Olancha Peak — Page 5

Olancha Pass

Olancha Pass

Olancha Pass at last. It's certainly been a bit of a grim morning, but we're here, and things are looking up. The westward sky is brighter, clear of smoke, and Sierra colors are finally starting to pop.

Another plus: the hike ahead can't possibly be worse that what we've just gone through. No, it's not exactly cool up here, but it's not hot, and that's a big improvement. As well, from now on Trevor and I expect to be on the gentle grades of the PCT, with Olancha Peak itself little more than a walkup from the neighboring trail.

Olancha Pass, Looking South Heading North Through Sage Cowboy Kitchen Summit Meadow: Cow Heaven

Here at the Pass we peel off soaked T's to cool in the breeze while we take a quick snack break. I mix up a liter of Gu-enhanced water, hoping to rebalance my almost-certainly out-of-whack electrolytes.

And another liter gets pulled out of my pack, to be stashed in a shady nook here at the Pass for our return trip—no point carrying it any further up the hill.

What's our elevation?

9212'. Figuring we parked the car right around 5700 feet, that's a net gain of among the most grueling three hours and 3500 vertical feet I've ever hiked.

Well, maybe that's an exaggeration. Thoughts of rough days on Shepherd Pass come to mind in comparison. But I knew those days would try to kill me. I sure wasn't expecting such a tough haul just to get here, to the pass.

Refreshed or mostly so, we pack up and hit the trail once more. We're heading north now, passing through the last of the area's impressive sage fields, entering the Inyo National Forest and the South Sierra Wilderness.

Right after we dip into the woods, there's a surprise: a Cowboy Kitchen. Plus a corral, and the very inviting green grass of Summit Meadow. We've found it: Cow Heaven. With this rich pasture as a reward, it almost seems fair to drive those poor beasts all the way up here from the scrubby sand of Owens Valley. Almost.

As for Trevor and me, we unfortunately have no steaks nor cans of beans to throw on the fire, so onward we go, enjoying the shade of the pines as we skirt the edge of the meadow. As for the trail, it remains kind of soft and silty, and now I'm remembering soft ground throughout the area when I hiked around nearby Langley.

The soft ground slows our progress, and we do have quite a few miles to go to reach Olancha Peak. It would be a bummer, I think, if the trail never firms up. We're certainly not going to make record time if the ground stays so soft.

next: The Pacific Crest Trail

About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

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