear to Strawberry Junction (8100′) during the course of this week. Snow was shallow and slushy to about 8600′ this afternoon. Snow averages at least a foot deep from Marion Mountain Trail through to Little Round Valley. An excellent track is now in place through to Little Round Valley. From there to San Jacinto Peak, the visible route does not follow the usual trail and is steep.

Marion Mountain Trail has been well traveled and has a good track to follow. It is largely clear below 7000′ and will continue to clear higher up this week.

Seven Pines Trail and Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) have no visible signs of hiker traffic since the recent storms, and no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed Seven Pines Trail has only been hiked a handful of times since November 2018. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking these trails in snow.

The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road will remain in place into 2020, hence there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is completely clear of snow.

Spitler Peak Trail had a few soft patches of snow through the least exposed middle and upper elevation sections of the trail. In addition to the one large tree one mile from the PCT, there are now two smaller trees down nearer the PCT (the trail is passable to hikers, but not pack animals).

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Please note that average depth is given; drifts are much deeper than the average in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 30″ (previously 36″ on 4th December)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 25″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 13″ (previously 16″ on 4th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 13″ (previously 18″ on 4th December)

Fuller Ridge Trail south end (8980′): 14″

Marion Mountain Trail junction with PCT (8800′): 13″

Long Valley (8600′): 5″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 6″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 9″ (previously 13″ on 4th December)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 0″ (previously 1″ on 4th December)

Mountain Lion track on the PCT just north of Saddle Junction (above) early this morning 9th December 2019, part of a line of tracks (below).

Mountain Lion track on Spitler Peak Trail, 6th December 2019. The knife is 3.75″ long, for scale.

Snow storm 4th December 2019

Our third storm of this winter passed through on Tuesday night and today. It started gently snowing at San Jacinto Peak at 1830 last night. This system was much milder than the previous two this winter. Consequently much of the night the precipitation fell as freezing rain even at 10,800′, with only about 2-3″ of snow accumulating overnight. It subsequently snowed steadily from 0700 to 1330 today, with total new accumulation of about 8″ (replacing the same amount lost at the Peak to melting in preceding days).

A short video from 1400 this afternoon at San Jacinto Peak is available on YouTube.

The lowest elevation reached by the snow level was about 8400′. Saddle Junction (8100′) lost at least 5″ of snow to rainfall in a day, while Annie’s Junction (9070′) gained about 4″ of fresh snow, but lost about 6″ to rain and melting.

At times sleet was falling and often failing to accumulate in Long Valley (8600′) in the morning, which reported 1.0″ of rainfall, before a couple of inches of snow accumulated there in the early afternoon.

On my descent this afternoon I ran into a misty, windblown, drizzle at 9900′, which stayed with me all the way down to Idyllwild.

In Idyllwild (at 5550′) an impressive 1.96″ of rain fell between Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park is now closed. There are nine legal parking spaces – available for all uses – just below the gate (near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead). The next closest legal parking is 0.1 mile downhill on Forest Drive.

Currently many major trails have not been traveled and are obscured by fresh snowfall above 8500′. Good snowshoe tracks exist for Humber Park to San Jacinto Peak and from the Tram to Wellman Divide. Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Melting of the major Thanksgiving snowstorm had been significant in many areas, with 20-30% of last week’s snowfall lost above 7000′, and much more lost below that elevation.

Snow depths are currently good for snowshoeing almost everywhere above about 8000′ elevation. This will change with rapid melting anticipated over the next ten days.

Microspikes will become increasingly useful at all elevations over the next few days as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles (emphasis on the thaw). They are especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted.

Waterproof footwear is strongly recommended on approach trails at least (e.g. Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs) due to extensive slush and water runoff in the trails.

Despite relatively mild weather between storm systems, hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering windchill effects.

WEATHER The warming rollercoaster ride that defines the weather in the San Jacinto mountains nowadays will continue into December. Warm conditions immediately following this latest storm will take high country temperatures above freezing tomorrow. A brief cooler storm system at the weekend (7th-8th December) will produce moderate rain at mid-elevations (to 9000′) but very little snow is forecast higher up. Then it dramatically warms yet again to temperatures well above seasonal in the week 9th-13th December, with 40+°F likely at the highest peaks and rapid snowmelt likely everywhere.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Wednesday 4th December 2019 at 1350 the air temperature was 25.4°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 9.0°F (-13°C), 100% relative humidity, and a sharp WSW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 21.4 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 3rd December 2019 at 1645 the air temperature was 32.6°F (0°C), with a windchill temperature of 18.4°F (-8°C), 56% relative humidity, and a brisk SW wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 20.7 mph, while heavily overcast.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 8000′ are snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

Reliable, well-traveled tracks were currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail, from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, and from the Tram through to Wellman Divide.

