Snow and trail update 25th February 2019

Today I hiked to San Jacinto Peak from Humber Park via Saddle Junction and Wellman Divide, descending the same way (in order to try to consolidate a reasonable trail). Above Saddle Junction, the only (vague) tracks to be seen anywhere on the mountain were my own from last week’s report. Early in the morning I was able to use microspikes to ascend to Saddle Junction in firm icy snow, but the rest of the hike was in snowshoes. The early afternoon descent below 9000′ felt a bit like wading through soft serve ice cream, as the snow melted in the warm sun.

I recorded the following vlog just after 1145 at San Jacinto Peak this morning. (After I recorded this video the Tram gave an updated reopening date of 1st April.)

The only additional snowfall has been 3-5″ in the afternoon just after my last trail report on 21st. However it was obvious from the state of the trees that the upper mountain (>9000′) was above that precipitation. Strong winds at higher elevations have smoothed the existing snow so there is little or no evidence of the trail system. Considerable caution is required with both route-finding and traversing slopes.

Snow depths measured today are as follows. Only average depth is given, due to the complexity of past storms. Strong winds have led to major drifting; drifts can be much greater than the average depth in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 60″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 45″

Annie’s Junction (State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction) (9050′): 40″

Saddle Junction (8100′): 35″

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6500′): 18″

Access closures The Valentine’s Day floods continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway remains closed until about 1st April. Check their website for updates. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from north of Bay Tree Spring to just north of Alandale until at least April. Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Valle Vista (Hemet) is closed until sometime in March. The status of some of the trailhead access roads was updated in my posting yesterday. Many minor roads around Idyllwild-Pine Cove are also closed or damaged.

San Jacinto Peak summit hut today, 25th February 2019, under four feet of snow (plus drifting)

WEATHER Temperatures will remain above average through at least the first week of March, with steady melting of snow at all elevations, especially on sun-exposed slopes (which at this time of year is almost everything except the north faces). Light precipitation is forecast as a possibility for Saturday 2nd March, with very light rain to at least 8000′, and a dusting of snow (maybe an inch) above that.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Monday 25th February 2019, at 1145 the air temperature was 27°F (-3°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.5°F (-11°C), 57% relative humidity, and a fresh 7 mph NW wind gusting to 15 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 15th February 2019, at 0945 the air temperature was 19.5°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -2.4°F (-19°C), 31% relative humidity, and a harsh 18 mph WSW wind gusting to 27.8 mph.

San Jacinto Peak, 25th February 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 4000′ remain snow-covered at this time, despite rapid melting in the past couple of days, especially below 7000′. Measured average snow depths are listed above. It continues to be delightful to see so many ephemeral creeks flowing that had had little or no flow for much of the past six years.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country and below freezing above 10,000′, especially when considering windchill effects.

Snowshoes are currently essential on all “trails” above 7000′, especially after mid-morning, and anywhere in the backcountry (and at lower elevations on warm afternoons in soft snow). Microspikes are currently useful only in the early mornings on well consolidated trails (e.g. Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs). Crampons (with an ice axe) may become increasingly useful at the highest elevations if the snow consolidates with freeze-thaw cycles, at least in the mornings.

Waterproof footwear is strongly recommended on the approach trails (e.g., Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs) due to multiple stream crossings and considerable water flowing in the trails.

Routefinding will be very challenging for those not familiar with the area. Almost all signage above about 8500′ is completely snow-covered. Most PCT marker posts at lower elevations are also completely obscured. Very few trails have been broken whatsoever, and even my snowshoe tracks from early this morning were becoming vague by my descent a few hours later due to melting of surface snow.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat will be extremely treacherous. Crampons in conjunction with an ice axe, and knowledge of how to use both, are essential.

Wellman Divide (9700′) with the sign completely buried today 25th February 2019 (above) and a similar view ten days ago, with sign just visible, on 15th February (below)

Trailhead access update 24th February 2019

With so much poor and inaccurate information floating around since the Valentine’s Day flood event and subsequent heavy snowfalls, I checked on some trailhead access issues today.

