Trails and weather 4th February 2020

[UPDATED 7th February to include the latest forecast for the storm on 9th-10th, and new information from my hike today around Tahquitz Peak, and from yesterday to San Jacinto Peak.]

We have hiked to San Jacinto Peak four of the past five mornings, affording a check of most major routes. South Ridge and the Tahquitz Peak area have also been hiked twice in the past four days. Delightfully frigid temperatures made for solid hiking on icy snow yesterday and today. Chilly conditions at San Jacinto Peak this morning are discussed in a short video available on YouTube.

In the early hours of the morning of Monday 3rd, we had 0.04″ rain in Idyllwild, with <0.25″ snow between 6400′-9100′ elevation. There was no fresh snowfall in the high country, which was above the cloud. By the time I descended from the Peak late morning, the fresh snow had already disappeared below 7600′, and almost all of it was gone today.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Strong winds in the high country may cause spindrift to obscure parts of even the heavily traveled trails. Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Microspikes remain useful in some areas (see below) for hikers inexperienced on snow and ice, on compacted, well-traveled trails, in particular for descending. Hikers with suitable footwear and hiking poles will likely not need spikes. Snowshoes may be useful in limited areas off-trail above about 9500′ elevation. This information only applies through Sunday 9th (when fresh snowfall is expected).

Despite unseaonably warm weather on some days, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially far below freezing when considering windchil effects (see below for weather recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 5th February.

WEATHER Following the current short but severe cold spell, there will be yet another rapid swing to above average temperatures (mainly 7th-8th February). The new video from NWS San Diego (issued on 7th Feb) indicates a good chance of precipitation at the beginning and end of next week (9th-14th February), before a return to warmer, dry conditions in the second half of the month. Current forecasts anticipate a light snowfall above about 4000′, with a few inches possible in the high country, mainly on 9th-10th February.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Wednesday 4th February 2020, at 1010 the air temperature was 2.5°F (-16°C), with a windchill of -28.1°F (-33°C), 52% relative humidity, and a sharp due North wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 29.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 3rd February 2020, at 0910 the air temperature was 18.4°F (-7°C), with a windchill of -2.5°F (-19°C), 22% relative humidity, and a chilly WSW wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 23.9 mph.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has stated there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. The video report from 7th October (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes may be useful, but certainly not essential, on some of the PCT for patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 165 and 191, depending upon your comfort level on icy snow. See below for conditions on some specifc sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Options for thru-hikers are Strawberry Junction and Little Round Valley.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 9000′ remain largely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below). Some sections of trails above about 7800′ may have limited snow cover.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction with just a few tiny patches close to the junction (microspikes not required). The PCT section from here to Fuller Ridge is almost clear of snow to about 8700′ elevation (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction), then there is  continuous snow cover thereafter, with a well-traveled, consolidated track to follow. A track above 9000′ to Little Round Valley is consolidated, but be advised that it does not follow the established trail in places. Above Little Round Valley there is a direct (i.e. steep) track to follow to San Jacinto Peak. Microspikes are useful for descending.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) has been clearing quickly, especially on sun-exposed slopes, mainly Miles 186.5-188.5. There are tracks to follow through the snow.

Marion Mountain Trail has been heavily traveled and has a good consolidated track to follow. Microspikes are useful, but not required, for descending the uppermost 0.5 mile. Note the road to Marion Mountain trailhead has been open all winter and is clear of snow.

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, on to San Jacinto Peak.

Devil’s Slide Trail has limited icy snow cover in patches, mainly in the 0.1 mile nearest to Saddle Junction. Microspikes may be helpful in some areas above 7700′, but are not required.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

The parts of Willow Creek Trail and Caramba Trail nearest to Saddle Junction have well-defined tracks, likely heading around Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The PCT southbound from Saddle Junction has been traveled to Chinquapin Flat.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is clearing surprisingly quickly, the snow drifts are softening (on warm days), and crampons are no longer required. Microspikes are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it). In the morning, overnight wind conditions and the freeze-thaw cycle may well have covered the existing steps through the angled icy snow for 0.1-0.2 mile.

