Ascent of Olancha Peak on 2018-06-02

Climber: BMS 914

Others in Party:Anji Cerney
Date:Saturday, June 2, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Olancha Peak
    Elevation:12123 ft / 3695 m

Ascent Trip Report

Anji contacted me and wondered if I was interested in participating in her planned ascent of Olancha Peak in the Sierra. I had heard of it (OK, I confess it was from the back of the Crystal Geyser water bottles), but knew little else about it. She told me it was long (22 miles RT) and involved 6600+ feet of gain, and that she wanted to do it as a backpack, as she hadn't backpacked in a while and wanted to do a gear test for upcoming backpacks she was planning. Also, she wanted to start up in the dark, as the low trailhead would likely mean an uncomfortably hot first few hours otherwise. I readily agreed, since I hadn't backpacked since my ascent of Mount Russell nearly five years before, and now was in shape to do it either way.

We set out from her place, and due to some unforeseen circumstances that lead to delays, didn't actually start our hike up until 11:40PM on 6/1. It had been a long time since I had carried a 42 pound pack, and the belt was running a little low, putting too much pressure on my hips (causing some cramping near Olancha Pass), but other than that, the hike up to our eventual camping spot went well. It was somewhat warm in the beginning, and I was glad we were doing the hike up so late. We arrived at our would be camp around 3:30am, just off the trail at a little over 9200 feet elevation. It was much cooler by this point, and the winds were making conditions cooler than either of us had anticipated. By the time the tent was set up and I was ready for sleep it was about 4:30am, and we had already decided not to worry about anything like an early start the next day. Anji's plan to go footprint-and-bag and sleep under the stars was undone by the breezy conditions at the pass, but I had room in the tent anyway. Neither of us had slept well the night before our trip (I very rarely have sleep issues, but did that night for some reason), so it took me all of maybe 30 seconds to fall asleep in the tent after closing my eyes.

The next thing I knew it was nearly 8:30am, so we got up, ate some breakfast, and began our second day. Breakfast choice is worth mention here. It was Natural High brand Raspberry Granola with Milk, and was easily the best dehydrated breakfast (perhaps meal) I have ever had! Anji had basically not slept at all (I asked and she said I didn't snore), but we were both feeling pretty good anyway, even both of us now going on 6.5 hours or less of sleep total for the last two nights. We had made it to Olancha Pass, so the first part of this day's route was pretty much flat to mild incline trail. My back and hips were very happy about the 12 liter summit pack I was now carrying. Anji had told me per her beta that the last section up to the peak got steep, but so far the whole outing was looking like it was going to be a pretty easy one, and the hardest part (the ascent my heavy pack) was over.

We meandered along the Pacific Crest Trail, admiring the beauty of the area, and encountering a lot of through-hikers. Many were looking worse for the wear; the ones that had started a few days before at the Mexican border and were only just beginning their journey to Canada were the ones really feeling it as they walked themselves into shape, now at 10,000+ feet elevation. Some of the people we encountered looked honestly like they had spent years living a sedentary life and were quite obese - I wondered how many of them would actually make it even halfway through the Sierra. One fit guy was pretty rude and barely spoke to us when we encountered him next to the trail. Later it occurred to me that he was probably finishing southbound and had been out (solo) for months, which might explain his rusty etiquette, not that I really cared anyway.

Eventually, we reached a spot to the right of the trail that seemed to be a good place to start working our way up the boulder field guarding the flanks of the peak. We actually turned off the trail about 0.4 - 0.5 miles earlier than would have been ideal, so if using the attached GPS track, use our descent route for both ascent and descent for best results. The side of the hill was fairly steep, and there was no real trail. I was feeling very strong, and having fun. We eventually topped out in a very broken/difficult to cross area, and began traversing around this to the north toward where we hoped we would join some sort of use trail up to the summit. The terrain became more of a struggle as this area is essentially a huge pile of boulders, some very large and hard to climb over, and the going was slow. My GPS map (Garmin) showed a trail ahead which we made for, but it was a figment of someone's imagination, because we could find absolutely no trace of it once we got to where it supposedly was (or anywhere in the vicinity).

We finally had to take our best guess as to the route to take up the rest of the boulder field. Anji wasn't terribly happy with this section, but for whatever reason, I was actually enjoying it. Then I made too much of a dynamic step-up move with my right knee, and the patellar tendonitis I had been slowly getting rid of really didn't like it. It let me know with some significant shooting pain, and I immediately had to sit down. Standing up again a few moments later, my knee hurt and felt unstable, and I was unsure if I could continue, or how I was even going to get down. Fortunately, after a few minutes and some stretching, the knee mellowed out enough to keep heading up. It was still not feeling great, and I avoided any movements that required straightening my right knee under load while bent significantly. This was awkward and put more work on the other knee, but the right one has been more of a problem. It felt irritated and vulnerable up until we made the summit, but gave me no more trouble the rest of the trip (or afterward, for that matter). The left knee was fine.

