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TR: Olancha Peak, Snow & Adventure

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TR: Olancha Peak, Snow & Adventure

Postby quentinc » Tue May 24, 2011 6:23 pm

I just returned from what feels like my first true Sierra backpack of the year. This was part of my continuing series of plunging as far north on the PCT as my tolerance for snow will allow.

I started from Sage Flat, at 5800. The 3400 feet of gain to Olancha Pass was relatively painless and had some nice views along the way.

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However, I first hit snow at about 8,500. And when I got up to Summit Meadow (9,200) I thought I had been transported in the Arctic. There was way more snow that last weekend (when I did the PCT from Kennedy Meadows to the saddle before Olancha Peak)! Not the way the spring melt is supposed to be going.

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I wasn't sure if I'd even be able to get to the 10,540 summit, and once I got past it the PCT was a virtual white-out. But I saw that the west side of Olancha Peak didn't look bad, so I decided to go for it (completely unplanned). I actually got above the snow fairly quickly; here's the peak from about 200 feet below.

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Top of the world for now (apologies for the Photoshopping, but it was cloudy and the original pic was way too dark):

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It's pretty steep on the east:

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This is northwest of Langley/Whitney. I'm still trying to figure out what the peak on the left is.

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The next day I got as far north on the PCT as Death Canyon (disappointingly harmless) and then decided to try cross-country along a stream from Gomez Meadow to Strawberry Meadow. This was all going fine until the stream bed became a shockingly steep canyon (not evident from my map). I got tired of hopping across from side-to-side and climbing up and around snow and boulders, so I finally headed straight up, only to find I had almost made it to the meadow.

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So I headed to Brown Meadow instead:

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And then to a riverside campsite by the Kern. My guidebook said to ford it near here. Ha.

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I hiked out on the Strawberry Trail, part of which is an old stock driveway (an unfortunately common theme on the Kern Plateau) and was as steep as just about any Sierra trail I can think of. No switchbacks! I have a new found respect for cows.

Other than that, lots of cross-country when the PCT was under snow:

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And bear tracks all over the place!

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And finally, a much needed rest before my descent back to Sage Flat:

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Re: TR: Olancha Peak, Snow & Adventure

Postby windknot » Tue May 24, 2011 6:51 pm

Thanks for the report and pictures! Sounds like it was a fun trip, especially with this early-season snow.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: TR: Olancha Peak, Snow & Adventure

Postby maverick » Tue May 24, 2011 7:10 pm

Nice trip Q, good variety of terrain.
The area going down to Brown Meadow looks pretty cool, as do the shots from the
top, especially towards Langley.
Thanks again for posting this Q.
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Re: TR: Olancha Peak, Snow & Adventure

Postby slade » Tue May 24, 2011 8:25 pm

quentinc - Amazing TR and pics! As discussed in your earlier thread (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6210), I'll be doing Kennedy Meadows-Olancha Pass-Sage Flat starting Saturday. I see you were using ski poles, boots and gaiters. What are the locations of your 2nd and last pics? Should I look forward to a good deal of slogging and post-holing? Thank you. slade
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Re: TR: Olancha Peak, Snow & Adventure

Postby Shawn » Tue May 24, 2011 8:25 pm

Great TR, thanks for sharing. Much more motivational then reading all those skeeter reports ! :D
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Re: TR: Olancha Peak, Snow & Adventure

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Tue May 24, 2011 9:55 pm

Great report and photos. Thank you.
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Re: TR: Olancha Peak, Snow & Adventure

Postby John Dittli » Wed May 25, 2011 6:57 am

Looks like a fun early season trip. BTW, I'm pretty sure the peak on the left is Joe Devel.

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Re: TR: Olancha Peak, Snow & Adventure

Postby Jason » Wed May 25, 2011 7:56 am

Fantastic! Thanks for the report and photos. Sitting here at work, I don't know if it's torture or inspiring to read your trip report.
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Re: TR: Olancha Peak, Snow & Adventure

Postby maverick » Wed May 25, 2011 9:07 am

Slade wrote " I see you were using ski poles, boots and gaiters." Looks like trail
runners/hikers to me.
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Re: TR: Olancha Peak, Snow & Adventure

Postby quentinc » Wed May 25, 2011 9:17 am

Thanks everyone.

John: thanks, Joe Devel would certainly make sense location-wise. I never realized it had such a dramatic shape -- it looks like a big hill from up close.

Slade: remarkably, the snow was generally easy to walk on. Even in the early a.m., it was only icy in a few spots, and in late afternoon was still firm enough to walk on in most places. A few drifts required postholing, but I was generally able to detour around them. As Mav notes, I borrowed one of his tricks and was wearing Gortex trail runners.
The second picture was along the PCT west of Olancha, but the area just past Olancha Pass (along Summit Meadow) was at least as bad. On the way out it really kicked my butt. The last picture was a rest stop at 4:30 p.m. on the last day (near the intersection of the Olancha Pass trail and the PCT), when I still had a mile and a half of snow to plow through, followed by the 3,400 foot descent to Sage Flat. I would never stay in a campsite like that (not pictured was a table big enough for 12, storage containers and a rake(!)), but it made for a nice break.
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Re: TR: Olancha Peak, Snow & Adventure

Postby slade » Wed May 25, 2011 9:35 am

Many thanks, quentinc. My TR should be old hat after your 2. slade
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Re: TR: Olancha Peak, Snow & Adventure

Postby casserly79 » Thu May 26, 2011 3:11 pm

Hey I was planning on doing Olancha Peak this weekend. I'm a little worried about the snow conditions. Will I have trouble finding the Wrangler camp? And will I be able to follow the PCT or will it be covered? Thanks for your help.

Sean
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