Olancha Peak — Page 9

Pacific Crest Trail and Monache Meadows

Sierra Showers

As we start descending, a small white cloud suddenly sprouts right off the summit of Olancha Peak. I've seen these little white puffs before, and I know they can be anything but harmless.

If there's going to be a thunderstorm, I want to be anywhere but on the exposed open steeps of Olancha Peak's west face, so I do my best to scramble down as fast as safely possible. When we get to the base of the west face, the cloud evaporates: false alarm. My legs, however, are paying the price for our rapid descent.

Descending the West Face Talus Pacific Crest Trail Sierra Wildflowers Back at Olancha Pass

I've got a bad case of sewing-machine leg. My poor muscles are quaking up a storm. And my feet, which have been doing admirably well until now, are showing signs of blisters.

I tell Trevor I've got to stop and attend to my feet.

Things look worse than expected. I've got tape, which I make generous use of, but the blisters are well underway, and I'm no miracle worker when it comes to field foot medicine.

Luckily we've hit the Pacific Crest Trail, with its mostly-moderate grades. I'm hoping I'll be able to cruise along carefully and do no further damage—until we get to Olancha Pass, at least.

We hit the trail again. Right away, something goes awry with one of my feet. Embarrassed, I signal to Trevor I've got to stop again. I try to make the second patch up job a quick one. Okay, now I think I'm ready.

Rain sprinkles down, surprising the two of us. That on-and-off cloud has switch on again, this time building into a brief but plucky squall.

Should I break out my wind shell? Nah. But I do hide my camera.

Rain, clouds, and afternoon light conspire together to turn our surrounding landscape into an absolute feast for the eyes. Just a light sprinkle, and suddenly everything green has exploded in vibrancy. The flowers are glowing. The sky a piercing blue. Here is the Sierra in its Sunday best, a three-dimensional postcard.

Yes, the feet hurt, but the scenery sure does take the edge off. And the rain sprinkles are welcome on this stubbornly hot day in the south Sierra. The miles pass slowly. There just isn't much kick in my legs now, not on this slow sandy ground. The hard part, I know, is yet to come. How far to the pass, I wonder. And: will I make it back down? This hike is crushing me.

next: House of Pain

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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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