Devil’s Slide Trail this evening was only about 50% snow-covered from the trailhead to 7500′, and had significant water erosion due to runoff. A similar situation is likely at least on Deer Springs Trail below Strawberry Junction.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Average depth is given. Drifts will be much deeper than the average in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 36″ (had melted to 28″ by 3rd December)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 16″ (had melted to 12″ by 3rd December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 18″ (had melted to 20″ by 3rd December)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 13″ (had melted to 18″ by 3rd December)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 1″ (had melted to 5″ by 3rd December)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 1″ (remaining from Thanksgiving storm, not new accumulation.

Wellman Divide (9700′) this afternoon Wednesday 4th December 2019 (above), and the same view 24 hours earlier on Tuesday 3rd December 2019 (below).

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Great Thanksgiving snow storm 27th-29th November 2019

The past three days has seen the most prodigious November snow storm to occur in the San Jacinto mountains in living memory. The quantities of snow that have fallen would not be unexpected in say January or February, but in November?!

The depths that accumulated at mid and lower elevations were especially remarkable, including a November record for Idyllwild, where meteorological records began in 1943. The previous record for Idyllwild snowfall in November was 19.5″ in 1952 (and even that may not have been all in one storm event).

Videos from San Jacinto Peak on each of the last three days are on YouTube, the latest being from just after sunrise Saturday morning.

Special thanks to the indefatigable Anne for reporting on weather conditions in Idyllwild while I was on the mountain for an extended period, and to Kyle Eubanks for company on Wednesday/Thursday and for always reliable snow depth data on the route to/from the Tram.

Currently the USFS gate at Humber Park remains open. Regardless, there are always up to nine legal parking spaces this side of the gate (near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead). The next closest legal parking is just downhill on Forest Drive.

Currently many major trails have not been traveled and are obscured by heavy snowfall. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Melting of the first snowstorm of the season last week had been considerable in most areas, with nearly half of last week’s snowfall lost above 8000′, and much more lost below that elevation.

Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing almost everywhere above about 5000′ elevation. This will change with rapid melting already underway below 6000′.

Microspikes will become increasingly useful at lower and mid-elevations over the next few days as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. They are especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted.

Crampons (always with an ice axe if you know how to use it) may become useful around the high peaks once the snow has consolidated over the next few days.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering windchill effects.

Looking south-east from San Jacinto Peak early this morning, 30th November 2019, with the rising sun reflecting off the Salton Sea.

WEATHER As is seemingly normal these days a rapid warming will result in temperatures at or even above freezing as high as San Jacinto Peak by 1st December. Another (small this time!) snow storm, with rain below about 7000′, arrives on 3rd/4th December, before yet further warming.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Saturday 30th November 2019 at 0640 the air temperature was 20.6°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -2.5°F (-19°C), 23% relative humidity, and a sharp WNW wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 28.3 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 29th November 2019 at 0840 the air temperature was 6.2°F (-15°C), with a windchill temperature of -18.2°F (-28°C), 100% relative humidity, and a brisk WNW wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 23.2 mph, while snowing heavily.

Jean Peak (left side of the image) as seen from San Jacinto Peak before sunrise, 30th November 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 4500′ are covered with between 10″ and 35″ of snow, depending on elevation. This includes the Pacific Crest Trail from south of Mile 151 (the Hwy 74 crossing) to about Mile 196.

Reliable, well-traveled tracks are currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail, from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, and from the Tram through to Wellman Divide. However strong winds in the high country will have obscured tracks within hours or even minutes.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Average depth is given. With strong winds during this storm, drifts are significantly deeper than the average in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 36″ (incl. 4″ on morning of 27th November) (drifts to 50″ on east side).

Wellman Divide (9700′): 17″

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 24″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 25″ (includes 4″ on 25th November)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 17″

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 21″ (storm total, but already melting rapidly today)

PCT Mile 151 (at its crossing with Highway 74) (4700′): 12″ (thanks to Jill G. for this information)

Summit hut (10,700′) at San Jacinto Peak on Saturday 30th November 2019 (above), and the same view on Wednesday 27th November 2019 (below).

Wellman Divide (9700′) this morning 30th November 2019 (above), and the same view on Wednesday 27th November 2019 (below).

Jon recording the weather at San Jacinto Peak on Thanksgiving Day 2019 in -7°F (-22°C) windchill conditions (photo courtesy of Kyle Eubanks).