My freshly cut steps 0.2 mile north of Tahquitz Peak, mid morning on 7th February 2020.

South Ridge Road is clear of ice. South Ridge Trail is basically clear to Tahquitz Peak, but with a few easily-traversed tiny remnant icy snow patches. Microspikes are no longer required.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic so far this winter, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this 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 this trail in snow.

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

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 4th February 2020 (except where otherwise indicated). Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 20″ (was 47″ on 27th December)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 19″ (on 29th January 2020)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 2″ (was 27″ on 27th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 11″ (was 25″ on 27th December)

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 185.5) at junction with Deer Springs Trail (8950′): 12″ (on 29th January 2020)

Long Valley (8600′): <1″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 0″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 1″ (was 19″ on 27th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 0″ (was 11″ on 27th December)

A very icy north spring at Wellman’s Cienega early this morning, 4th February 2020.

 

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Trail update 29th January 2020

[UPDATE Monday 3rd February: in the early hours of this morning we had 0.04″ rain in Idyllwild. On my morning hike to San Jacinto Peak there was <0.25″ snow between 6400-9100′ elevation. No fresh snowfall in the high country, which was above the cloud. By the time I descended late morning, the fresh snow had already disappeared below 7600′. Trail conditions are unchanged from the report below. Note that the windchill at the Peak this morning was -3°F (-19°C).]

[UPDATE Saturday 1st February: based on hikes to San Jacinto Peak today and yesterday, recent strong winds – it was gusting up to 43 mph this morning – have not generated sufficient spindrift to obscure any established trails.]

We have hiked to San Jacinto Peak three of the past four mornings, affording a check of most major routes, including a full east-west circuit today. South Ridge and the Tahquitz Peak area has also been hiked three times in the past week.

Relatively mild weather for late January is forecast to get even warmer briefly this weekend. Steady melting will continue unabated. Current trail conditions are more reminiscent of April than late January. In general the snow softens rapidly during the day but postholing doesn’t get too bad until after noon.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. On days with strong winds in the high country drifting snow may obscure parts of even the heavily traveled trails. Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Microspikes can be useful on-trail for compacted, well-traveled trails, in particular for descending. Crampons are an option above about 9000′ both on- and off-trail, but generally less practical than spikes. Snowshoes remain useful off-trail above about 9000′ elevation.

Despite warmer conditions on some days, hikers should prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering windchill (see below for temperatures recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

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

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be on a rollercoaster into early February. After a couple of colder and windy days today and tomorrow, this weekend (1st-2nd Feb) will be unseasonably warm. A short but very severe cold spell early next week (3rd-5th Feb) will be immediately followed by another rapid swing to well-above average temperatures.

There is a possibility of very light precipitation at mid-elevations on Sunday night. The latest video summary from NWS San Diego indicates a chance of precipitation in the second week (8th-14th) of February, before a return to warm, dry conditions in the second half of the month.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Wednesday 29th January 2020, at 0820 the air temperature was 21.1°F (-6°C), with a windchill of 5.5°F (-15°C), 46% relative humidity, and a gusty NNW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 16.3 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 27th January 2020, at 0940 the air temperature was 32.1°F (0°C), with a windchill of 22.3°F (-5°C), 39% relative humidity, and a steady North wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 11.6 mph.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL NOTES

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has stated there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. My video report from 7th October (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes are useful, but not essential, on most of the PCT for patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 165 and 191, depending upon your comfort level on icy snow. They are most useful if you plan to leave the PCT to summit San Jacinto Peak. See below for conditions on some specifc sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Options for thru-hikers are Strawberry Junction and Little Round Valley.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 9000′ remain largely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below). Some sections of trails above about 7800′ may be snow-covered. Limited icy snow patches remain in places above 6600′.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction with just a few tiny patches close to the junction (microspikes not required). The PCT section from here to Fuller Ridge is almost clear of snow to about 8700′ elevation (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction), then there is  continuous snow cover thereafter, with a well-traveled, consolidated track to follow. A track above 9000′ to Little Round Valley is consolidated, but be advised that it does not follow the established trail in places. Above Little Round Valley there is a direct (i.e. steep) track to follow to San Jacinto Peak. Microspikes are useful for descending.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) is clearing quickly, especially on sun-exposed slopes, mainly Miles 186.5-188.5. There are tracks to follow through the snow.

