Snow storm 25th-26th December 2019

Please continue to check this page for periodic storm updates throughout the next 48 hours.

Sunset from San Jacinto Peak, 26th December 2019.

UPDATED @ 1820 Thursday 26th

Despite a few minor flurries in the late afternoon, San Jacinto Peak did not add any signficant new snow to the update below. The clouds largely cleared near dusk, producing a spectacular, if frigid, sunset. I recorded a short video, available here on YouTube.

UPDATED @ 1320 Thursday 26th

It continues to snow off-and-on lightly in the high country, with San Jacinto Peak having added about three more inches today, for a storm total of right around 15″. A good snowfall, but well below most projections. Grand total at the Peak is about four feet, but with enormous variation due to drifting (although it is now almost calm).

Snowfall has been similarly light in Idyllwild, where an additional 1.5″ today takes the storm total to 7″ (at 5550′), closer to, but still below, most forecasts.

UPDATED @ 0905 Thursday 26th

A howling south-east gale in the high country overnight produced about 8-10″ of fresh snowfall at San Jacinto Peak. Massive drifting has obliterated all tracks, certainly at least above about 8000′.

On the east side the snow level is down to 4500′ elevation on Skyline Trail, with a dusting as low as 2500′ in Andreas Canyon (Maynard Mine). Clouds are starting to break over Palm Springs. (Many thanks to Florian Boyd for that information.)

In Idyllwild at 5550′ elevation another 4.5″ of snow fell overnight, for a current storm total of 5.5″ there (many thanks to Anne King for that information).

UPDATED @ 1645 Wednesday 25th

Off-and-on light snow overnight resulted in a fresh inch in Idyllwild, and a white Christmas (the third in the last four years). Further snow today added up to another 1.75″ (at 5550′ elevation).

I snowshoed to San Jacinto Peak again today, in a mix of blue sky and blizzard conditions. Most of my broken trails from yesterday were gone, filled in with fresh snow and spindrift from the strong winds. An additional 2″ snow was on Devil’s Slide Trail and at Saddle Junction, with a consistent 3″ everywhere above 9000′. Later this afternoon the Peak was right at the top of the cloud, and the sun put in a couple of brief appearances. Temperatures were very similar to yesterday, with a windchill of -11°F (-24°C) from a harsh SW wind gusting to 29.8 mph.

Brief snow update 24th December 2019

A lengthy hike today in moderate depth fresh snow to and from San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman Divide allowed us to compare snow and trail conditions with the same trails hiked on multiple days last week.

A short video I posted on YouTube illustrates how spectacular (and chilly) it was at San Jacinto Peak at noon today.

It started snowing yesterday at 0845 (we were hiking at about 6200′ near Pine Cove). Lower down in Idyllwild, the snow quickly turned to sleet then rain which ended by 1600, and at 5550′ we ended up with 0.55″ rain for the day. Long Valley (8600′) added about 4-5″ snow on top of the roughly one inch that remained from earlier in the winter.

Hiking conditions were slow this morning, breaking trail from Humber Park to San Jacinto Peak. There was a little postholing on Devil’s Slide Trail, and then I switched to snowshoes for the remainder of the day.

As we descended Devil’s Slide Trail mid-afternoon we ran into a brief snowstorm that had dusted Idyllwild with a fraction of an inch, and about 0.5″ at Humber Park (see photo below).

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. In summary, areas above 7000′ added between 5-11″ fresh powder.

Snowshoes are strongly recommended everywhere above about 7500′ elevation, with microspikes advised below that elevation. This advice is only applicable for today (and perhaps tomorrow) with much more snow forecast, as discussed below.

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

The view of the brief afternoon snowstorm over Idyllwild at about 1505 this afternoon, 24th December 2019, from high on Devil’s Slide Trail. Suicide Rock is to the right of the view.

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.

