White Christmas! 25th December 2018

In Idyllwild and the high country we received a light snow today. I hiked to San Jacinto Peak early this morning from Humber Park via Wellman Divide, descending the same way. I recorded the following video at San Jacinto Peak at about 0815 this morning, but some details of snow depths are revised in the text below.

 

There was snow down to 5000′ that fell between 0700-1200 this morning, with a little rain overnight beforehand. In Idyllwild at 5550′, we had 0.08″ rain, followed by 0.5″ snow.

The snowfall pattern was somewhat unusual as the cloud level was around 10,000-11,000′. Consequently snowfall was intermittent at the higher elevations, and the greatest accumulations (3-4″) were between 9000-9800′.

Microspikes are useful, but not essential, on most trails above about 6000′ at this time (see snow depth details below). There is already rapid melting occurring below 6000′ , and this will likely extend to 7000′ in the next couple of days. However very cold overnight temperatures will result in considerable icing on the trails for the foreseeable future. Microspikes are especially most valuable in the early morning when snow is less soft, and for descending. Snowshoes are currently useful mainly for travel off-trail.

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

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

Weather Thankfully, after nearly three weeks of above average temperatures, cold weather will predominate for the remainder of December. There is no additional precipitation in the forecasts for the next week or so.

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

At the Peak on Friday 21st December, at 0845 the air temperature was 35.6°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 21.5°F (-5.5°C), 24% relative humidity, and a brisk 12 mph West wind gusting to 23 mph.

Measured snow depths are as follows. The first number is new accumulation today, the second (in parentheses) is the maximum depth at that location including the existing snow from earlier storms. Note that with so much melting this month, the deepest snow is very patchy, and at all elevations there were bare areas until this morning. Depths are averages, deeper wind-blown drifts will be encountered, especially at higher elevations. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 2″ (15″)

10,000′ elevation: 2″ (12″)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 4″ (10″)

Annie’s Junction (State Park boundary north of Saddle Jn) (9050′): 3″ (12′)

Saddle Junction (8100′): 1.5″ (4″)

Humber Park (6500′): 1.5″ (1.5″)

Idyllwild (5550′): 0.5″ (0.5″)

Comparative snow depths at 9700′. Wellman Divide trail junction sign (above) today 25th December 2018, (below) on 21st December, and (bottom) on 7th December!

Snow and trail update 21st December 2018

[UPDATE 24th December: starting tonight until at least the end of the month, very cold conditions should be expected across the high country (>8000′). At the high peaks, air temperatures will be well below freezing, with windchill temperatures about 20-50 degrees below freezing.]

[UPDATE 23rd December: during the federal government shutdown, the U.S. Forest Service Idyllwild Ranger Station is closed. Adventure passes and wilderness permits are not required (or at least unenforceable) until the shutdown ends.]

Happy Winter Solstice! Always a good day for hikers, knowing that we have six months of increasing day length to look forward to. Our hike to San Jacinto Peak this morning ascended from Humber Park via Wellman Divide and back. On Wednesday I spent a long day hiking Blaisdell Ridge and far up Falls Creek on the north face of San Jacinto for SAR work, which allowed me to assess the snow status on that aspect of the mountain.

All high elevation trails (>8500′) remain snow-covered. With unseasonal warm weather since Monday, rapid melting has continued, with many more inches of snow depth lost at all elevations in the past few days.

Snow depth at Saddle Junction is now 1-2″ and patchy (11-12″ just two weeks ago), and about 6″ at Wellman Divide (18″ two weeks ago). At Long Valley, only 1-2″ of snow remains. Snow level is at about 8000′ in Snow Creek, but overall snow is surprisingly sparse there.

Microspikes are useful, but not essential, on most trails above about 8000′ at this time (see details below). They are usually most valuable in the early morning when snow is less soft, and for descending. Snowshoes are currently useful only for extensive travel off-trail.