Marion Mountain Trail has been heavily traveled and has a good consolidated track to follow. Microspikes are useful, but not required, for descending the uppermost 0.5 mile. Note the road to Marion Mountain trailhead has been open all winter and is clear of snow.

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, on to San Jacinto Peak.

Skyline Trail has well-traveled tracks through the rapidly melting patchy icy snow above about 7300′.

Devil’s Slide Trail has very limited icy snow cover in patches, mainly in the 0.1 mile nearest to Saddle Junction. Microspikes may be helpful for some hikers but are not required.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

The parts of Willow Creek Trail and Caramba Trail nearest to Saddle Junction have well-defined tracks, likely heading around Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The PCT southbound from Saddle Junction has been traveled to Chinquapin Flat.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has not been visibly traversed through to the fire lookout in 2020. There are no steps to follow through the angled icy snow for at least 0.25 miles. However the trail is clearing surprisingly quickly, the snow drifts are softening rapidly, and crampons are no longer required. Microspikes are recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it). Snowshoes are not advised.

South Ridge Road is clear of ice.

South Ridge Trail is virtually clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, but with small remnant icy snow patches in its first 0.5 mile. Snow cover is very limited (<10%) higher up, but is almost continuous on the final six switchbacks close to Tahquitz Peak. Microspikes are useful, but not required, above about 8500′.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic so far this winter, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this 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 this trail in snow.

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

SNOW DEPTHS measured today, 29th January 2020. Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 22″ (was 47″ on 27th December)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 19″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 4″ (was 27″ on 27th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 13″ (was 25″ on 27th December)

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 185.5) at junction with Deer Springs Trail (8950′): 12″

Long Valley (8600′): 1″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 0″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 2″ (was 19″ on 27th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 0″ (was 11″ on 27th December)

Strawberry Junction (PCT Mile 183.1) at 8100′ elevation on 28th January 2020 (above) and about a month earlier on 30th December 2019 for comparison (below).

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Snow and trail update 22nd January 2020

[UPDATE 25th January: information for the Tahquitz Peak and South Ridge areas is updated below, based on hikes in the last two days.]

Early this morning I hiked briskly to San Jacinto Peak, ascending and descending via the east side. The minor storm in the early hours of Tuesday 21st that produced 0.19″ rain in Idyllwild also generated a tiny snowfall in the high country, with snow level near 9000′ elevation, and a maximum of 1.5″ snow at San Jacinto Peak. With a slightly loose layer of fresh snow on top of icy snow, microspikes were useful above 9000′. However even descending I had removed them by 8500′.

With mild conditions returning for the remainder of January, the snow softens rapidly during the day but postholing doesn’t get too bad until after noon. Conditions underfoot will broadly remain similar for the foreseeable future. Melting will continue to be steady at all elevations.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Strong winds in the high country may cause drifting snow to obscure parts of even the heavily traveled trails. Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere. For most of my 13 ascents so far this month, the quarter-mile of trail either side of Annie’s Junction, and some short sections of the Peak Trail above 9800′, were partly obscured by overnight spindrift.

Microspikes are recommended on-trail for compacted, well-traveled trails. They are especially useful for descending. Crampons are a good option, but generally less convenient than spikes, both on- and off-trail above about 9000′. Snowshoes are currently useful off-trail almost everywhere above about 9000′ elevation.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering windchill effects (see below for temperatures I have recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

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

Tahquitz Ridge at sunrise today, 22nd January 2020, as seen from the top of Angel’s Glide (PCT Mile 181).