Black Mountain Road (4S01) is completely inaccessible by vehicle. Highway 243 is closed both north and south of the start of the road. To the south, the highway is closed – a hard closure with concrete barriers – just north of Alandale, more than two miles before the Black Mountain Road junction. The highway hasn’t even been ploughed north of the closure. Snow is currently about two feet deep there. This closure greatly impacts access to Black Mountain, Fuller Ridge campground and the Pacific Crest Trail at the north end of Fuller Ridge.

Azalea Drive has been narrowly ploughed. This is the access for Marion Mountain Trail, Seven Pines Trail, and associated campgrounds. The ploughed road still requires 4WD/AWD or chains, and has almost no pullout or turn-around opportunities. It has been ploughed only as far as the junction of the Dark Canyon (4S02) and Marion Mountain campground (4S71) roads. Therefore it requires 0.6 mile of snowshoeing to reach the trailhead for Marion Mountain Trail. Snow was about two feet deep there today.

Inexplicably South Ridge Road (5S11) remains open. This is the access for South Ridge Trail and associated yellow post campsites. Although currently covered in deep snow, the upper section of this road was severely damaged on Valentine’s Day, and is both impassable to vehicles and very dangerous.

Partial snow update 21st February 2019

This afternoon I snowshoed to the top of Angel’s Glide at 9000′ on the PCT north of Saddle Junction. Since the unprecedented rainfall/flooding event on Valentine’s Day last week (discussed in detail in the posting linked here), the mountain has received some snowfall on six of the subsequent seven days. Although none of the snowfall events in isolation have been dramatic, the cumulative effect has been substantial.

The snow conditions that I described the day after the Valentine’s Day rains (described in the previous posting here) have changed beyond all recognition. There is now thick powder everywhere above 5000′. with shallower snow down below 4000′. See more detailed discussion in Trail conditions section below.

Access closures The Valentine’s Day floods have made access to the San Jacinto mountains extremely challenging for non-residents. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway remains closed indefinitely due to damage to the access road to Valley Station. It seems likely to be weeks rather than days before the tram can safely reopen. Check their website for updates. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed at Bay Tree Spring (4 miles north of Lake Fulmor) for at least two months. Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Valle Vista is closed for as much as one month. In addition, periodic closures for maintenance of varying durations are happening on the only route to Idyllwild (Highway 74 from Garner Valley then Highway 243 up from Mountain Center).

Snow depths measured today are as follows. Only average depth is given, due to the complexity of past storms. Strong winds have led to major drifting and drifts are much deeper than the average depth in places. Altitudes are approximate.

Annie’s Junction (State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction) (9050′): 46″

Saddle Junction (8100′): 34″ [added 18″ since 15th February]

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6500′): 17″ [added 14″ since 15th February]

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 15″ [all new snow since 14th February]

Saddle Junction signage, today Thursday 21st February 2019. My ski pole gives a reference. Usually these signs are 10 feet above the trail but are now nearly at eye level.

WEATHER It was prescient when I wrote six days ago that in the El Niño-driven winter we are having, it seems that conditions will remain highly variable and unpredictable. It is currently snowing again heavily in Idyllwild (Thursday evening). Then over the next week we will experience a very rapid warming trend, with temperatures forecast to be above seasonal by late next week. By the middle of next week, temperatures may well be just above freezing at San Jacinto Peak. This is proving to be quite the winter for wildly variable weather.

At San Jacinto Peak on Friday 15th February 2019, at 0945 the air temperature was 19.5°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -2.4°F (-19°C), 31% relative humidity, and a harsh 18 mph WSW wind gusting to 27.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS All trails above about 3000′ are snow-covered at this time. With extremely rapid warming forecast over the next week, there will be considerable snow loss at lower elevations due to melting (<6000′). However snow depths are such that it will take considerable time for melting to have any significant impact at higher elevations. Measured average snow depths are listed above.

For the next few days hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country (>8000′) and below freezing above 10,000′.