Starting on Monday 24th, hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or near freezing in the high country (>8000′ elevation), and below freezing at the highest elevations (well below freezing when considering windchill effects).

Weather Thankfully, the previous two weeks of very mild weather will come to an abrupt end next week, and temperatures may even be below average for the remainder of December. Current forecasts suggest the possibility of precipitation for the morning of 25th December, including light snow in the high country, which would be a great Christmas gift for the mountain.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Friday 21st December, at 0845 the air temperature was 35.6°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 21.5°F (-5.5°C), 24% relative humidity, and a brisk 12 mph West wind gusting to 23 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 17th December, at 0915 the air temperature was 21.4°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.8°F (-16°C), 85% relative humidity, and a fresh 9 mph due West wind gusting to 17 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat has an average depth of about 6-10″ of snow, however some drifted sections remain about 20″ deep. There is a reasonable trail from earlier foot traffic, however the snow is becoming icy, especially in the early mornings. Microspikes (with hiking poles or ice axe) are strongly recommended, especially for descending. [I would discourage carrying an ice axe if you aren’t familiar with how to use it.]

South Ridge Trail is clear of snow from the top of South Ridge Road to Old Lookout Flat (the plateau at 7800′). From 7800′ to Tahquitz Peak the trail is largely snow-covered in patches, with 2-4″ near Tahquitz Peak. There are some deeper drifts on the uppermost switchbacks. Depending on the firmness of the snow, microspikes are not necessary for ascending, but they are useful for descending the uppermost switchbacks.

Eastern slope trails All the main trails have been well traveled and are well consolidated. This includes all the Long Valley and Round Valley trails, and the East Ridge Trail on San Jacinto Peak.

Western slope trails These have still been less traveled than the east side, and as such require more care, but nevertheless largely have clear, firm tracks to follow (with some exceptions discussed below). Snow melt has been a little less dramatic on the western side, which isn’t exposed to the morning sun and is much more heavily forested, especially above about 9000′.

Deer Springs Trail The track between Little Round Valley and San Jacinto Peak is now more obvious (but steep) and microspikes are sufficient (and recommended).

Deer Springs Trail is completely clear of snow below 8200′, and microspikes are not required below 8600′.

Marion Mountain Trail has been heavily traveled, and the trail is largely clear of ice and snow below about 7800′.

Fuller Ridge Trail and Seven Pines Trail show no signs of use since the storm earlier this month, so route finding will be very challenging for those not fully familiar with these trails.

Devil’s Slide Trail is clear of snow below 7800′. Hikers comfortable with moderate snow travel will find microspikes are not required to Saddle Junction.

Pacific Crest Trail north from Saddle Junction is largely clear of snow to about 8800′, and then again from near Annie’s Junction to Strawberry Juntion.

The north spring at Wellman’s Cienega today, 21st December 2018 (above), and two weeks earlier on 7th December (below).

Snow and trail update 17th December 2018

Our hike today to San Jacinto Peak ascended from Humber Park via Wellman Divide and descended Deer Springs Trail. The video below covers the basics, with details in the text.

 

All high elevation trails (>8000′) remain largely or completely snow-covered. With unusually mild weather (today notwithstanding), melting continues to be extensive, with many more inches of snow depth lost at all elevations in the past few days. Some examples of the snow loss are shown in photos at the end of this blog post.

Microspikes are useful, but not essential, on most trails above about 8000′ at this time (see details below). They are usually most valuable in the early morning when conditions may be icy, and for descending. Snowshoes are currently useful only for travel off-trail.

With the exception of the next few warm days, in general hkers should be prepared for temperatures near freezing at the highest elevations (well below freezing when considering windchill effects). (See weather data below.)

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat has an average depth of about 10″ of snow, however some drifted sections are about 20-24″ deep. There is a reasonable trail from foot traffic at the weekend. Conditions are currently so mild overnight that the snow is not icy and the consolidated soft snow conditions are good for traversing this trail in microspikes, preferably with an ice axe. Microspikes (with hiking poles or axe) are recommended. I would discourage carrying an ice axe if you aren’t familiar with how to use it.

