By: Patty Kline
Our group met at 6:30 am at the road head for Olancha Peak. After the usual introductions and last minute running around, we were off at 6:45 am. Beth Epstein, my very capable co-leader, ate the dust all the way up to camp, which we reached about 1:30 pm. To get to the road-head from Los Angeles at Sage Flat at elevation 5,800' drive north on Highway 395 to Little Lake at the start of the Owens Valley. From here 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 road forks on the most heavily used paved or dirt road, to the end at 58 miles. There is a sign "Pavement Ends" at 3.2 miles. The end of the road is a large bulldozed area of reddish dirt. It is not very scenic, just level to camp here. You can go back to the corral about 1/4 mile and up a little dirt side road and find yourself a nice spot if you like oak trees and ants. There is no water at either site. The turn off for Sage Flat Road is easy to miss. It is about 5 miles south of the town of Olancha. It was 7 miles from the cars to our camp. The trail goes from the road head over Olancha Pass and then through Summit Meadow. Within a mile of the road -head you have a choice between the regular trail or the shorter, dustier Cow Trail. They both lead to Olancha Pass. We took the regular trail to Olancha Pass. Our camp was located at 9,600' 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 may be small pockets of water which are spring fed uphill later on in the season. After a few hours of relaxation we had a happy hour with the usual community munchies with an additional challenge for all of our goal- oriented SPSers and potential SPSers. There was a contest for the best happy hour food. A sun glasses guard strap as first prize was awarded to Theresa Heroz for her cooked shrimp skewered on pineapple chunks. Dr. John Miller won a bandanna as second prize for his pasta and sauce creation. John told some of the best medical jokes I have ever heard. A one quart nalgene water bottle was given as third prize to Barney Bartelle for his smoked salmon.
The next morning all of us started for the peak at 7:15 am. About 2 miles above camp there was a spectacular view of the Sierra. The saddle below Olancha was our take off point for the peak. It is located at the high point of the PCT . It is a 1500' gain to the top. We headed east toward the peak over the class 2 boulders, bearing somewhat to the left. From the top of the peak at 12,123' there is a sheer 3,000' to 4,000' 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. It is interesting to note the top of Olancha Peak 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.
After a leisurely 1-1/2 hours on top, including much picture taking and lunch, we left for camp at noon. After getting our backpacks together at camp we went back to the cars, arriving about 7 pm. About g of us had dinner at the Ranch House in Olancha. It is not one of the finer dinning spots on the east side, but we were hungry. The statistics for the weekend were 21 miles round trip and 6,500' of gain.
My thanks to Beth Epstein, who did a great job as my co-leader. The participants were Laura and Steve Huntley, Bob Bayma, Bob Lattanzio, Carol Snyder, Barney Bartelle, David Leth, Elaine and David Baldwin, Steve Erskine, Brad Jensen, Theresa Herzog, Kim Gimenez, Carlton McKinney, Rick Guilfoile and John Miller. Thank you to everyone for making this a great weekend.
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