WEATHER Temperatures at all elevations are forecast to be above seasonal for the remainder of January. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast, and according to the latest outlook from NWS San Diego prospects for snow in early February are poor.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Wednesday 22nd January 2020, at 0825 the air temperature was 28.2°F (-2°C), with a windchill of 9.3°F (-13°C), 75% relative humidity, and a stiff NW wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 29.7 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 20th January 2020, at 0925 the air temperature was 31.3°F (0°C), with a windchill of 16.5°F (-9°C), 24% relative humidity, and a brisk SSE wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 20.3 mph, under completely cloudy skies.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL NOTES

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has stated there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. My video report from 7th October (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes are useful on most of the PCT for snow travel between approximately Miles 165 and 192. Depending upon your comfort level on icy snow, spikes are not currently essential however. See below for conditions on some specifc sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Options for thru-hikers are Strawberry Junction and Little Round Valley.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 9000′ remain completely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below). Long sections of trails above about 7800′ may be snow-covered. Limited icy snow patches remain in places above 6500′.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow to Strawberry Junction with just a few patches close to the junction (microspikes not required). The PCT section from here to Fuller Ridge has patchy snow to about 8500′ elevation, then continuous snow cover thereafter, with a reasonable consolidated track to follow. A track above 9000′ to Little Round Valley is reasonably consolidated (in the early morning at least), but be advised that it does not follow the established trail in places. Above Little Round Valley there is a very direct (i.e. steep) track to follow to San Jacinto Peak. Microspikes are useful for descending. Snowshoes may be useful after late morning and on warm days.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) has one set of posthole tracks through the snow. I have not yet assessed how accurately these conform to the PCT route.

Marion Mountain Trail has been heavily traveled and has a good consolidated track to follow. Microspikes are useful, especially for descending.

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, on to San Jacinto Peak.

Skyline Trail has well-traveled tracks through the patchy snow above about 7000′.

Devil’s Slide Trail has increasingly patchy icy snow cover at only about 40% below 7700′, but higher up snow cover remains 80%. Microspikes are useful but not required.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow, with just a few persistent thin icy snow patches near Humber Park. Microspikes not required.

The parts of Willow Creek Trail and Caramba Trail nearest to Saddle Junction have well-defined snowshoe tracks, likely heading around Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The PCT southbound from Saddle Junction has been lightly traveled to Chinquapin Flat.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has not been visibly traversed through to the fire lookout in 2020 [updated 24th January]. There are no steps to follow through the angled icy snow for at least 0.25 miles. However the trail is clearing surprisingly quickly, the snow drifts are softening rapidly, and crampons are no longer required. Microspikes are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it). Snowshoes are not advised.

South Ridge Road [updated 25th January] is clear of snow.

South Ridge Trail [updated 24th January] is almost clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, but with some remnant icy snow patches in its first 0.5 mile. Snow cover is very limited (<10%) higher up, but becomes almost continuous on the final six switchbacks close to Tahquitz Peak. Microspikes are useful above about 8500′, or lower if descending.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic so far this winter, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this 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 this trail in snow.

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

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 22nd January 2020 are as follows (or on 16th January where indicated). Please note that average depth is given; drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 27″ (was 47″ on 27th December)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 22″ (on 16th January)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 6″ (was 27″ on 27th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 17″ (was 25″ on 27th December, heavy drifting here)

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 185.5) at junction with Deer Springs Trail (8950′): 14″ (on 16th January)

Long Valley (8600′): 2″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): <1″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 4″ (was 19″ on 27th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): <1″ (was 11″ on 27th December)

Wellman Divide on 20th January 2020 (above) and ten days earlier on 10th January for comparison (below)

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While thousands of hours of labor are provided for free, this Report is wholly dependent on small private donations to cover its direct costs (e.g., gear, gas, web space). With a busy PCT season coming soon, every contribution is invaluable, and your donation helps subsidise the thousands of thru-hikers who also use the Report. If you find the Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail update 16th January 2020

[UPDATE 17th January: all three of us hiked to San Jacinto Peak today to assess last night’s “storm”. Drizzle fell in Idyllwild (0.05 inch at 5550′) up to about 6000′. It fell as freezing rain to 9000′. Also between about 7500′-9000′ there was barely a dusting of fresh snow (<0.25″) under the verglas. The high country had some rime on the trees, but no fresh snowfall.]