Snowshoes are currently essential on all trails above 5000′. Microspikes may become useful on lower elevation trails during the course of the coming week. Waterproof footwear is strongly recommended on the approach trails (<8200′) due to considerable water flowing in the trails.

Routefinding is currently extremely challenging for those hikers who are not very familiar with the area, with areas above 8000′ largely just featureless snow slopes with no hint of trails whatsoever. Almost all signage above about 8500′ is currently completely snow-covered and almost all PCT marker posts and some other signage above about 7500′ is also obscured. No trails have been broken and snow is so deep that travel is slow and arduous, even with snowshoes.

Crampons in conjunction with an ice axe, and good knowledge of how to use both, are essential for moderate angle terrain, such as the Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat, sections of Fuller Ridge Trail, and any off-trail travel on the north faces of San Jacinto Peak and Tahquitz Peak.

There is an increased risk of avalanche conditions at the highest elevations. With considerable fresh snowfall on top of the icy Valentine’s Day frozen rain layer at all elevations, accompanied by strong SW-W winds at higher elevations, wind slab and storm slab conditions are possible, especially on easterly and northerly slopes. Upper Snow Creek drainage is infamously vulnerable, but the exposed easterly slopes above about 9800′ e.g., between Wellman Divide and Miller and San Jacinto peaks, could be unstable too. Cautious routefinding and conservative decision-making are recommended in any areas that display signs of possible instability (shooting cracks, whumphing, large cracks perpendicular to slope).

The waterfall that is currently Middle Spring on Devil’s Slide Trail, today Thursday 21st February 2019.

Snow and trail update 15th February 2019

[UPDATE Wednesday 20th February: it started snowing again gently at 1230, with about one inch accumulating in three hours. After two days of torrential rain last week it has snowed on five of the subsequent six days (so far!). I plan a more detailed update on the snow conditions in the high country for Friday.]

[UPDATE Tuesday 19th February: Following major road damage in the Valentine’s Day rains, CalTrans have announced Highway 243 between Banning and Lake Fulmor will be closed for at least two months, and Highway 74 between Valle Vista and Mountain Center will be closed for at least one month.]

[UPDATE Monday 18th February: in Idyllwild we received 5.75″ more fresh snow overnight, and then two more inches this afternoon, for a total of about 10″ around town. The high country received only a few additional inches. It even snowed an inch in Garner Valley (4100′). Highway 74 is currently open at Lake Hemet to all traffic.]

[UPDATE Sunday 17th February: It started snowing in Idyllwild at 1200 today, and is accumulating at 0.5″ per hour (at least thru 1900). The Highway 74 access issue remains unpredictable. This morning it was open to all traffic at Lake Hemet, as it was yesterday. By early afternoon, CHP was allowing only residents, homeowners, and employees uphill, as was the case on Friday. Visitors should be aware that if they try to come up to Idyllwild by the one and only open route, they risk getting turned around depending on the day or the weather.]

[UPDATE II Saturday 16th February: Highway 74 from Garner Valley to Mountain Center and Highway 243 from Mountain Center to Idyllwild are open to all traffic (not just residents). When descending from Idyllwild, use the Saunders Meadow Road diversion (i.e. past the transfer station) as Hwy 243 is single lane for uphill traffic only. All other road closures remain in effect.]

[UPDATE I Saturday 16th February: Just back from a hike from home up South Ridge Trail to Old Lookout Flat. About 3.5″ fresh snow at top of South Ridge Road (6500′) and the same depth at Old Lookout Flat (7800′). Bitter conditions high up with 30-40 mph winds. Idyllwild (at 5550′) had 2.25″ of snow overnight, but melting is now very rapid at town elevation. South Ridge Road has a huge boulder in the road at 0.4 miles up, and was severely damaged by washouts from 0.7 miles to the top. Do not attempt vehicular access. At Long Valley (8600′) there was little more than an inch of fresh snowfall.]

