Craig Clarence and I (David Money Harris) made a possible first ascent of the east ridge, dubbed Consolation Ridge. We initially intended to explore Olancha Creek, but the waterfall gushing out of a narrow slot at its mouth suggested this was the wrong time of year for canyoneering.
We left the car at Sage Flat at 6 am. I apparently had a mild case of food poisoning and was moving slowly; Craig patiently waited for me and relieved me of the rope. We followed a trail and dirt road downhill to Falls Creek, then hiked cross-country to the mouth of the canyon where Olancha Creek emerges, filling water bottles about 7:30.
The toe of Consolation Ridge starts at 4800'. The first two thousand feet involve second and third class scrambling up interesting rocky ribs on reasonably good quality granite. At 6800', we surmounted the first gendarme and downclimbed the back side into a notch. A 20' chimney with a short 4th class move led onto the second gendarme. We dropped into a small tunnel and emerged along the southwest side of the second gendarme, then followed sandy slopes on the south side of the ridge to bypass more large obstacles and eventually reach Point 8830 about 11:30.
The next mile of the ridge had numerous large 5th class towers but little total elevation gain. We bypassed the towers along the south side, weaving up and down to pick a path through the vegetation until we could regain the ridge at a prominent 9000' saddle where the ridge begins to rise again.
The rising ridge again had several obstacles that we mostly avoided on the south side. At one point, we made a 12 meter rappel to avoid backtracking and losing 200' of elevation to hike below a tower. If I were to repeat the route, I would leave the climbing gear behind; it would be better to go light and spend a little more time on routefinding. The upper part of the ridge is good dark rock with occasional stretches of 3rd class climbing. We topped out on the large flat summit at 3:20 with a total gain of 7300' including the extra climbing around gendarmes.
After a half hour break, we descended to the PCT, then took the faint old trail toward Bear Trap Meadow to avoid the roundabout PCT. In the meadow we saw an enormous fresh bear print with distinct claw marks! We foolishly cut cross country toward Olancha Pass, beating through manzanita for a mile; the trail would havebeen a better choice. Finally, we descended the gratuitously flat switchbacks of the Olancha Pass Trail to the car at Sage Flat, arriving by 8:10.
I've admired this ridge for many years from 395 and it was fun to explore. It would have been more enjoyable without the weight of a rope or axe or bivvy gear, all of which were unnecessary. We each carried a gallon of water and would have appreciated more on the hot route. The rock is mostly solid and the brush is no worse than one would expect on a cross-country route in this region. The ridge would almost certainly go at 3rd class with a little more route finding. The views of the east face of Olancha are magnificent.
The summit register mentioned ascents by Falls Creek and by the NE ridge of Olancha Peak, as well as from the PCT.