By: Patty Kline, Bob Hartunian
Our trip began at 6:30AM at the Olancha Peak roadhead, Sage Flat. The early start was in anticipation of hot weather. Unfortunately we got 18 hours of precipitation, starting at 12 noon the first day.
The roadhead is as follows: Drive north on highway 395 to Little Lake. From there note your odometer and go 19.5 miles north to Sage Flat Road. Turn left (west) and goon this small road, keeping right at the road forks on the most heavily used roads. Go to the end at 5.5 miles. There is a sign "Pavement Ends" and 3.5 miles. The end of the road is a large bulldozed area of reddish dirt. There is no water or trees, but it very level for camping. The elevation is 5,800 feet.
All 20 people who signed up for the trip assembled at 6:30AM, and after turning in their waivers, were ready to start. We hiked 7 miles to our camp at 9,500'. It accommodates a large group easily and is within sight of the trail. A nice stream runs between the camp and the trail. It dries up early in the season, although there may be small pockets of water which are spring fed uphill later on in the season.
We had an afternoon to kill in the rain at our camp. Olancha is far enough from other SPS peaks to make it hard to climb another one on Saturday. The vibrant green corn lilies along the stream went unnoticed in this foul weather. The party started at 4:00 PM. We got a nice fire going to dry out in. Too bad people were getting wet at the same time. This experience led Bob and me to the conclusion that we both needed Gore-Tex rain gear.
All night the rain was tapping on the tents. At about 6:00 AM it stopped so we all prepared for our climb of the most southerly Emblem Peak, Olancha. All but one person went on the climb. All got the peak who went on the climb. Here is a route description from the Pacific Crest Trail. From the highest point of the trail before it drops into Gomez Meadows, turn east towards the peak. It is about 1 ,500' of gain. Make sure to angle in a northerly direction over the large class 2 boulders.
A peak with no view! This is what everybody saw because of the storm. We spent about 45 minutes clowning around on the top because it wasn't windy. The little closet like building just off the summit has been removed as well as the nice rock caim on the summit from the time I was up there 1 year ago. This is my 5th ascent, so I filled in the lack of view in my mind's eye. The plunging 3-4,000 foot drop off from the top was filled with fog as well as the distant Owen's Valley. It is interesting to note the top of Olancha Peak (12,123') is part of the original erosional plane of the ancient High Sierra Range. It was a flat top like Mt. Whitney, Mt. Darwin, Mt. Abbot and many others. The glaciers were never here.
Besides me, only one other person had ever done the peak, Bruce Orenstein. Ken Jones had flown all the way from Seattle for the trip. After we signed the register Robby Heath brought out a buck knife and pretended to stab Ali Aminian. Ed Ross, who was Ah's tent mate, thought he might have to carry off the whole tent himself. Carol Breyde was disappointed by the sea of fog.
When we got back to camp, the sky was clearing. We packed up and headed for the cars. This was leisurely trip. Everyone had a good time in spite of the weather. Those not already mentioned in the write-up were Mike Kelley, Mel Daybell, Matthew Bond, Cynthia Baldo, Bill Lien, Eleanor Carr, Ed Won, Rita Brinkman, Brian McLauglin, Kitty McLauglin, Anne Breen, and Fred Lucas.
I want to thank Bob Hartunian for his expert assistance and fun- filled spirit on this trip. This was my second SPS lead of Olancha Peak.
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