Skiing Olancha Peak

6-7 Mar 2004 - by Jan Stamand

Nine enthusiastic participants including 7 skiers, 1 snowboarder, and 1 snowshoer met early Saturday morning on a warm, cloudless day for my first provisional lead to Olancha Peak, jointly sponsored by the Sierra Peaks and Ski Mountaineers Sections. The group consisted of Mike Seiffert, Lorene Samoska, Jay Rivera, Jim Crouch, Rich Henke, Steve Curry, Leslie Hofherr, Reiner Stenzel (my assistant and evaluator), and myself. We started hiking from the end of the Sage Flat Road at 5800 feet. The snow coverage was sparse and we strapped our skis to our already heavy overnight packs and headed off in a southwesterly direction easily finding the main trail to Olancha Pass. At 6700 feet we reached a fork in the trail and followed the left fork or cow trail. From here we were able to skin/snowshoe on continuous snow. After a leisurely lunch break at Olancha Pass (9200 feet) we continued along the ridge and made camp in Bear Trap Meadow at an elevation of 10,000 feet. We quickly settled into our campsite and Reiner and Jim built a communal kitchen in time for all to sit, relax, and enjoy the sunset.

We left camp at 6:30am the next morning on firm snow continuing along the ridge in a northerly direction towards Olancha Peak. We wasted some time skirting around an exposed rocky section and reached an elevation of 11,300 feet at noon. From here Rich took off his skis and proceeded on foot towards the 12,132' summit following Reiner who kept his skis on. Steve, determined to get his first emblem peak, continued to the summit on snowshoes. The remainder of the group decided that there was not enough time to reach the summit and ski out before dark. We skied back to camp avoiding the rocky section by skiing below it and this was the best skiing of the trip.

We packed up and left camp skied up to a high point above the meadow where we removed our skins and had a pleasant ski to Olancha Pass and then to a lower pass at 8600 feet. From this point the snow was very heavy and turning was difficult. About half way down this slope and while attempting a turn Lorene hurt her knee. Mike took her skis and others helped lighten her load as she proceeded down on foot. Soon Jim, Mike, and I also removed our skis since it was faster to walk with the occasional posthole than to ski on the heavy snow. We regrouped at the cow and hiking trails junction and continued on foot reaching the cars just as it was getting dark. The verdict on Lorene's knee is that it is a class I strain and hopefully she will be skiing again in a month. Thank you everyone for a memorable trip.

Click on the pictures to enlarge:

Olancha view into Kern Olancha summit view Olancha summit panorama

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