Independence Peak and Olancha Peak

2 Jul 2000 - by Mike Mcdermitt

On Sunday July 2 I climbed Independence Peak (11,742' per SPS list or 11,744' per Secor) alone from Onion Valley via the south ridge (3rd cl) as per Secor. The route went exactly as described. A leisurely start at 9am put me at Robinson Lake shortly after 10, and after a break I started up a talus slope to a chute which led me to the ridge after 70 min. at about 11.30. Another hour along the ridge took me to the summit. The register showed that Arun Mahajan and two others had summitted the prior day. Took 30 min. for lunch then headed back along the ridge to a bit past where the route takes one back onto the west side, then turned directly down on a developing use trail, eventually plunge stepping down scree slopes to reach the trail well below Robinson Lake at 2pm and my car at 2.30pm. This was my first third class peak. Since every trip offering I can recall which involved a 3rd-class peak said "prior 3rd class experience required", by soloing this peak I have hopefully gotten a toe in the door.

The early finish allowed time for the long drive down 395, up to Kennedy Meadows and well beyond to the Monache Meadows trailhead. The driving directions posted on Climber.Org for this trailhead are very good. The Monache Jeep Road was quite an adventure, with the last 9 miles taking about 70 minutes. Very pretty area. The hike to Olancha Peak is about 15 miles round-trip with a gain of about 4,200'. I started off on a cool Monday morning at 7am. The route follows a stock trail east for a short while then reaches the PCT going north, eventually reaching a point where one heads up forested then scree slopes to the peak, which is topped with a radio relay station that is actually visible from the PCT. I summitted at 11.45am, staying 45 min. and enjoying views of Langley, Whitney, the Kaweahs, Great West divide. The register is in a bolted box which box though apparently placed in 1959 looks about one year old. The one register book was placed in 1994 although the first entry is not until 1997; it is exactly half full. A number of entries this year, including one yesterday. Heading down at 12.30, I reached the trail after about 50 min. then sped back arriving at the trailhead just after 3 pm. Then it was a very long and winding drive back, several hours down to Kernville and eventually Bakersfield where the day ended, with a heightened appreciation for the vastness of the southern Sierra.

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