Olancha Peak


By: Patty Kline

The trip was a great success. So may trips in the early summer of 1995 aborted because of the heaviest snow year since 1969, but this was a go. This trip was co-sponsored with the K-9 Committee. Two dogs were in attendance. "D. Lila" belonged to Scot Jamison. She is a lovable German Shepherd mix who was found as a stray a few weeks before. "Ruskie" belongs to Julie Rush, my assistant leader. Ruskie has been known to climb class 4 without a rope. What a dog! Julie, Scot, RJ, Secor and the two dogs rode up in Scot's 4 Runner. Tight squeeze! The directions to the road head are as follows: Drive north on Hwy 395 to Little Lake. From there note your odometer and go 19.5 miles north to Sage Flat Road. Turn left (west) and go on this small road, keeping right at the road forks on the most heavily used road to the end at 5..5 miles. There is a sign "Pavement Ends" at 3.2 miles. The end of the road is a large bulldozed area of reddish dirt. There is no water or trees, but it is very level for camping. The elevation is 5,800 feet.

We met at 6:30am at the Sage Flat road head. By the time everyone had their packs together it was 7:00 am. All the people who said they would come did make it there. We didn't have a single no show. I like that!

The trip to camp was nice under not very hot skies. It was 7 miles from the cars to our camp. The trail goes from the road head over Olancha Pass and through Summit Meadow. It meets the Pacific Crest Trail just beyond Summit Meadow. On the way to Olancha Pass you can take the shorter, but duster Cow Trail. I always take the regular trail to avoid the dust.

We saw 5 pack trains in the first 5 miles. Cottonwood Pack Station couldn't operate out of New Army Pass because of the massive snow so they took their clients south to Olancha Pass. This was unexpected and proper etiquette for passing pack trains was rusty. Here are 4 tips when seeing a pack train or horses on the trail: 1. They have the right of way, 2. Everyone pull off to the same side of the trail. 3. Don't make sudden movements or wave at the animals. They are very skittish and if they are frightened could bolt off the trail in a panic. They are usually roped together and would pull off all of the animals they were roped to also. 4. Leave a wide space between them and you after they pass so as not to startle them. A mule can kick his back feet 6 feet in any direction. Also, hiking too close behind, even 20 feet, can spook horses or mules.

We arrived in camp about 1:30 pm. Our spot was located at 9600 feet just south of the Pacific Crest Trail. A nice stream is just south of the trail and we camped on the south side of the stream. This space is under good trees and level spots enough to accommodate a very large group. In an average to low snow year the stream usually dries up early in the season, although there maybe small pockets of water which are spring fed uphill later on in the season.

At 4:00 pm we had the traditional happy hour and community munchies. Ann Kramer had a great dip from Trader Joe's and Julie Rush had fresh cucumbers and red and yellow bell peppers. With that and all the other food there all I needed to prepare for my own dinner was soup. Sunday morning at 7:15 am all of us set out for the peak. There was much less snow than anticipated on the trail. About 1 mile below our turn off point for the peak there was a spectacular view of the Sierra. We spent about half hour looking at this. Big Kaweah, Whitney, Brewer, a tip of Williamson, Langley, Cirque, Table and Thunder stood out in relief with the heavy snow. It was easy to kick steps in, and with the use of a ski pole it was very easy. The saddle below Olancha Peak was our take off point for the peak. It is located at the high point of the PCT Trail. It is a 1500 foot gain to the top. We headed east toward the peak over the class 2 boulders, bearing somewhat to the left. The snow presented very little problem. I left my ski pole at the saddle.

I led the first of the group to the top at 10:45 am. We spent one hour up there for lunch, the view and pictures. The weather was great with full sun and no wind. One person became a member of the SPS on top. His name is John Hlavac. We let him be first on the peak as his initiation. I became a member on Olancha in June of 1986, nine years ago. Three other people said they would join after one mote peak with the section. Eileen Ricks, who has about 25 peaks, decided to become a member on this trip too. It is really nice to see so much interest in the SPS from new people. Some of the new--comers wished they had brought their copy of RJ."s The

High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails. for him to autograph.

From the top of the peak there is a sheer 3000 to 4000 foot drop off from the east facing chute right below the summit. The lower part of the Owens Valley spreads out below the bottom of the peak. We could see as far south as Telescope Peak. It is interesting to note the top of Olancha Peak (12,123') is part of the original erosional plain of the ancient High Sierra range, also known as country rock. It has a flat top like Mt. Whitney, Mt. Darwin, Mt. Abbot and others. The glaciers were never here. Olancha may have been named after the Olanches Indians (from Peter Browning's Place Names of the Sierra Nevada.) After returning from the peak we finished off our lunches in camp, packed up our backpacks and headed down the trail. The statistics for the weekend were 21 miles round trip and 6500 feet of gain.

Many thanks to Julie Rush who was the sweep on Saturday. She was eating all the dust, and also for Sunday up to the summit. Am Kramer sweep from camp down to the roadhead for me. A special thanks is due to her too. Everyone on the trip, including the two dogs , got this Emblem peak. Those in attendance were Ann Kramer, Julie Rush, John Dodds, Hal Browder, Howard Willlams, Bruce Rorty, Jay Fur, Chris Newcomer, Bob Suzuki, Ellen Miller, John Hlavac, Heide Zimmer, Barbara Eyerly, Howard Eyerly, Eileen Ricks, Dave Jenkins, Scot Jamison and RJ. Secor. Thank you everyone for making this a great weekend.

SPS Trip Report Index | Sierra Peaks Section