Following the unprecedented rainfall and flooding event yesterday, discussed in detail in the posting linked here, today I hiked to San Jacinto Peak from Humber Park via Saddle Junction and Wellman Divide, descending Deer Springs Trail to the Suicide Rock Trail, then back to Humber via the Suicide Climbers Trail. There was not a single track anywhere to be seen on the mountain.

I recorded a rambling and overly long (sorry) vlog at about 0945 at San Jacinto Peak this morning, available on YouTube at this link.

For the second time this year, it rained all the way to San Jacinto Peak, and consequently snowfall in the upper elevations was far below what had been forecast, with barely 5″ at San Jacinto Peak, and only 1-2″ above 10,000′. Even that snowfall seemed to have been accompanied by freezing rain, so there was barely any powder on top of very icy snow.

Relatively mild and heavy rain, accompanied by strong winds, has smoothed the existing snow at all elevations, so there is very little evidence of the trails, especially above 8500′. This also makes even fairly low angle exposed slopes (like those on the Peak Trail above Wellman Divide) quite challenging to traverse in anything other than crampons. Considerable caution is required with both route-finding and traversing slopes.

Currently, there is no change to the timetable for road closures that I outlined yesterday. However, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will be closed indefinitely due to flood damage to the access road to Valley Station. Check their website for updates.

Snow depths measured today are as follows. Only average depth is given, due to the complexity of past storms. Strong winds have led to major drifting; drifts can be much greater than the average depth in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 55″ [was c.50″ on Monday 11th]

Little Round Valley (9800′): 40″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 30″

Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT at junction with Deer Springs Trail (8950′): 36″

Annie’s Junction (State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction) (9050′): 24″

Marion Mountain Trail at junction with PCT/Deer Springs Trail (8800′): 22″

Saddle Junction (8100′): 16″ [was 26″ on Monday 11th]

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 11″

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6500′): 3″ [was 7″ on Monday 11th]

WEATHER Well, it can’t be as crazy as it was on Valentine’s Day! However, in the El Niño-driven winter we are having, it seems that conditions will remain highly variable and unpredictable. Minor storms with snowfall down as low as 5000′ are forecast for tonight and Sunday 17th. Snowfall at all elevations may be just a few inches at most, with about 2-3″ forecast for the Peak on Sunday. Then a potentially more substantial storm is currently predicted around Thursday 21st, with greater snowfall possible (4-9″ at the Peak}. Temperatures will remain well below average for the foreseeable future, with consequently little or no melting of snow and ice above 6500′.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Friday 15th February 2019, at 0945 the air temperature was 19.5°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -2.4°F (-19°C), 31% relative humidity, and a harsh 18 mph WSW wind gusting to 27.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 11th February 2019, at 1225 the air temperature was 22°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.6°F (-16°C), 28% relative humidity, and a moderate 9 mph WNW wind gusting to 18.3 mph.

20190215_145650
Middle Spring well before dawn this morning, 15th February 2019. It looked more like Falls Creek than Devil’s Slide Trail (with only a hint of hyperbole)!

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6000′ remain snow-covered at this time, despite considerable snow loss at lower elevations due to rainfall. Measured average snow depths are listed above. Trail damage from the rain event yesterday was less than feared. Although many washouts occurred in areas where streams cross trails, none were so severe as to be impassable. In fact, it was delightful to see so many ephemeral creeks flowing that had had little or no flow for much of the past six years.

For at least the next ten days hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country (>6000′) and well below freezing above 10,000′ (with potential for severe cold when considering windchill effects).

Microspikes (or even better crampons with an ice axe) are currently essential on all trails above 6500′, especially in the morning. Snowshoes may soon be useful depending on the depth of fresh snowfalls, and/or during afternoon melting on exposed and lower elevation trails.

Waterproof footwear is strongly recommended on the approach trails (below 8200′) due to multiple stream crossings and considerable water flowing in the trails.