South Ridge Trail is almost entirely clear of snow from the top of South Ridge Road to Old Lookout Flat (the plateau at 7800′), and microspikes are not required. From 7800′ to Tahquitz Peak the trail is almost continuously snow-covered, with about 2″ depth lower down, rising to 4-6″ nearer Tahquitz Peak. There are some deeper drifts on the uppermost switchbacks. Depending on the firmness of the snow, microspikes are not necessary for ascending, but they are useful for descending to about 8000′.

Eastern slope trails All the main trails have been well traveled and are well consolidated. This includes all the Long Valley and Round Valley trails, and the East Ridge Trail on San Jacinto Peak.

Western slope trails These have still been less traveled than the east side, and as such require more care, but nevertheless largely have clear, firm tracks to follow (with some exceptions discussed below). Snow melt has been less dramatic on the western side, which isn’t exposed to the morning sun and is much more heavily forested, especially above about 9000′.

Deer Springs Trail The track between Little Round Valley and San Jacinto Peak is now more obvious (but steep) and microspikes are sufficient.

The trail is completely clear of snow below 8000′, and microspikes are not required below 8400′.

Marion Mountain Trail has been heavily traveled, and the trail is largely clear of ice and snow below about 7700′.

Fuller Ridge Trail and Seven Pines Trail still show no signs of use since last week’s storm, so route finding will be very challenging for those not fully familiar with these trails.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow below 7800′. Hikers comfortable with snow travel will find microspikes are not required to Saddle Junction.

Weather Today was a lovely cold winter day on the mountain, but regrettably above-average temperatures will continue for the next few days, before a return to normal next weekend (whatever normal is these days). There is a chance of waking up to a white Christmas, with a possibility of precipitation forecast for the early morning of 25th December.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Monday 17th December, at 0915 the air temperature was 21.4°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.8°F (-16°C), 85% relative humidity, and a fresh 9 mph due West wind gusting to 17 mph.

By contrast, at the Peak on Wednesday 12th December, at 0930 the air temperature was 34.6°F (1.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.3°F (-6°C), 24% relative humidity, and a moderate 8 mph NW wind gusting to 20 mph.

The Peak Trail just above Wellman Divide (above) today Monday 17th December 2018 and (below) the same view ten days earlier on Friday 7th December.

The trail junction sign at Wellman Divide (above) today Monday 17th December 2018 and (below) the same view ten days earlier on Friday 7th December.

Trail update 14th December 2018

Great news for local hiking! With effect tomorrow, Saturday 15th December, the U.S. Forest Service has reopened the Pacific Crest Trail (from Spitler Peak to Tahquitz Valley) and South Ridge Trail, that had been closed due to the Cranston Fire (the section of the PCT was also previously closed since the July 2013 Mountain Fire). The snow status of the South Ridge Trail is updated below. South Ridge Road is also reopening.

Also reopening are the Caramba and Cedar trails that were closed by the 2013 Mountain Fire. However those will remain unmaintained. They are somewhat overgrown, and navigation will be difficult for those who were not familiar with those trails prior to their closure.

The trail and road system around May Valley remains closed.

Today we took a circuitous hike to Tahquitz Peak (in order to check the trail on it’s north side). On both Wednesday and Monday we hiked to San Jacinto Peak, with diversions to assess side trails. An overview of last week’s storm and initial snow depths is at the 7th December report linked here.

All high elevation trails (>8000′) remain largely or completely snow-covered. With unusually mild weather, melting continues to be extensive, with many inches of snow depth lost at all elevations in the past week. A few challenging sections of trail remain however. Strong winds in the high country in the last few days have caused substantial drifting which has partly obscured some trails that were easily followed just 2-4 days ago. These include all the trails around San Jacinto peak above 10,300′, and the trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat.

