Olancha Peak is the highest peak in California south of Florence Peak (near Mineral King), and commands a tremendous view of the southern end of the range as well as much of the Death Valley ranges to the east. The peak lies on the Sierra crest just off the Pacific Crest Trail, and is often the first Sierra peak climbed by PCTers coming from the south. It is one of the 15 Emblem peaks in the Sierra, so designated because they dominate their surroundings. Driving north on US395, this peak gets your attention, announcing your arrival to the High Sierra.
There are two trailheads to Olancha Peak.
On the east side, Sage Flat provides entry off US395. The Sage Flat Rd meets US395 5 milies south of the town of Olancha. Approximately half of the 5.8 miles is paved, the other is graded dirt. Follow the road to the end staying on the main path at all forks, and park near the public corral. The trailhead sign is just west of the corral.
On the west side, Monache Meadows provides a shorter and easier access point, though the driving is much more involved. See the map provided and check out the written directions at climber.org
Olancha Peak lies at the southern boundary of the Golden Trout Wilderness. Both access points and all the trail lie outside the Wilderness, so there are no fees or permits needed for this climb. There is a metal box with a sign-in register at the Sage Flat Trailhead, which you can use if it gives you some sense of security, but don't count on anyone coming to look for you if you are overdue.
When To Climb
Early summer seems to be the best time to climb. Later in the season, the streams dry up and you will need to carry all your water with you.
Camping is allowed anywhere in the area. There is a nice camp about 1.5 miles west of Olancha Pass along the trail. It appears to be a regular wrangler's camp, complete with a rough-hewn picnic table, monster fire pit, BBQ, cooking utensils, and rakes and shovels for cleaning up. Respect the area if you use it, and you'll be less likely to find yourself unwelcome if the "owners" show up.
Cattle are driven up to the high meadows here from Sage Flat early in the year, so be careful about filtering water in the area.
Web cam from Sherman Peak, about 20mi distance to the SW. Olancha is bare peak on the far left.
"The name may have derived from the Olanches Indians. (Sanchez, 297.) 'Olache,' a settlement south of Owens Lake, is shown on Farley's map of 1861. Kroeber suggests it is possible the word is a borrowing from a Yokuts tribe west of the Sierra Nevada who called themselves 'Yaudanchi,' and were called by a neighboring band 'Yaulanchi.' (Kroeber, 51.)
'Olancha Peak' is on the Wheeler Survey atlas sheet 65. The pass and the creek are named on the first Olancha 30' map, 1907. William Crapo told F. H. Wales in 1881 that the word meant 'sleeping beauty.' From the summit of Mt. Kaweah the reclining figure of a woman could be seen on the side of Olancha Peak -- arms across abdomen, hair flowing back of head, face and breast clearly visible. (Farquhar files, from Versteeg.)"
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada
Olancha Peak Story and photos of climbing Olancha Peak via northeast ridge.