Routefinding will be challenging for those not familiar with the area. Almost all signage above about 9000′ is currently completely snow-covered. Many PCT marker posts at lower elevations are also completely obscured. No trails had been broken whatsoever on my circuit of the mountain today. The snow is so icy from the rainfall yesterday that I did not posthole at all until the early afternoon descent of lower Deer Springs Trail. Consequently there are no tracks anywhere on the trail system above 8000′. Below about 8900′ there were subtle signs of the trails from traffic earlier in the week, but these may disappear in the next day or so with forecast fresh snowfalls.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat will be extremely treacherous. Crampons in conjunction with an ice axe, and knowledge of how to use both, are essential.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is almost completely snow-covered with about 1-2″ snow, but is passable without additional traction. [Thanks to Anne and Anabel King for this update from today.]

20190215_130642
Marion Creek crossing the Suicide Rock Trail, this afternoon, 15th February 2019.

Major flooding event 14th February 2019

Today Idyllwild and neighbouring communities in the San Jacinto mountains experienced a once-in-a-generation rainfall and flooding event. Many minor roads remain flooded, severely damaged, and/or impassable. There is currently no road access to Idyllwild. Unless under an evacuation order, please do not attempt to move around or visit the region. Highway 74 is closed at Lake Hemet and Valle Vista (both with an estimated reopening on 16th February).

Highway 243 from Pine Cove to Banning is also closed. This CHP link has a dramatic photo of Highway 243 completely washed out just north of Lake Fulmor. CalTrans has already posted an estimated reopening of 23rd February.

In about 24 hours we had an astonishing 7.77″ of rain in Idyllwild. By 0700 this morning, we had had 3.66″ of rain at home in Idyllwild (5550′) since yesterday. It finally stopped raining at about 1745 by which time we’d had an additional 4.11″.

With air temperatures above 45°F for much of the day, and so much mild rain, melting of existing snow was prodigious. Huge snow loss – basically all of the 6″ we had in town – massively increased the flood water volumes.

Long Valley (8600′) received a remarkable 9.1″ of rain in the same period. It then started snowing after about 1415 on top of the rain-saturated pre-existing snow. So far there has been only about an inch of fresh snowfall. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has been closed all day, and will not reopen until Saturday 16th February.

I will start assessment of trail conditions tomorrow. There may be washouts, trees down, and even landslides, in addition to horrible slushy snow conditions, that may make hiking anywhere in the region challenging for the foreseeable future.

My video below shows where upper Fern Valley Road – access for Humber Park – is impassable as Chinquapin Creek has flooded the road (with floodwater 2-3 feet deep).

Strawberry Creek where it flows under Village Center Drive near Idyllwild Post Office at about 0900.

I took this video of Strawberry Creek – between River Drive and Tahquitz Drive – at about 0800 this morning. Nowadays it is rarely more than a gentle trickle at best. Not today.

Tahquitz Drive just down from the Episcopal Church turned into a river, a foot deep in places, with the snow berms functioning as river banks.

Storm update 11th February 2019

[UPDATE Wednesday 13th February: We are bracing ourselves for a major “pineapple express” storm system. Currently much lighter rainfall than forecast, with barely 0.1″ in the past five hours since it started raining at 1300 this afternoon in Idyllwild. As much as 5″ (125mm) of rain has been forecast for elevations below about 8000′, with about two feet of snow possible at the high peaks. Flooding and landslides are possible on mountain roads, with voluntary evacuations in/near areas affected by the July 2018 Cranston Fire.]

Following a minor two-day storm over the weekend, today I snowshoed to San Jacinto Peak from Humber Park via Saddle Junction and Wellman Divide, descending the same way. For the second time in a few days I was breaking trail all the way to the Peak. Snowfall yesterday evening plus windy, drifting conditions, meant that again there was not a single track anywhere to be seen on the mountain. Very unusually, when I returned to Saddle Junction this afternoon the only tracks visible for the day were those from my early morning ascent. I recorded the following vlog at San Jacinto Peak just after noon today.