Microspikes are recommended on most trails above about 7500′ at this time (see details below). They are usually most valuable in the early morning when conditions may be most icy, and for descending.

Snowshoes are currently useful only for (I) travel off-trail, (ii) Deer Springs Trail between Little Round Valley and San Jacinto Peak, (iii) and on those trails that have not been traveled since last week (listed below).

Despite relatively mild conditions at present, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near freezing at the highest elevations (well below freezing when considering windchill effects). (See weather data below.)

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat has an average depth of about 11″ of snow. However there has been heavy drifting in the past couple of days, and some sections are about 20-24″ deep, completely obscuring the consolidated trail from last weekend. Fortunately (or unfortunately, for those of us who want the snow to stick around), conditions are currently so mild overnight that the snow is not icy. This morning, the consolidated soft snow conditions were perfect for traversing this trail in microspikes with an ice axe. By the end of this weekend, another clearer trail may be in place. Microspikes (with poles or preferably an ice axe) are recommended. I would discourage the use of snowshoes on this section (the 35 degree slope makes it very challenging), and do not carry an ice axe if you aren’t familiar with how to use it.

Trail from Chinquapin Flat to Tahquitz Peak mid-morning today, 14th December 2018. If that doesn’t look like fun to you, probably best to turn back.

South Ridge Trail is almost entirely clear of snow from the top of South Ridge Road to Old Lookout Flat (the plateau at 7800′), and microspikes are not required. From 7800′ to Tahquitz Peak the trail is almost continuously snow-covered, with about 2″ depth lower down, rising to 4-6″ nearer Tahquitz Peak. There are some deeper drifts on the uppermost switchbacks. Depending on the firmness of the snow, microspikes are not necessary for ascending, but they are useful for descending to about 8000′.

Eastern slope trails All the main trails have been well traveled and are well consolidated. Consequently snowshoes are not required (except for the situations described above), and microspikes are adequate.

This includes all the Long Valley and Round Valley trails, and the East Ridge Trail on San Jacinto Peak (in fact the latter has been much more heavily traveled and is more consolidated than the Peak Trail).

Western slope trails These have been much less traveled than the east side, and as such require much more care and are slower going.

Based on visible tracks, only a handful of hikers have traversed between Little Round Valley and San Jacinto Peak since last week’s storm, and as such there is no clear, consolidated trail. Snowshoes are advisable.

Fuller Ridge Trail and Seven Pines Trail show no signs of use since last week’s storm, so route finding will be very challenging for those not fully familiar with these trails.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow below Strawberry Junction (8100′), and microspikes are not essential.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow below 7700′, and some hikers will find microspikes are not required below that elevation. Saddle Junction (now about 5-6″) has lost about half of its snow depth since the storm one week ago.

Weather Regrettably, above-average temperatures will continue for the foreseeable future (they’re even forecast to get a bit warmer next week). The air temperature at San Jacinto Peak on both Monday and Wednesday mornings was slightly warmer than in Idyllwild at dawn! Steady melting will continue, especially on slopes exposed to direct sun.

At San Jacinto Peak on Wednesday 12th December, at 0930 the air temperature was 34.6°F (1.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.3°F (-6°C), 24% relative humidity, and a moderate 8 mph NW wind gusting to 20 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 10th December, at 0920 the air temperature was 37.5°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 25°F (-4°C), only 9% relative humidity, and a steady 15 mph SW wind gusting to 20 mph.

Trail and snow update 10th December 2018

We hiked to San Jacinto Peak from Humber Park via Wellman Divide this morning, descending via Deer Springs Trail, with several diversions to assess side trails. I used microspikes only, although these were not ideal for uppermost Deer Springs Trail.

An overview of last week’s storm and snow depths is at the previous report linked here.

All high elevation trails (>7500′) remain snow-covered. Melting has been extensive, with several inches of snow depth lost at all elevations in just the past three days.

Microspikes are recommended on all trails above about 7500′ at this time (see details below). They are especially valuable in the morning before diurnal melting has started, and for descending.