WEATHER A major snowstorm – the sixth storm of this winter – is forecast for 25th-26th December. Cold temperatures and substantial precipitation are forecast at all elevations, with snow level as low as 4000′ elevation, and with as much as two feet of snow in the high country and 10+” possible at mid-elevations. NWS San Diego has issued a YouTube video discussion of this next storm.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Tuesday 24th December 2019 at 1210 the air temperature was 12.3°F (-11°C), with a windchill temperature of -11.1°F (-24°C), 81% relative humidity, and a sharp WSW wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 21.8 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 20th December 2019 at 0940 the air temperature was 38.3°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.3°F (1°C), 27% relative humidity, and a very light ENE wind sustained at 3.5 mph gusting to 5.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6000′ are snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 There are no steps to follow through the moderately angled icy snow for about 0.25 miles of this trail. Do not attempt to cross these ice slopes without additional traction. Microspikes are essential, crampons are preferable, ideally in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it). Snowshoes are not advised as the fresh few inches of snow are not consolidated with the earlier hard icy snow underneath, making for a very treacherous footing.

The Peak Trail above 10,300′ has not been traversed since before the late November storms. The only defined trail to San Jacinto Peak from the east is the steep option up the East Ridge.

Round Valley Trail from the Tram through to Wellman Divide has been traveled and an acceptable track through the snow is easy to follow.

Devil’s Slide Trail was well-traveled today and an obvious track is easy to follow (microspikes recommended).

Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely clear of snow in its lower half (below about 6000′).

South Ridge Trail is completely clear of snow to Old Lookout Flat (7800′), with limited icy snow patches from there to Tahquitz Peak, mainly above about 8400′. Microspikes are useful (but not essential), especially for descending when the snow is firm i.e. on cold mornings.

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.

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

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 33″ (23″ on 20th December)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 13″ (5″ on 20th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 16″ (9″ on 20th December)

Long Valley (8600′): 6″ (1″ on 20th December)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 8″ (2″ on 20th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 1.5″

Wellman Divide today 24th December 2019 (above) and on 20th December (below).

Trail update 20th December 2019

We spent this morning hiking to and from San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman Divide. This allowed for a comparison of snow and trail conditions with the same trails hiked four days ago, and with our hike from home of the Tahquitz Peak area trails on Wednesday 18th.

Hiking conditions continued to be near-perfect early this morning (as they have been all week) on firm snow, and the three of us ascended to San Jacinto Peak with no postholing and with minimal need for microspikes. The latter were useful for the descent down to about 7800′ on Devil’s Slide Trail however, and by about midday the softening snow made for less enjoyable hiking than a few hours earlier.

It was remarkably warm today – for late December – in the high country, with the windchill temperature at San Jacinto Peak almost exactly 40°F warmer than on Monday 16th!

Snow depths measured today and earlier this week are listed at the foot of this posting. In summary, all of the high country has continued to lose a few inches of snow depth since Monday despite much colder temperatures than recent weeks.

Microspikes are recommended for all trails above about 8500′. Snow depth is marginal for snowshoeing only off-trail above about 8800′ elevation. Established tracks are too compacted for comfortable snowshoeing.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering windchill effects (notably in the last ten days of 2019).

WEATHER Temperatures will be well above seasonal this weekend (21st-22nd), before the fifth storm system of this winter is forecast to arrive on Monday 23rd. Cold temperatures and moderate precipitation are forecast daily for 23rd to 26th December at all elevations, with as much as 12-15″ snow possible in the high country across the week. The latest video from NWS San Diego discusses this multiple storm pattern in detail.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Friday 20th December 2019 at 0940 the air temperature was 38.3°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.3°F (1°C), 27% relative humidity, and a very light ENE wind sustained at 3.5 mph gusting to 5.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 16th December 2019 at 0940 the air temperature was 14.7°F (-10°C), with a windchill temperature of -5.1°F (-21°C), 18% relative humidity, and a cool due North wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 18.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 7800′ are at least partly snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 There are no steps to follow through the moderately angled icy snow for about 0.25 miles of this trail. We crossed early morning on 18th and found it somewhat challenging. Please do not attempt to cross these ice slopes without additional traction. Microspikes are essential, ideally in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it) for this often treacherous trail.