The weekend storm occurred in two phases, some very light snow throughout the mountain on Saturday (mainly in the morning) and a somewhat heavier snowfall on Sunday that was confined to the western side of the mountain below 9000′ (the top of the mountain was above the cloud). Saturday snowfall was about one inch at all elevations. The Sunday snow produced an additional 2.5″ at 5550′ in Idyllwild, 3″ at Humber Park (6500′), 5″ at Saddle Junction (8100′), and 6″ at Annie’s Junction (9050′). There was no clear sign of significant fresh snowfall above about 9000′. Otherwise conditions looked very similar to those following last week’s major storm described in detail here. With cold conditions for the last week, signs of melting were minimal.

Snow depths measured today are as follows. Average current depth is given (known new accumulations are described above). Locations not surveyed since last week are estimated based on the depth six days ago and their elevation. Strong winds have led to major drifting, again even as low as 7500′ on Devil’s Slide Trail. Drifts can be double the average depth in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 50″ (with drifts averaging 5-6 feet)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 45″ [estimated]

Wellman Divide (9700′): 37″

Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT at junction with Deer Springs Trail (8950′): 38″ [estimated]

Annie’s Junction (State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction) (9050′): 31″

Marion Mountain Trail at junction with PCT/Deer Springs Trail (8800′): 27″ [estimated]

Saddle Junction (8100′): 26″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 20″ [estimated]

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6500′): 7″ (some significant recent melting)

San Gorgonio from San Jacinto Peak, today 11th February 2019.

WEATHER In keeping with the theme of this winter, a mild multi-day storm system is forecast from the afternoon of Wednesday 13th through to early morning Friday 15th. At San Jacinto Peak, about 1-1.5′ of snow is predicted across the period, although air temperatures even there will be only just below freezing. Most precipitation is forecast to fall as rain, potentially as high as 8500′, with the likelihood of a mix of rain, freezing rain, and snow above about 8000′. At all elevations below 8000′, at least three inches of rain are forecast in only a 30 hour period. Obviously this may lead to substantial loss of snow volume at mid and lower elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Monday 11th February 2019, at 1220 the air temperature was 22°F (-5.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.6°F (-16°C), 28% relative humidity, and a cool 9 mph WNW wind gusting to 18 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 6th February 2019, at 1150 the air temperature was 4.9°F (-15°C), with a windchill temperature of -31.7°F (-35°C), 71% relative humidity, and a savage 21 mph WNW wind gusting to 48.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 5000′ are completely snow-covered at this time (measured average snow depths are listed above). This includes almost the entire PCT from Highway 74 near Paradise Corner to below the Black Mountain Truck Trail (roughly PCT miles 150-195).

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country (>8000′) and well below freezing above 10,000′ (with potential for even more severe cold when considering windchill effects).

Snowshoes are currently strongly recommended everywhere above 6500′. Crampons or microspikes may soon be useful (following rain/freezing rain later this week) on almost all trails above about 7000′.

Waterproof footwear is recommended on the approach trails (below about 8200′) due to multiple stream crossings and water flowing in the trails. This will become quite extreme with the change in the weather in the next few days.

Routefinding will be challenging for those not familiar with the area. Almost all signage above about 9000′ is currently completely snow-covered. Many PCT marker posts and some other signs at lower elevations are also completely obscured. Few if any trails will be meaningfully broken prior to further precipitation this week.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat remains extremely treacherous. It has not been traversed since the latest snowfall. Crampons in conjunction with an ice axe, and knowledge of how to use both, are essential.

The Peak “Trail” at about 9800′ just above Wellman Divide, (above) today 11th February, and (below) Wednesday 6th February.

Major storm update 6th February 2019

[UPDATE Sunday 10th February: it has snowed gently on/off in Idyllwild (5550′) since 0900 this morning, adding about 2.0″ to the existing snow depth. It is clear and sunny higher on the mountain (>8000′) and on the eastern side, with no new snow accumulation today.]

[UPDATE Saturday 9th February: it snowed lightly in Idyllwild (5550′) this morning between 0800-1230, adding about 1.2″ to the existing snow. At the same time it was snowing higher on the mountain, also adding about an inch at higher elevations.]