Snowshoes are useful only for travel off-trail, for Deer Springs Trail between Little Round Valley and San Jacinto Peak, and on those trails that have not been traveled since last week (listed below).

Despite mild conditions at present, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures around freezing above about 8000′ (at lower elevations on some days), and below freezing at the highest elevations (well below freezing when considering windchill effects). (See weather data below.)

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Eastern slope trails All the main trails have been well traveled and are well consolidated. Consequently snowshoes are not required (except for the situations described above), and microspikes are adequate.

This includes all the Long Valley and Round Valley trails, the Sid Davis Trail, and the East Ridge Trail on San Jacinto Peak (in fact the latter has been more heavily traveled and is more consolidated than the Peak Trail).

Western slope trails These have been much less traveled than the east side, and as such require much more care and are slower going.

Based on visible tracks, only a handful of hikers have traversed between Little Round Valley and San Jacinto Peak since last week’s storm, and as such there is no clear, consolidated trail. Snowshoes are advisable.

Fuller Ridge Trail and Seven Pines Trail show no signs of use since last week’s storm, so route finding will be very challenging for those not fully familiar with these trails.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow below Strawberry Junction (8100′), and microspikes are not essential. Strawberry Junction lost about a quarter of its snow depth since Friday (now at about 6″).

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow below 7500′, and some hikers will find microspikes are not essential below that elevation. Saddle Junction lost about one third of its snow since Friday (now 7-8″ depth).

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat has about 12″ of icy snow. It was well traveled at the weekend and has a reasonable trail to follow with extreme care. Microspikes (and poles or an ice axe) are strongly recommended.

Photos: (above) The Peak Trail above Wellman Divide early this morning, 10th December, with (below) the same view from 7th December.

Weather Regrettably, above-average temperatures will continue for the foreseeable future. The air temperature at San Jacinto Peak this morning was slightly warmer than in Idyllwild at dawn! Steady melting will likely continue, especially on exposed slopes and below about 9000′.

There is a slim possibility of light precipitation on Monday 17th, after which a continuing unseasonal warming trend is forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Monday 10th December, at 0920 the air temperature was 37.5°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 25°F (-4°C), only 9% relative humidity, and a steady 15 mph SW wind gusting to 20 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 7th December, at 1030 the air temperature was 21°F (-8°C), with a windchill temperature of 5.8°F (-15°C), 100% relative humidity, and a moderate 12 mph NNE wind gusting to at least 14 mph.

More snow! 7th December 2018

I hiked to San Jacinto Peak on the morning of Wednesday 5th (to get some “before storm” photos), and snowshoed up and back today in spectacular conditions. Special thanks to Kyle Eubanks for reporting snow conditions as he descended the west side (while I ascended the east).

The latest Trail Report video:

 

We got a good storm! Literally the best snowfall up here in two years. All mid- and high-elevation trails are snow-covered at present. Snow accumulated above about 7000′ elevation (see details below). There was about 7-8″ of new snow at 8000′, and around 12″ at and above 9000′.

Snowshoes are useful above about 8000′, and strongly recommended above 9000′.

Microspikes are recommended on all trails above about 6500′ elevation at this time.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing above about 7000′ (at lower elevations on some days), and below freezing at the highest elevations (well below freezing when considering windchill effects). (See weather data below.)

Measured snow depths are as follows. These are total depths, (including the existing snow from the storm last week). These are averages, deeper wind-blown drifts will be encountered, especially at higher elevatons.

Eastern side: Wellman Divide 22″, Annie’s Junction 18″ (State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction), Saddle Junction 11″, Humber Park 0.5″.

Western side: Strawberry Junction 8″, Marion Mountain Trail (top) 12″, Fuller Ridge Trail at junction with Deer Springs 14″, Little Round Valley 18″.

San Jacinto Peak: 24-30″.

