By: Greg Roach
A group of 6 happy hikers met at the end of the Sage Flat Road Saturday morning at 6:30 AM. By 7 AM we were hiking. The trail up to Olancha pass starts behind the old government building at the end of the road.
This is a pleasant trail which takes you from high desert at 5800 ft to the Kern Plateau at Olancha Pass. The elevation gain is 3450 ft. Take the horse trail not the cow trail where there is a choice.
The day was cloudy which gave us welcome shade on the hike in. About a mile past Olancha Pass at the north eastern end of Summit Meadows is a packers camp with stove, tables, and a corral. A small stream also runs through the camp. We rested here and enjoyed the pine trees and the meadow.
The packers camp marks the Bear Trap Meadow cutoff. This trail is not shown on the USGS maps but it is a good trail. This is the shortest way to Olancha peak. The Bear Trap Meadow cutoff joins the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) about 1.5 miles from the Packers camp. We decided to continue on the main trail to the PCT intersection just passed Summit Meadows. This route is a bit longer but it gave us a good view of Monache Meadows and the Kern Plateau. We stopped about noon and had lunch near a rushing stream.
That night we camped near where the Bear Trap cutoff meets the PCT. There was still plenty of snow in the trees here at 10,000 ft. However, we found a good camping spot on dry ground with a large rock which served as a big table for our Happy Hour. Thanks to everyone for helping me celebrate my Birthday and especially Ingrid for the Birthday Card which was presented to me on the peak Sunday.
Sunday we continued on the PCT until it was completely covered by snow. Then we made a bee line for the saddle south of the peak and up the south ridge to the peak. This is a class 2 route. There was snow in the trees which made for good boot skiing on the way back. Once above the timber line there was no snow.
Olancha peak rewards the climber with a great view. To the north lies the Sierras covered with snow. In the foreground one sees the meadows of the Kern Plateau and off in the distance to the south one can see the Crags of Domeland Wilderness. Today our view to the east was blocked by clouds and dark thunder clouds were rolling in from the northwest.
We got back to camp about noon and packed our gear as a gentle rain began to fall. As we hiked out by way of the Bear Trap cutoff the rain turned to hail and we sang "Hail to the Chief" on the way back down the mountain. Two members of our party Pam and Mirna were hiking a little distance behind the rest of the group when we got back to Olancha Pass they excitedly informed us that a big brown bear had run right across the trail about 20 feet in front of Pam. After that Pam walked a little faster and kept up with the hikers in front of her.
The members of the group were Greg Roach, Mirna Roach, John Squires, Mike Gruntman, Ingrid Knoblich, Asher Waxman, and Pam Alien.
Thanks to everyone for a great trip!
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