Following another multi-day storm, today I snowshoed to San Jacinto Peak from Humber Park via Saddle Junction and Wellman Divide, descending Deer Springs Trail to the Suicide Rock Trail, then back to Humber via the Suicide Climbers Trail. I was breaking trail from pre-dawn to dusk, with not a single track anywhere to be seen on the mountain. I recorded the following vlog in spectacular, wild spindrift conditions just before noon (please excuse the ice in my moustache, it was chilly up there!).

What was effectively a four-day storm (at least at mid-elevations) started on Saturday with the heaviest snowfall at the highest elevations, as described in the previous update. A second significant snowfall occurred on Monday into Tuesday. At 5550′ elevation in Idyllwild, we ended up with an impressive 3.74″ of rain (early on) plus 6.25″ snow (towards the end of the storm). Snow level was at about 4000′ on both the east (below Mountain Center) and west (Pinyon) sides of the mountain.

Looking west from San Jacinto Peak towards Black Mountain, 6th February 2019.

Snow depths measured today are as follows. Only average depth is given, due to the complexity of past storms. Extremely strong winds have led to major drifting, even as low as 7500′ (on Devil’s Slide Trail, see photo below). Drifts can be double the average depth in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 50″ (with drifts averaging 5-6 feet)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 38″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 36″

Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT at junction with Deer Springs Trail (8950′): 32″

Annie’s Junction (State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction) (9050′): 25″

Marion Mountain Trail at junction with PCT/Deer Springs Trail (8800′): 22″

Saddle Junction (8100′): 20″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 15″

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6500′): 10″

Tahquitz Peak and Tahquitz Rock as seen from the Suicide Rock Trail this afternoon, 6th February 2019.

WEATHER For the first time this winter, it will remain cold post-storm. Overnight low temperatures will remain below freezing everywhere above 5000′ for the foreseeable future, so melting of snow and ice will be very slow. Some light precipitation (snow in the high country, mixed below 6500′) is forecast for Saturday morning and Sunday evening, with another possible multi-day storm later next week.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Wednesday 6th February 2019, at 1150 the air temperature was 4.9°F (-15°C), with a windchill temperature of -31.7°F (-35°C), 71% relative humidity, and a savage 21 mph WNW wind gusting to 48.8 mph.

At San Jacinto Peak on Sunday 3rd February 2019, at 0635 the air temperature was 13°F (-11°C), with a windchill temperature of -5°F (-21°C), 100% relative humidity, and a bitter 18 mph SW wind gusting to 25 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 4000′ are completely snow-covered at this time. Measured average snow depths are listed above.

For at least the next ten days hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country (>8000′) and well below freezing above 10,000′ (with potential for even more severe cold when considering windchill effects).

Snowshoes are very strongly recommended everywhere above 6500′. Crampons or microspikes will soon be useful (once heavily used trails are consolidated) on almost all trails above about 7000′.

Waterproof footwear is recommended on the approach trails (below 8200′) due to multiple stream crossings and water flowing in the trails.

Routefinding will be challenging for those not familiar with the area. Almost all signage above about 9000′ is currently completely snow-covered. Mamy PCT marker posts at lower elevations are also completely obscured. No trails had been broken whatsoever on my circuit of the mountain today. My snowshoe tracks on the east side ascent were quickly invisible due to strong winds and severe drifting. My tracks on the Deer Springs Trail will be more obvious as it was less windy lower down this afternoon, however I was off-trail for some of the descent and I would not recommend trying to ascend some of my route, even where it is visible.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat will be extremely treacherous. Crampons in conjunction with an ice axe, and knowledge of how to use both, are essential.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is completely snow-covered, but is passable without snowshoes. [Thanks to Anne and Anabel King for this update from today.]

Unusually heavy drifting for Devil’s Slide “Trail”, very early this morning at about 7800′ elevation.
The trail junction sign at Wellman Divide (9700′) this morning, 6th February 2019.
North Fork of the San Jacinto River at Deer Springs Trail, today 6th February 2019. All water sources above 8500′ are currently frozen and snow-covered.
Good luck trying to use the pit toilet in Little Round Valley anytime soon!