The Peak Trail above 10,300′ has not been traversed since before the late November storms. The only defined trail to San Jacinto Peak from the east is the steep option up the East Ridge.

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.

Devil’s Slide Trail is free of snow to 7800′, with limited patchy compacted snow thereafter to Saddle Junction.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is completely clear of snow.

South Ridge Trail is completely clear of snow to Old Lookout Flat (7800′), with limited icy snow patches from there to Tahquitz Peak, mainly above about 8400′. Microspikes are useful (but not essential), especially for descending when the snow is firm i.e. on cold mornings.

Deer Springs Trail is basically clear of snow below 8100′, with just a few patches near Strawberry Junction. Snow cover is patchy from there to about 8500′ (no traction required), and thereafter is continuous. An excellent track is now in place through to Little Round Valley. From there to San Jacinto Peak, the visible consolidated 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 8000′.

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.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today – or earlier this week as indicated – are as follows. Please note that average depth is given; drifts may be much deeper than the average in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 23″ (36″ on 4th December)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 20″ on 16th December (25″ on 9th December)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 5″ (16″ on 4th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 9″ (18″ on 4th December)

Fuller Ridge Trail south end (8980′): 12″ on 16th December

Marion Mountain Trail junction with PCT (8800′): 10″ on 16th December

Tahquitz Peak (8836′): 8′ on 18th December

Long Valley (8600′): 1″

Chinquapin Flat (8500′): 6″ on 18th December

Strawberry Junction (8100′): <1″ on 16th December (5-6″ on 9th December)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 2″ (13″ on 4th December)

Wellman Divide today 20th December 2019 (above) and eleven days earlier (below) on 9th December 2019.

Trail and snow update 16th December 2019

[UPDATE Wednesday 18th December: I have updated trail conditions below for either side of Tahquitz Peak based on our hike this morning from home ascending from the north (via Saddle Junction) and descending South Ridge.]

We spent this morning 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.

Pleasantly frigid conditions – 26°F in Idyllwild and much colder in the high country – were ideal for hiking this morning on compacted icy snow, and I ascended to San Jacinto Peak with zero postholing and in a time typical of dry summer trail conditions. Microspikes were useful above 9000′, and especially for the descent down to about 8500′. These conditions should remain largely unchanged this week (at least in the mornings) with cold temperatures forecast at all elevations. Trail conditions are discussed in a short video recorded this morning at San Jacinto Peak. Overall snow conditions on the trails were more reminiscent of April than of late December.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. In summary, all elevations above 6500′ have lost many inches of snow depth in the past week (depending on sun exposure of the location), with all trails below about 8000′ now largely snow-free.

Microspikes are recommended for all trails above about 8500′. Snow depths are marginally adequate for snowshoeing off-trail above about 8800′ elevation. Established tracks are too compacted for comfortable snowshoeing.

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

WEATHER Cool temperatures below seasonal continue for the next couple of days, before returning to above seasonal on 19th-22nd December. The fifth storm system of this winter is currently forecast to arrive overnight on Sunday 22nd, with cold temperatures and precipitation possible for the entire Christmas week.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Monday 16th December 2019 at 0940 the air temperature was 14.7°F (-10°C), with a windchill temperature of -5.1°F (-21°C), 18% relative humidity, and a cool due North wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 18.2 mph.

By contrast, at the Peak on Thursday 12th December 2019 at 0940 the air temperature was 40.2°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 27.7°F (-3°C), 71% relative humidity, and a brisk NW wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 25.7 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 7800′ are at least partly snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 [updated 18th December 2019] There are no steps to follow through the angled icy snow for about 0.25 miles of this trail section. We crossed early this morning and found it quite challenging. Do not attempt to cross these ice slopes without additional traction. Microspikes (at a minimum) are essential, ideally in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it), for this treacherous trail.

