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Olancha Pass Professional Review and Guide
"An out-and-back day hike and an approach to Olancha Peak and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)."
--Suzanne Swedo, Hiking California's Golden Trout Wilderness (Falcon Guides).
Beautiful and vigorous hike! We did this on a warm winter day - temps at the bottom were 55 degrees F. It was cooler at the top but not freezing. Great views - impressive frozen waterfall at 1.7 miles. Lots of cool granite spires all around. It's pretty strenuous - a good trail with no big boulders, but uphill all the way. If you tire early, the first (false) pass at 4.5 miles is a decent place to turn around as the views are not any better from the top of the final pass at 5.4 miles. Never saw another soul - but that may be because it was January. Guide was spot on.
Low altitude start could make this a hot hike. Check weather before you go.
Very empty trail. Nice compared to trails north of Whitney which tend to be overwhelmed with people. Saw only 3 day hikers and 1 other overnighter.
The trail itself was well maintained. It was better when it separated from the stock route. Nice grade, long winding switchbacks, great views.
The views are much better just below the saddle. The pass itself is very anticlimactic. The pass "sign" is a makeshift post, and the views are less than spectacular. No water at Summit Meadow; its just a wetland without a stream, although beautiful. For water, push on to the horse camp about 1 mile farther. (Makes a lovey place to overnight too!)
The dog and I spent the night at summit meadows. The following morning we hiked up Olancha Peak. The temperature was 18 degrees F, and winds were around 30-40 mph. Blowing snow made visibility poor. I imagine the views from the top are great, but we saw nothing. The trail to the turnoff to the peak is very mellow and well-graded. The climb to the summit is about 1500' of scrambling. Water is still available at Summit Meadows. We also did this hike last December - snow was about 3 feet deep after Olancha Pass, so snowshoes were required. One of the great things about this hike is its acessability - very short drive off highway 395 and a low elevation trailhead. 2-Wheel drive and low clearance is fine.
Sage Flat trailhead was the best maintained trail of this season's hiking. It was a moderately strenuous hike. There is a water source & a very nice campground at Summit Meadows.
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