Very early this morning I hiked briskly to San Jacinto Peak, ascending the east side and descending via the west side. Today I did not put on microspikes until Wellman’s Cienega, but frankly could have summited without them. They were useful for descending however. Although I carried snowshoes for uppermost Deer Springs Trail, that early in the morning I postholed very little down to 9000′, and not at all thereafter, so only used microspikes.

With persistent spring-like conditions in the high country (>8500′), the snow softens rapidly during the day but postholing doesn’t get too bad until after noon. Snowshoes remain helpful for any off-trail travel. Conditions underfoot will broadly remain similar for the foreseeable future, but will be more challenging on warmer days (such as this weekend, 18th-19th January). Despite cool overnight temperatures, melting has been steady at all elevations, and at an alarming rate for early January.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Strong winds this week in the high country may cause drifting snow to obscure parts of even the heavily traveled trails. Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere. For most of my nine ascents so far this month, the quarter-mile of trail either side of Annie’s Junction, and some short sections of the Peak Trail above 9800′, were partly obscured by overnight spindrift.

Microspikes are recommended on-trail for compacted, well-traveled trails. They are especially useful for descending. Crampons are an option, but less convenient than spikes, for firm trails above about 9000′. Snowshoes are currently recommended off-trail almost everywhere above about 8500′ elevation.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering windchill effects (see below for temperatures I have recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

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

WEATHER Temperatures at mid-elevations are forecast to be near or above seasonal for the remainder of January (above seasonal in the high country). Light precipitation is possible for the evening of Thursday 16th (rain at Idyllwild elevation, little or no snow in the high country). Regrettably, long term forecasts for a very dry January seem to be increasingly accurate, a scary prospect for what is historically one of the wettest months of the year.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Thursday 16th January 2020, at 0825 the air temperature was 26.3°F (-3°C), with a windchill of 7.7°F (-14°C), 27% relative humidity, and a stiff SW wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 27.0 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 14th January 2020, at 0940 the air temperature was 32.1°F (0°C), with a windchill of 15.6°F (-9°C), 23% relative humidity, and a gusty due West wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 29.2 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 12th January 2020 at 0815 the air temperature was 29.2°F (-2°C), with a windchill of 11.1°F (-12°C), 42% relative humidity, and a frigid WNW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 31.2 mph.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL NOTES

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS informed me last week that there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. My updated video report from 7th October (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes are useful on most of the PCT for snow travel between approximately Miles 165 and 192. Depending upon your comfort level on icy snow, they may not currently be essential however. See below for conditions on specifc sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Options for thru-hikers are Strawberry Junction and Little Round Valley.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 8500′ are completely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow to Strawberry Junction with just a few patches close to the junction (microspikes not required). The PCT section from here to Fuller Ridge has patchy snow to about 8500′ elevation, then continuous snow cover thereafter, with a reasonable consolidated track to follow. The track above 9000′ to Little Round Valley is easy to follow and reasonably consolidated (in the early morning at least), but be advised that it does not follow the established trail in many places. Above Little Round Valley there is a very direct (i.e. steep) single set of snowshoe and posthole tracks to follow to San Jacinto Peak. Microspikes are useful for descending. Snowshoes will be useful after late morning and on warm days.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) has one set of posthole tracks through the snow. I have not yet assessed how accurately these conform to the PCT route.

Marion Mountain Trail has been heavily traveled and has a good consolidated track to follow. Microspikes are useful, especially for descending.

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, on to San Jacinto Peak.

Skyline Trail has been traveled since the last snowfall, and tracks exist through the increasingly patchy snow above about 7000′.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a very well-worn track to follow. Icy snow cover is increasingly patchy and only about 50% below 7700′, but higher up snow cover remains 90%. Microspikes are useful later in the day and for descending, but are not essential.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely clear, with about 30% cover of thin icy snow at the upper end near Humber Park. Microspikes are not required.

