Man, did I underestimate this one. Trevor and I buzzed up San Gorgonio Mountain a few weeks ago with relative ease, and based on that speedy little jaunt I was expecting Olancha Peak to be more or less in the same orbit—a little higher and a little more vertical, true, but fewer miles overall. Instead, I was just humbled by this hike.
We started in withering heat, and that plus soft sandy ground the whole way made every mile (of which there were many) feel fatter. The final 2K or so was not easy ground, as I was expecting, but rather a challenging class 2-3 scramble up classic steep talus. By the time we did finally reach the summit, I realized we were deep, deep in the hole, and getting home was going to be a huge grind.
That reversal of expectations proved to be challenging to cope with. I wasn't prepared for it. And indeed, as we headed back down, and the pain factor grew steadily higher, I realized Olancha Peak was going to rank among the hardest dayhikes I've ever done. You've got to look to something truly insane like my Tyndall Death March to find something definitively tougher. And I'm starting to think I was a lot lot younger then. :)
On to the summit! This is a spectacular one. Somehow I'd assumed Olancha Peak would prove to be one of those little nubs from the west side of the crest, but nothing could be further from the truth. Olancha dominates the Southern Sierra. Don't be fooled by the peak's mild pure-prominence rating—this is one of the giants of the Eastern Sierra, offering easily one of the airiest views of them all.