White Friday! Record snow storm 27th-29th November 2019

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UPDATED @ 0800 Saturday 30th

Just posted a new video to YouTube. Please take a look as it was an indescribably beautiful early morning on San Jacinto Peak. The cloud has cleared but the wind remains strong, with a windchill of 2°F (-17°C).

Sunrise from San Jacinto Peak, 30th November 2019.

UPDATED @ 1655 Friday 29th

It appears to have finally (?) stopped snowing in Idyllwild and at San Jacinto Peak. Idyllwild (at 5550′) added another 1.5″ of snow today, for an astonishing storm total of 21 inches.

San Jacinto Peak remains in the cloud. There was very little fresh accumulation after the graupel downpour early in the afternoon, adding only a few inches for today and giving a final storm total of just under three feet (about 30-35 inches). With strong winds there has been heavy drifting, of at least 40-50 inches in places.

UPDATED @ 1300 Friday 29th

It has continued to snow steadily all morning at San Jacinto Peak, accumulating at about 0.5″ per hour. Conditions have been borderline whiteout for much of the morning. Snowfall got much heavier in the past hour, with an intense graupel storm probably indicating a thunderstorm nearby.

Meanwhile in Idyllwild it stopped snowing after a couple of minor flurries that accumulated to barely 0.5″ this morning. There was even a brief sunshine sighting at about noon.

The power came back on in Idyllwild at about 1300, having been out for most of town for several hours, and it promptly started to snow again!

Newly fallen graupel sitting on top of earlier snow, San Jacinto Peak, at 1245 on 29th November 2019.

UPDATED @ 0955 Friday 29th

See the latest video just posted on YouTube to get a feel for current conditions on San Jacinto Peak and for a weather update.

It continues to snow lightly in the high country, and has restarted in Idyllwild, with 0.25″ accumulating there so far this morning.

Summit hut at San Jacinto Peak, early this morning Friday 29th November 2019 (above), and two days earlier at noon on Wednesday 27th November (below).

UPDATED @ 0720 Friday 29th

White Friday! In what is likely a November record for Idyllwild, another 6.75″ of snow fell at 5550′ elevation overnight, for a storm total of 19.5 inches! In November! It has stopped snowing there (although electricity is out in large parts of town, just to make life more exciting).

At San Jacinto Peak, an additional 8-10″ of fresh powder fell overnight, for a storm total of close to 30 inches, and an average depth around the Peak of nearly three feet. It is still snowing lightly, but bright sky to the east suggests the cloud level is very thin.

Snow storm 27th & 28th November 2019

Please continue to check this page for periodic storm updates throughout today.

UPDATED @ 1730 Thursday 28th

It stopped snowing at all elevations at about 1630 this evening (although it has restarted at a very gentle rate in the last few minutes at San Jacinto Peak).

Fresh snowfall for today was about 14″ at San Jacinto Peak. In combination with yesterday’s 5-6″, and a patchy 4″ remaining from last week, there is an average of about 24″ around the Peak. I found some drifts of at least 30″ on the East Ridge just now.

In Idyllwild (at 5550′) a very impressive 11.75″ fell today, for a storm total of nearly 13″.

It is probably fair to estimate that everywhere in the San Jacinto mountains above about 5000′ elevation has between one and 2.5 feet of snow as of tonight.

UPDATED @ 1505 Thursday 28th

Idyllwild (at 5550′) has added 8″ of fresh snow today so far. About the same has fallen at San Jacinto Peak, for a current storm total of about 12-13″ there. Snowfall totals today have been remarkably similar across many elevations of the mountains, with 6-10″ also today at Long and Round valleys, and Wellman Divide.

UPDATED @ 1220 Thursday 28th

Snow started falling heavily at all mountain elevations at about 0830. In Idyllwild by noon, three inches had fallen this morning, for a storm total of four inches.

At San Jacinto Peak, an additional four inches had fallen this morning, for a storm total of about 9″, and a grand total of about 13″ depth.

Many thanks to Kyle Eubanks for reporting total snow depths as he descended from the Peak to the Tram: Wellman Divide 6-8″, Round Valley 8-10″, Long Valley 6″.

Fine granular snow continues to fall heavily at all elevations. If it continues to accumulate at roughly one inch per hour, we will reach some very impressive totals, especially for November.

UPDATED @ 0815 Thursday 28th

No fresh snow overnight at San Jacinto Peak nor in Idyllwild. An overnight low temperature of 29°F in Idyllwild (at 5550′), and a rather chillier 15°F at San Jacinto Peak. Windchil at the Peak at about 0700 was a brisk -6.9°F (-22°C).