The Peak Trail above 10,300′ has not been completely traversed since before the late November storms. The only defined trail is the steeper option up the East Ridge (although the current track does not follow the normal trail route).

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.

Devil’s Slide Trail is free of snow to 7800′, with only patchy compacted snow cover thereafter to Saddle Junction.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is completely clear of snow.

South Ridge Trail [updated 18th December] is completely clear of snow to Old Lookout Flat (7800′), with limited icy snow patches from there to Tahquitz Peak, mainly above about 8400′. Microspikes are useful (but not essential), especially for descending when the snow is firm i.e. on cold mornings.

Deer Springs Trail is basically clear of snow below 8100′, with just a few patches near Strawberry Junction. Snow cover is patchy from there to about 8500′ (no traction required), and thereafter is continuous. 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 course and is steep.

Marion Mountain Trail has been well traveled and has a good track to follow. It is largely clear below 8000′.

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.

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′): 26″ (36″ on 4th December)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 20″ (25″ on 9th December)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 7″ (previously 16″ on 4th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 11″ (previously 18″ on 4th December)

Fuller Ridge Trail south end (8980′): 12″

Marion Mountain Trail junction with PCT (8800′): 10″

Long Valley (8600′): 2″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): <1″ (5-6″ on 9th December)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 2″ (previously 13″ on 4th December)

Strawberry Junction (8100′ elevation) on 16th December 2019 (above) and the same view for comparison one week earlier on 9th December (below).

Brief trail update 12th December 2019

We spent this morning briskly hiking to and from San Jacinto Peak via the east side (Devil’s Slide to East Ridge Trail via Wellman Divide). This allowed for a comparison of snow and trail conditions with three days ago. That update from Monday 9th (linked here) contains much more detail for trails all around the mountain and a more thorough discussion of the current snow situation.

Hiking conditions were unexpectedly good early this morning on reasonably firm 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′ on Devil’s Slide Trail however, and by the late morning I was postholing fairly badly in the rapidly softening snow.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. In summary, all elevations above 6500′ have lost 3-5″ of snow depth since Monday, and consequently trails below about 7800′ are now largely snow-free.

Microspikes are recommended and will become increasingly useful especially for descending trails when icy and compacted. Snow depths are currently adequate for snowshoeing off-trail above about 8800′ elevation. Snowshoes will be useful on trails from the late morning onwards for the next couple of days to avoid postholing in soft snowmelt.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering windchill effects (especially after Saturday 14th December).

WEATHER Warm conditions well above seasonal are forecast for the next two days. Obviously rapid snowmelt will continue at all elevations. Temperatures are forecast to return to seasonal norms – well below freezing in the high country – starting Sunday 15th December (with a possibility of precipitation forecast starting Sunday 23rd).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Thursday 12th December 2019 at 0940 the air temperature was 40.2°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 27.7°F (-3°C), 71% relative humidity, and a brisk NW wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 25.7 mph.

At the Peak on 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.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 7700′ are snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

The Peak Trail above 10,300′ has not been traversed since before the late November storms. The only defined trail is the steeper option up the East Ridge Trail (even that was partly obscured today by spindrift).

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.

Devil’s Slide Trail is virtually free of snow to 7700′, with a compacted snow track thereafter to Saddle Junction (about 90% coverage). Note that Humber Park is now open.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is completely clear of snow.

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′): 25″ (36″ on 4th December)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 10″ (16″ on 4th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 11″ (18″ on 4th December)

Long Valley (8600′): 2″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 5″ (13″ on 4th December)

Wellman Divide this morning 12th December 2019 (above), and the same view three days earlier on 9th December (below).

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.

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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