[pct-l] Desert Weather (was: Rides Needed)

Mike Saenz msaenz at mve-architects.com
Mon Jan 8 15:10:28 CST 2007

Last spring, Eric Yakel, who lives above Warner Springs, sent me a
picture of his back yard with about 6" of snow on the ground! His place
is in Chihuahua Valley, for all practical reference- it's in the upper
Anza Borrego.

When I hiked across Mt Laguna in an early spring, there was snow patches
as low as just north of Pioneer Mail.

I did the Desert Divide from the 74 to Fobes Saddle in a February and we
lost the trail in knee deep snow (although the trail keeps to the ridge,
so navigation was not an issue). I did Fobes to Saddle J in early late
February and the snow was only about 4" from the "gap" to Saddle J, but
still enough to obscure the trail (small ice and snow patches on that
dicey part under Antsell Rock).

The good news - once you reach the "gap" after The Desert Divide, the
topography of the San Jacintos is fairly obvious from reading a halfway
decent topo map. Once past the gap, keep elevation and hug the north
flank of Red Tahquitz until you cliff-out, then follow the west edge of
the range a couple miles to Saddle J, which is the bottom of the "dip"
before you gain elevation toward Fuller Ridge. Even in deep snow, Saddle
Junction is painfully obvious with all the signs posted on the trees.
But if you're not familiar with the San Jacintos, or you're relying on
trail signs for navigation, you can easily loose the trail under a few
inches of snow. And I've seen dustings of snow on San J in the summer!
Study a topo map for the main topographical features between the "gap"
and Fuller Ridge and you'll be fine.

And the trail essentially keeps to the north edge of the ridgeline along
Fuller Ridge. Last May there was enough snow on Fuller Ridge to make me
wish I had snow shoes for a few miles! I didn't even have baskets on my
trekking poles and I swore at myself for miles as I trudge along in knee
(and in some places waist) - deep snow. I had to dry my trail runners
and socks over a campfire at Fuller Remote that night before I made the
grueling descent down Snow Creek Canyon....

So yes- snow is a consideration in Southern California!

And then there's that whole cata...catabaolic? catabatic? thing going on
between Campo and Mt Laguna. Oooooooo...chilly!

Michael  Saenz
Associate Partner

MVE & Partners, Inc. | Architecture + Planning + Interiors 
Irvine + Oakland + Honolulu

1900 Main Street, Suite 800 | Irvine, California 92614-7318 | T
949.809.3388 | www.mve-architects.com

-----Original Message-----
From: pct-l-bounces at backcountry.net
[mailto:pct-l-bounces at backcountry.net] On Behalf Of gwtmp01 at mac.com
Sent: Monday, January 08, 2007 12:23 PM
To: bluebrain at bluebrain.ca
Cc: PCT MailingList
Subject: Re: [pct-l] Desert Weather (was: Rides Needed)

On Jan 8, 2007, at 1:13 PM, bluebrain at bluebrain.ca wrote:

> There's no chance of snow between Camp and Warner Springs in April,  
> is there?

There certainly is a chance.  Last year I hiked to Warner Springs  
before the
kickoff and we bailed from Pioneer Mail to the motel due to high  
winds and rain.
(about 50 miles from the border). When we awoke the next morning  
there was a
couple of inches of snow at the Mt. Laguna store and lots of ice  
covered chaparral
at Pioneer Mail.  The wind was still howling almost knocking us over  
several times
until we finally dropped down into Chariot Canyon.  We met several  
hikers who had
a pretty miserable time camped out that night in the Lagunas.

I think it isn't all that unusual for PCT hikers to think that a  
desert is always
hot.  It just isn't true.  You need to be prepared for cold weather  
(below freezing)
right from the start on a PCT hike.  And yes, it can rain in the desert.

Oh yeah, if you haven't practiced setting up your tarp/tent/tarptent  
in a sandy soil
with high winds, you might want to think about it now before you have  
to figure it out
on the trail.

And please be prepared to navigate a snow covered trail in the San  
Jacintos.  Lots of
people will warn you about Fuller Ridge but last year I ran into many  
thru-hikers who
were not prepared to navigate the trail south of the Saddle Junction  
in the snow.  They
just figured they wouldn't have trouble until *after* Saddle  
Junction.  I would recommend
getting the Tom Harrison San Jacinto Wilderness map if you need to  
navigate over snow
in the San Jacinto's.  Doing it with the guidebook maps is a real  
challenge (especially
if you've never done that sort of thing before).

Gary Wright (Radar)

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