A short video giving a feel for the conditions at San Jacinto Peak has just been uploaded to YouTube.

Forecasts continue to predict 2-3 feet of snow in the high country later today and a foot or more around 6000′ elevation.

UPDATED @ 1930 Wednesday 27th

It stopped snowing in Idyllwild at about 1700, and at San Jacinto Peak by 1830. Fresh snowfalls of one inch in Idyllwild and about five at the Peak. Overnight temperatures will plunge with clear skies. Heavy snow is forecast tomorrow, we’ll see!

UPDATED @ 1720 Wednesday 27th

Snowfall at San Jacinto Peak is up to 4″ of fresh powder, for a total of about 8″. Fairly fine flakes continue to fall steadily and are accumulating rapidly. The WSW wind has dropped a little, but still gusting close to 30 mph. Air temperature just now was 15.6°F, with a windchill of -6.7°F.

Snow accumulation in Idyllwild (at 5550′ elevation) was 1.0″ as of 1700.

UPDATED @ 1520 Wednesday 27th

Snowfall at San Jacinto Peak has been heavier since about 1330, with 1.0-1.5 inches of fresh snow so far today (on top of an average of 4″ remaining from last week).

Rainfall in Idyllwild (at 5550′ elevation) was exactly 0.25″ until just before 1500, at which time the precipitation switched to snow and started to accumulate.

UPDATED @ 1310 Wednesday 27th

Started snowing just before 1200 at San Jacinto Peak. Currently fine rounded grain snow which is struggling to accumulate, especially in a severe SW wind (gusting over 30 mph). Air temperature about 20°F with a windchill down to -2°F.

A steady light rainfall began in Idyllwild (at 5550′) at about 1230.

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Weather and snow update 25th November 2019

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While thousands of hours of labor are provided for free, this Report is wholly dependent on small private donations to cover its direct costs (e.g., gear, gas, web space). It looks like we will have another busy winter, followed by an even busier PCT season. Every contribution is invaluable, and your donation helps subsidise the thousands of thru-hikers who also use the Report. If you find the Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

The first snow storm of this winter last week will be quickly followed by a much more substantial system this week. Although we hiked to San Jacinto Peak this morning, conditions reported here are only valid until sometime on Wednesday 27th, when heavy rain and snowfall are forecast to start (see Weather below). This week’s storm will be unusually cold and severe for November, so please plan accordingly and exercise considerable caution.

Currently all main trails, including the main routes on both east and west sides of San Jacinto Peak, have been well-traveled and are obvious.

Melting has been considerable in most areas, with nearly half of last week’s snowfall lost above 8000′, and much more lost below that elevation.

Microspikes are currently useful at all elevations above about 6500′. They are especially useful for descending the trails, many of which are icy and compacted. Snow depths are now inadequate for snowshoeing.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering windchill effects. Temperatures later this week will be far below seasonal at all elevations, with dangerously low windchill values in the high country.

WEATHER The likelihood of an historically large storm this week (27th-29th November) is fading. However the storm will still be dramatic for November, with 12+ inches of snow forecast for 6000′ elevation (e.g. Fern Valley and Pine Cove) and at least two feet of snow above 10,000′ elevation. It will be unseasonably cold everywhere, with high country windchill temperatures well below 0°F (-18°C). Heavy rainfall is possible at mid-elevations at least.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Monday 25th November 2019 at 0950 the air temperature was 34.4°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 16.6°F (-9°C), 33% relative humidity, and a wild WNW wind sustained at 32.0 mph gusting to 48.4 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 20th November 2019 at 0710 the air temperature was 20.5°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.3°F (-16°C), 100% relative humidity, and a brisk WSW wind sustained at 5.0 mph gusting to 16.3 mph, while lightly snowing.

Wellman Divide this morning, 25th November 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6800′ are at least partially snow-covered, and microspikes are recommended. See comments above.

Reliable, well-traveled tracks are currently in place for Devil’s Slide Trail, Tahquitz-area meadows, Tahquitz Peak from the PCT, South Ridge Trail, Deer Springs Trail, Marion Mountain Trail, and from the Tram through to San Jacinto Peak.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Average depth is given, drifts may be significantly deeper than the average in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 6″ (about 10″ on 21st November)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 5″

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 5″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 4″ (about 7″ on 21st)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 0″ (5″ on 21st)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 0″ (4″ on 21st).

New tree down about two-thirds of the way up Devil’s Slide Trail, 25th November 2019. Given the weather forecast this is likely to be here for weeks or even months.