The very top of our route was the most "climby" portion, perhaps hitting high Class 2/low Class 3. I was again enjoying it by this point, even if it was annoying Anji. The summit had some spectacular views, a register, and was a great place to chill out, eat some lunch, and snap photos.

We elected to try a different route down, and managed to pick our way over easier terrain overall, hitting the PCT nearly half a mile further north from where we had turned off. More of the same with boulder hopping and some light Class 2 scrambling (a hand here and there) - the descent of the summit portion proved much better than we had figured given our difficulties going up.

The trail portion was much as before, lots of through-hikers, including one lady who was tired and for reasons I still haven't fathomed decided to ditch her heavy pack and continue up the trail in search of where her map showed tent sites. She basically asked us not to steal her pack as we parted, which I found pretty "cheeky" on her part (she had an English accent, Lol). We found her large red Osprey pack about a quarter mile later, sitting nearly on the trail right next to what looked like an excellent spot for a backpacking tent - go figure. I couldn't stop myself and stole her pack (kidding).

We had identified a good spot to gather water on the way up at 9240 feet elevation at a small stream crossing. We filtered water here while I got eaten by mosquitoes. Anji had a filter device she had never used and wanted to test it, but I foolishly left the Nalgene bottle it interfaces seamlessly with back in our camp, so we struggled to fill our hydration bladders instead. I generally don't filter water above 8000 feet elevation unless there are signs of livestock about, but given that livestock are driven through the area and all the people around it seemed like a good idea here.

Back at camp around 6:50pm, we fixed dinner, and I discovered I had left the Mountain House Mac & Cheese behind by accident. I did have some brand of dehydrated Chocolate Mousse I had brought for dessert, so I made that. This ended up a minor disaster, with it being a huge messy fiasco, half power that I couldn't get to mix properly with my short-handled "foon". I ended up with my hands and face covered in sticky brown goop, looking like I had s@*t myself. No more dehydrated Chocolate Mousse for me. When I got home I discovered the mostly-empty mylar pouch had leaked yet more brown goop which got on everything remaining in my food bag, including my cooking gear, then seeped through the stuff sack and even got onto a few things inside my backpack. Next time I backpack I will bring one of those large freeze bag type Ziplocks to put the used mylar meal pouches in.

We packed up everything and made ready to head down. I wasn't really looking forward to the backpack down, concerned about my knee, and about the cramping in my hips I had to deal with on the way up. I drank a lot of water in camp, and dumped some of what was left over. I would be descending with about a 1 liter of water, and half a liter of Gatorade, and I had only used about 1.5 liters of water and a liter of Gatorade going up, so I figured with all the "prehydration" I should be fine getting back down. The pack, lighter by about 3.5 liters of water and Gatorade, felt much lighter, and going downhill made it easier too. By the time we started our hike back to the trailhead it was 8:05pm and getting dark again.

We made it to the vehicle at 10:42pm. Anji was exhausted after having spent the night before in the tent without any sleep, so we considered pitching tents at the trailhead and driving out the next day. I was feeling pretty good, so I drove while she took a good nap, my wakeful state aided by a large energy drink obtained at the first gas station we hit. I opted to skip driving back via the shorter but dark and curvy Death Valley route given my lack of sleep, and took 395/58/15 route instead. After dropping Anji off, picking up my vehicle, and driving back to Henderson, it was well after 5:00am, the sun was up, and I took a shower and crashed in my bed until nearly noon.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6714 ft / 2045 m
    Total Elevation Loss:6714 ft / 2045 m
    Round-Trip Distance:22 mi / 35.4 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Clear and sunny with slight breeze
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:6535 ft / 1991 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 6297 ft / 1920 m; Extra: 238 ft / 72m
    Loss on way in:238 ft / 72 m
    Distance:11 mi / 17.7 km
    Route:Sage Flats Trail/Pacific Crest Trail
    Start Trailhead:Sage Flats Trailhead  5826 ft / 1775 m
    Time:7 Hours 46 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:6476 ft / 1973 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 6297 ft / 1920 m; Extra: 179 ft / 54m
    Gain on way out:179 ft / 54 m
    Distance:11 mi / 17.7 km
    Route:Sage Flats Trail/Pacific Crest Trail
    End Trailhead:Sage Flats Trailhead  5826 ft / 1775 m
    Time:6 Hours 50 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by BMS 914
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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