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Olancha Peak

June 2022

For my first Sierra send of the season, I decided to tag an SPS Emblem Peak. I have loose designs to climb them all this summer, though some may put up relatively stiff opposition to my attempts. Olancha Peak, however, would be easy enough. The peak can be climbed in a (long) day from the Olancha Pass Trailhead, and involves only a couple miles of easy off-trail scrambling.

 

I pulled into the obscure trailhead in the evening before my ascent, and was not surprised to have it to myself. After cooking dinner, I was off to bed. The warm weather combined with an unexpected visitor in the form of some large mouse or small rat kept me from having a sound sleep. I eventually got tired of the guest’s exceedingly loud antics in the car, and lay my sleeping bag out in the dirt about twenty feet away to try to get at least some semblance of rest. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and cooked some oatmeal before setting off.

 

The trail up to Olancha Pass was pleasantly well maintained considering the lack of traffic it receives. I eventually linked up with the Pacific Crest Trail, which led to the base of the peak. The solitude of the Olancha Pass Trail was in stark opposition to the humdrum of the PCT. I passed dozens of hikers in the few miles I was on the trail, and to my dismay, most had headphones in or rather bizarrely, their heads buried in their cell phone screens. I am not sure what could be so interesting to listen to or to look at on these devices that the Sierra could not provide.

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Old trough along Olancha Pass Trail

I left this dirt highway and started scrambling up to the summit of Olancha Peak. It is relatively easy to attain peace even in the busiest sections of the Sierra, simply step off trail and wander off for a bit. Most travelers do not know that one is indeed allowed to step off trail and muck about in the backcountry. After some class one slogging, and some slightly more exciting class two slogging near the summit, I made it to the top. The views were fantastic. The peak dominates the Southern Sierra, offering great views of Mount Langley to the North, and a glimpse the Great Western Divide tucked deep into the heart of the range to the East.

 

After a relaxing on the summit for some time, I set off. I hoofed it on the dirt highway for a bit, passing many more hikers militantly armed with cell phones, headphones, GPS devices, speakers, and all the digital accouterment one could possibly imagine. Eventually, I happily rejoined the more obscure section of trail and made it down to the car by the early afternoon. By happy accident, I met a nice fellow who was working on writing a book. He came to the trailhead to find a peaceful place in nature to think and write and walk about, and all those things I think he found. We had a wonderful conversation for some time before I headed North for the set of peaks to climb. 

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Nice views on the scramble down from the peak