Snow storm update 22nd November 2019

[Weather update: the likelihood of an historically large storm this week (27th-29th November) is fading. However the storm will still be dramatic for November, with 10+ inches of snow forecast for 6000′ elevation (e.g. Fern Valley and Pine Cove) and about two feet of snow above 10,000′ elevation. It will be unseasonably cold everywhere. Heavy rainfall is possible at mid-elevations at least. Please be prepared and very cautious.]

[Technical note: although it seems counterintuitive, I have found that I am often able to upload videos more easily to YouTube from the high country than upload text updates to this website. Please subscribe to San Jacinto Trail Report on YouTube if you would like to get the latest real time updates from the mountain, in addition to the greater detail here on the website. Thank you.]

Our first snow storm of winter 2019/2020 arrived in some style on Wednesday. Rain starting around midday on Tuesday 19th turned to snow at San Jacinto Peak that afternoon as I hiked up, but did not start settling due to the warm ground until early on Wednesday. Even then, it fell as very fine rounded grain snow initially, struggling to accumulate to more than an inch or so. Eventually the Peak received 10″ of snow, though it is interesting to note that this is not much more than at Saddle Junction, nearly 3000′ lower.

At lower elevations, rain did not turn to snow until about midday Wednesday. Thereafter, it snowed intermittently all afternoon, in large, wet snowflakes that accumulated rapidly. For the whole system in a 24 hour period, Idyllwild (at 5550′) received 0.86″ rain followed by 4.0″ snow.

I recorded a short video at about 0730 Wednesday morning at San Jacinto Peak, which give a flavour for the conditions at that time, available here on YouTube.

Thursday morning we hiked Devil’s Slide Trail to Saddle Junction to assess snow depths at about 6500′ and 8100′. In that two hour period, the snow depth at Humber Park reduced by almost half due to rapid melting (and the sun has barely even emerged from the cloud yet).

This morning we hiked from home to Tahquitz Peak via South Ridge Trail to assess snow conditions on a (largely) sun-exposed route.

Microspikes are potentially useful at all elevations above about 7000′. In fresh powder they are not currently required, but with freeze-thaw cycles the trails will become increasingly icy and compacted. With anticipated rapid melting, the elevation at which spikes are useful may rise quickly. Snow depths were marginal for snowshoeing above about 8000′ elevation today, but will likely be unsuitable by the weekend.

Waterproof footwear is recommended on approach trails at least (e.g., Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs) due to slushy melting snow, especially after early morning. It will also be invaluable for at least the next few days elsewhere in soft melting snow.

Despite dramatic temperature fluctuations between storm systems, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering windchill effects.

The warmth of the ground before the snow fell will speed the rapid melting during the warming trend expected in the next few days. Conditions may therefore change quickly. Depending on when the Trail Report is updated, it is possible to find less snow this weekend than is described here.

Saddle Junction (c.8070′) at about 0900 on 21st November 2019.

WEATHER As is so often the case these days following a good winter storm, a significant warming trend follows. This will be especially pronounced on 23rd-25th November which will melt much of the new snow at all elevations, especially below about 8000′. However this brief, warm spell will be followed by another storm system, currently forecast to be even more dramatic than this week’s. Precipitation on 27th-29th November may be more than double what we experienced in recent days.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 20th November 2019 at 0710 the air temperature was 20.5°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.3°F (-16°C), 100% relative humidity, and a brisk WSW wind sustained at 5.0 mph gusting to 16.3 mph, while lightly snowing.

At the Peak on 19th November 2019 at 1645 the air temperature was 33.4°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 19.3°F (-7°C), 89% relative humidity, and an sharp WSW wind at 9.0 mph gusting to 20.4 mph, while lightly snowing.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 5000′ were completely snow-covered Thursday morning, but by this afternoon melting meant that many areas below 7000′ were already becoming patchy and/or slushy. Those areas may refreeze overnight and be more challenging underfoot in subsequent days (microspikes recommended).

All trails above 7500′, including much of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains, are currently under continuous snow cover approximately 2-10″ deep.

Reliable, well-traveled tracks are currently in place for (at least): Devil’s Slide Trail, Tahquitz-area meadows, Tahquitz Peak from the PCT, South Ridge Trail, and from the Tram through to San Jacinto Peak.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 21st November are as follows. Average depth is given, drifts may be significantly deeper than the average in places. Altitudes are approximate. Many thanks to Kyle Eubanks for data from Long Valley to the Peak.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 10″

Long Valley (8500′): 5″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 7″

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 5.0″ (early Thursday morning, now almost all melted)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 4.0″ (all melted by today).

North spring at Wellman’s Cienega at about noon on 20th November (above), and the previous afternoon for comparison (below).