The parts of Willow Creek Trail and Caramba Trail nearest to Saddle Junction have well-defined snowshoe tracks, likely heading around Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The PCT southbound from Saddle Junction has been lightly traveled to Chinquapin Flat.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has not been reliably traversed through to the fire lookout in 2020. There limited or no steps to follow through the angled icy snow for at least 0.25 miles, depending on recent drifting. These ice slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons are recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use both). Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the underlying ice.

South Ridge Road is mostly clear but with a few icy snow patches in its upper half (passable with 4WD/AWD).

South Ridge Trail [updated 18th January] is almost clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, but with some stubborn icy snow patches in its first 0.5 mile. Higher up there is about 50% snow cover to Tahquitz Peak. Microspikes are useful above about 8000′, mainly for descending.

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.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic so far this winter, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this 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 this trail in snow.

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

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 16th January 2020 are as follows. Please note that average depth is given; drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 29″ (47″ on 27th December)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 22″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 8″ (27″ on 27th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 19″ (25″ on 27th December, heavy drifting here)

Fuller Ridge Trail southern end at junction with Deer Springs Trail (8950′): 14″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 1″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 7″ (19″ on 27th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): <1″ (11″ on 27th December)

Peak Trail at 9800′ elevation just above Wellman Divide on 14th January 2020 (above), and two weeks earlier on 1st January 2020 (below) for comparison.

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Snow and trail update 8th January 2020

[UPDATE 10th January: I hiked to San Jacinto Peak this morning, and conditions were not significantly different from the Report from 8th below. However I did record a rambling video from the Peak discussing yesterday’s minor storm and current snow situation.]

[UPDATE 9th January: light snow today produced 1.2″ depth in Idyllwild (at 5550′). The high country was above the cloud almost all day, with Long Valley (8600′) receiving only 0.25″ fresh snow. This storm is unlikely to have significantly altered the conditions described below. ]

A brief update on snow and trail conditions based on hikes on three of the past four days to San Jacinto Peak. Leaving well before dawn on each day in order to make the most of colder, firmer snow, I was able to use microspikes without significant postholing all the way from Humber Park to San Jacinto Peak. Today was the first day in many weeks that I did not carry snowshoes on my pack. Although snow conditions on descent a couple of hours later were softer, it was early enough to minimise postholing. Nevertheless as usual the ascents were more fun than the descents. Snow conditions will continue to firm up with much colder weather from today into next week.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Some major trails have not been traveled this year, and remain obscured by heavy snowfall. Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere. Melting has been rapid in recent days, mainly below 9000′, with the first week of January among the warmest in recorded Idyllwild history.

Microspikes are strongly recommended on-trail for compacted, well-traveled trails (see below). They are especially useful for descending. Crampons are an option, but less convenient than spikes, for firm trails above about 9000′. Snowshoes are currently strongly recommended off-trail almost everywhere above about 8000′ elevation.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and potentially far below freezing when considering windchill effects (see below for the temperatures I recorded at San Jacinto Peak this morning).

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

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Options for thru-hikers are Strawberry Junction and Little Round Valley.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be at or below seasonal for the remainder of January. There is a possibility of very light precipitation on the afternoon of Thursday 9th (<1″ snow at Idyllwild, 1-2″ in the high country).

According to the latest NWS San Diego video, there are chances for precipitation in the second half of January, but it is unclear whether storms may largely pass to the north. Otherwise a relatively dry month is a possibility (a scary prospect for what is historically the wettest month of the year).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Wednesday 8th January 2020, at 0925 the air temperature was 23.8°F (-5°C), with a windchill of 0.3°F (-18°C), 19% relative humidity, and a wild WNW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 46.7 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 7th January 2020 at 0845 the air temperature was 38.7°F (3°C), with a windchill of 27.7°F (-3°C), 22% relative humidity, and a pleasant SSW breeze sustained at 8 mph gusting to 11.0 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6500′ are largely or completely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

Reliable tracks are currently in place for Devil’s Slide Trail, from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, from the Tram through to Wellman Divide, and on South Ridge Trail.