The Peak “trail” above Wellman Divide early this morning, 7th December 2018.

Weather It started snowing lightly at 1000 on Wednesday as I descended past Wellman Divide. It rained almost continuously in Idyllwild from Wednesday morning to Thursday night, for a total of 1.88″ at 5550′ elevation. The weather system was unusually warm, so snowfall was confined to above 7500′ until Thursday night when it descended to 6500′ (but left very little snow at that elevation).

At San Jacinto Peak today, Friday 7th December, at 1030 the air temperature was 21°F (-8°C), with a windchill temperature of 5.8°F (-15°C), 100% relative humidity, and a moderate 12 mph NNE wind gusting to at least 14 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 5th December, at 0915 the air temperature was 27.7°F (-3°C), with a windchill temperature of 10°F (-13°C), 48% relative humidity, and a strong 18 mph SW wind gusting to 26 mph.

The bad news is that unusually warm (for December) conditions are forecast for much of the next week or so. Melting was already rapid as I descended below 9000′, and Kyle reported that on lower Deer Springs Trail “the whole trail was a river”. Considerable melting at the lower elevations that currently have snow, and in areas that are exposed to direct sun, is to be expected.

Photos: (above) the view from San Jacinto Peak towards Jean Peak and Marion Mountain on Wednesday morning 5th December, and (below) the same view today.

Photos: (above) the trail junction sign at Wellman Divide (9700′) on Wednesday morning 5th December, and (below) the same view today, 7th December.

Photos: (above) the north spring at Wellman’s Cienega on Wednesday morning 5th December, and (below) the same view today, 7th December.

Snow update 3rd December 2018

[UPDATE Thursday 6th Dec: By 1100 there had been 1.2″ rain at 5550′ in Idyllwild, where it has been raining almost continuously since Wednesday morning. I took a quick hike yesterday morning to San Jacinto Peak, where it started snowing as we descended past Wellman Divide at 10 a.m. Then there was on/off light snow down to Humber Park. However it is a very mild system, coming from the SSW, and it is now raining at Humber Park with the snow level at about 7200′. Current forecasts suggest about 5″ inches of additional snow may fall at San Jacinto Peak today. Next full blog update will be post-storm on Friday 7th December.]

We hiked up to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman’s Divide this morning, and messed around in uppermost Snow Creek, to assess the status of melting and any changes in snow depths.

Trail conditions The snow situation is largely unchanged from the previous report of 30th November linked here. Please read that report for details. Snow depths at locations above 7500′ were largely unchanged.

Sufficient foot traffic on all major trails means that these are now relatively easy to follow. This includes Deer Springs Trail through Little Round Valley, and the Long Valley and Round Valley trails, all through to San Jacinto Peak.

Although it only received about 6″ of snow last week, the north side of Tahquitz Peak is quite treacherous, including the section of trail between Chinquapin Flat and Tahquitz Peak. It can be especially dangerous when descending from Tahquitz Peak, and in the morning when icy.

Extensive melting was taking place below 7500′ later this morning on sections of trail exposed to direct sun, such as lower Devil’s Slide, where the snow was becoming very patchy.

Microspikes are currently recommended on all trails above about 7000′ elevation. They are especially useful in the morning when snow is hard and icy, and when descending.

Weather At San Jacinto Peak today, Monday 3rd December, at 0945 the air temperature was a relatively mild 28°F (-2°C), but with a frigid windchill temperature of 8.3°F (-13°C), 58% relative humidity, and a stiff 18 mph WSW wind gusting to 31 mph.

Hikers should now be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing above about 7000′ (at lower elevations on some days), and below freezing at the highest elevations (but much colder when considering windchill effects).

Water conditions Early this morning both Jolley and Middle springs were flowing on Devil’s Slide Trail, both useful water sources for the many dogs walked on this trail. Wellman’s Cienega (9300′) was partly unfrozen and flowing well at the springs this morning.

Wellman’s Cienega North spring, 3rd December 2018.