Ski Mountaineering

Olancha Ridge

Apr 27 and May 4, 2019

May Adachi

Aysel Gezik, Ania Moll, Randy Weishaar & I started hiking from the end of Walker creek road, Olancha, 7:30am, 4/27/19. We soon came to a waterfall, climbed above it, got our 1st glimpse of the Olancha ridge & the couloir we hope to snow climb, & determined the canyon floor up would be too gnarly with brush, rock & water, so we ascended to the ridge to our west, figuring we could drop back down to the canyon & the bottom end of that nice couloir, further up. Never happened. The plan was to snow climb the couloir to the Olancha ridge & return as a day trip.

Fortunately, at 11:30a.m., we ran into the 1st snow patch. We hadn't carried much water as we expected to be travelling along the creek. I happily added snow to my remaining 1 litre of water. We donned helmets; there was lots of rock scrambling, in & out of snow.

About 2pm, we were as far up the ridge as we could go (9.7K'), & so traversed to the couloir, after putting on our crampons, & getting out our axes; this wasn't our intended long courloir but 1 west of it. Randy led.

About 5pm, we got to the ridge, but we couldn't travel on it, due to class 5 rock in the way, so we had to descend a bit to get around the rocks. At the ridge, just before retreating, I discovered I was only wearing 1 crampon! We looked down the couloir, but could not see it, & so continued on around the rocks, as it was getting late.

At 6pm, we reached the ridge, 10.5K', & were able to descend a bit to the other side, down, to get out of the strong wind. No chance of going on to Olancha peak; that would add an extra hour each way. Aysel melted snow on her stove for Randy who was out of water, & then we started the long, round about descent, with the intention of getting on the Sage trail, since it would be getting dark at 7:30pm. Oh my, tons of snow, beautiful snow; if only I had skis! It was such a hidden wonderland.

We ended up staying cross country, descending through the snow, & then, once it was dark & steeper, we were walking on soft ground. Finally, we got on the Sage trail, & got back to the cars before midnight. We surely all slept soundly.

Next morning, Aysel & I left to return to LA about 6:30am, stopping at the Coso junction rest stop to make coffee, tea & breakfast; brush our hair. It was all so lovely. I was home by noon.

I had a 1 day opportunity to return the following weekend to see if I could find my crampon. On 5/3/19, at 5pm, I parked at the end of the Walker creek road, hiked an hour, passing the falls, & perched my flyless tent next to a grand, dead tree trunk.

On 5/4/19, 5:30am, after hiding my backpack, I started climbing the ridge to the Olancha ridge with the intention of returning by the same route, after finding the crampon or not, & getting down before dark. I got to the spot, next to the couloir by noon, & figured I had an hour & 1/2 to ascend up the couloir before I'd need to turn around.

I wore micro spikes, & found the crampon (9.9K') right on the snow within 1/2 hour; yeah! I descended, celebrating by cutting up a mango to eat with snow. Delic! I did run into 1 pretty, black non rattler at about 8K'. I followed the ridge all the way down to the falls & was back to my car about 6pm.

My kind of day!

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