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, on to San Jacinto Peak.

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

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-worn track to follow, and microspikes are very useful. Snow cover is patchy and spikes are not essential below 7000′, but higher up snow cover remains >90%.

Ernie Maxwell Trail [updated 11th January] has about 50% cover of thin icy snow.

The parts of Willow Creek Trail and Caramba Trail nearest to Saddle Junction have well-defined snowshoe tracks, likely heading around Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The PCT southbound from Saddle Junction has been lightly traveled to Chinquapin Flat.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has not been traversed through to the fire lookout in 2020. There no steps to follow through the angled icy snow for at least 0.25 miles. These ice slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use both). Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the underlying icy snow.

South Ridge Road is mostly clear but with a few icy snow patches in its upper half (passable with 4WD/AWD).

South Ridge Trail is patchily snow-covered (<50%) to Old Lookout Flat at 7800′, with 90% snow cover from there to Tahquitz Peak. This trail has received little hiker traffic so far this year. Microspikes recommended above about 8000′.

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.

Deer Springs Trail The trail up to the Suicide Rock turning is excellent and well-defined. There has been very little hiker traffic further up the trail.

Seven Pines Trail and Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) have had no visible signs of hiker traffic so far this winter, 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 remains in place, hence there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 8th January are as follows. Please note that average depth is given; drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 31″ (47″ on 27th December)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 11″ (27″ on 27th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 22″ (25″ on 27th December, heavy drifting here)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 8″ (19″ on 27th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 1″ (11″ on 27th December)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 0″ (6.75″ on 27th December)

North spring at Wellman’s Cienega on 8th January 2020 (above), and for comparison on 1st January (below).

Snow and trail update 3rd January 2020

[UPDATE 5th January: Anne and Anabel hiked up South Ridge and have revised information for trails either side of Tahquitz Peak. I had the easy assignment, hiking in the pre-dawn hours to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide. That early the trails were icy enough to summit and descend using only microspikes, but trails were softening by noon.]

A brief update on snow and trail conditions based on my hike to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman Divide today (and the same route hiked on 1st January).

Leaving well before dawn today, I was able to use microspikes without postholing to 9000′ (top of “Angel’s Glide”), where I switched to snowshoes. On that same section on my descent a few hours later I was postholing in snowshoes in soft, treacle-like snow, which made for ugly snowshoeing. I used microspikes for descending Devil’s Slide Trail this afternoon, but was still slipping and sliding in the soft, melting snow. Suffice to say that the ascent was much more fun than the descent.

Unfortunately these poor snow conditions are unlikely to improve over the next few days, with warm weather into early next week.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. With the exception of specific trails mentioned below, currently some major trails have not been traveled and are obscured by heavy snowfall. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing almost everywhere above about 7500′ elevation off-trail, and are recommended on-trail above 8500′ (except early mornings). Microspikes are recommended on several well-traveled trails (see below). They are especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted.

Notwithstanding the next few warm days, hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and potentially below freezing when considering windchill effects.

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

WEATHER Temperatures will remain well above seasonal in the high country for the next few days, leading to rapid snowmelt at all elevations. Strong winds forecast for Monday 6th may eliminate the existing well-defined snow tracks in the high country. Temperatures drop to more typical for January on about Wednesday 8th, then there is a slim possibility of precipitation by the following weekend (Sunday 12th).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Friday 3rd January 2020, at 1025 the air temperature was 36.3°F (2°C), with a windchill of 27.6°F (-3°C), 44% relative humidity, and a light due North wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 9.4 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 1st January 2020 at 1155 the air temperature was 37.1°F (3°C), with a windchill of 26.2°F (-4°C), 51% relative humidity, and a fresh due North wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 19.7 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6500′ are snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

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

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. Note however that Tram hikers on New Year’s Day put through various confusing and steep trails directly from Round/Tamarack valleys toward San Jacinto Peak.

Skyline Trail has been traveled since the last snow, and tracks exist through the continuous snow above 6500′. However not all the snow tracks are reliable, so cautious navigation is recommended.

There is still no sign that anyone has ascended San Jacinto Peak from the west side, and my track to Little Round Valley and on to upper Deer Springs Trail from Monday no longer exists (due to high winds on Tuesday).

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-worn track to follow, and microspikes are very useful. Snow cover is still >95%.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is now largely clear of snow. Microspikes are useful at least for descending, but not required. Snow cover is 50% near Humber Park, decreasing to 10% near Tahquitz View Drive.

The parts of Willow Creek Trail and Caramba Trail nearest to Saddle Junction have well-defined snowshoe tracks, likely heading around Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The PCT southbound from Saddle Junction has been lightly traveled to Chinquapin Flat.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has not been traversed through to the fire lookout in 2020 [updated Sunday 5th January]. There no steps to follow through the angled icy snow for at least 0.25 miles. These ice slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use both). Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the underlying icy snow.

South Ridge Road is mostly clear but with icy snow patches in its upper half (passable with 4WD/AWD).

South Ridge Trail is patchily snow-covered (c.50%) to Old Lookout Flat at 7800′. Virtually 100% snow cover from there to Tahquitz Peak. Until Sunday 5th January this upper section had only been hiked by one snowshoer. Microspikes recommended above about 8000′ [many thanks to Anne and Anabel King for this update from 5th].

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.

Deer Springs Trail See my comments above regarding the route toward San Jacinto Peak. The trail up to the Suicide Rock turning is excellent and well-defined.

Seven Pines Trail and Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) have had no visible signs of hiker traffic so far this winter, 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′): 40″ (heavily drifted)(47″ on 27th December)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 22″ (27″ on 27th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 26″ (25″ on 27th December, increase is due to heavy drifting here)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 12″ (19″ on 27th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 2″ (11″ on 27th December)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 0″ (6.75″ on 27th December)

Wellman Divide today 3rd January 2020 (above), and the same view on 27th December 2019 (below).

Fresh Mountain Lion track near lower Deer Springs Trail, 30th December 2019. The knife is 3.75 inches long for scale.

Snow conditions update 1st January 2020

A very brief update on snow and trail conditions based on my hike to San Jacinto Peak from home in Idyllwild today. Information in the Report from 30th December 2019 is largely still applicable, except as described below. Snow depths measured today were not significantly changed from the previous Report, although drifting has been dramatic in places.

Strong NE winds yesterday resulted in heavy drifting above 8000′ elevation. I was dismayed to find that my tracks from Monday above Saddle Junction had been largely obliterated, so I had to break trail between Saddle Junction and San Jacinto Peak for the third time in six days.

Snow conditions above 8000′ were very poor, with relatively warm temperatures resulting in moist, heavy, clumping snow which made for grim snowshoeing. Unfortunately this is unlikely to improve over the next few days, with a marked warming trend into early next week.

There is now also good trail between the Tram and Wellman Divide. Note however that Tram hikers have put through various confusing and steep trails directly from Round/Tamarack valleys toward San Jacinto Peak.

No one ascended San Jacinto Peak from the west side today, and my track to Little Round Valley and on to upper Deer Springs Trail no longer exists.

Devil’s Slide Trail remains in excellent condition, with icy snow that is ideal for microspikes.

Ernie Maxwell Trail was also firm and largely snow-covered before dawn today. I did not use microspikes ascending, but they are useful at least for descending. Snow cover is 90% near Humber Park, decreasing to 60% near Tahquitz View Drive.

Weather At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Wednesday 1st January 2020 at 1155 the air temperature was 37.1°F (3°C), with a windchill of 26.2°F (-4°C), 51% relative humidity, and a fresh due North wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 19.7 mph.

For those readers interested in my brief end-of-2019 summary and thank you to donors message posted yesterday, it is available here.