Cartago Canyon South Wall
First Ascent

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The south side of the south wall  of Cartago Canyon.


On the east side of Olancha Peak, 12,123', ridges radiate outward like spokes of a wheel. The NE ridge is the standard route for the summit. Next to the NE ridge is the south wall of Cartago Canyon which also may be described as the NNE ridge of Olancha Peak. To the north of the NNE ridge is the NE watershed of Olancha Peak which keeps Cartago Creek flowing year-round and is the source for Crystal Geyser water company. This area receives few visits from climbers, perhaps because of the weathered texture of granite with a southern exposure and most certainly because of the approach hike which is brutal and prolonged. Oh yes, there is no audience here to watch you do your stuff. After three attempts on the north side and five on the south side I was doubting whether I would ever top out on this formation. For the ninth attempt my partner, Javier Ybarra, and I swore to hike in until we reached the bottom of the southwest gully which is by far the easiest route. With a four hour approach and six hours of roped climbing we made it to the summit at 4pm. Two hours of rappelling got us back down and we had two more hours of cross country bushwacking with headlamps and a waxing half moon to get us back to the truck.


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Talley Ho! Leading on the South Face.
For this climb we used the twin rope technique of climbing. The main reason is that two 9mm by 50 meter ropes are
 lighter than leading on a 10.5 mm by 50 meter rope and carrying along a 9mm by 50 meter rope to use 
for double rope rappels on the descent.

JavierEast to Owens Valley 

Left: Looking SW to the Olancha Summit Plateau at 4:00 pm March 14 while Javier checks out both sides of the wall..  Right:  East to Owens Valley.  This photo gives a good idea of the elevation gained
 during the approach hike and climb.  From the 4200' level of the west edge of the Owens Valley to the 7,212' summit.

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The ascent route is the gully, (couloir?), to the left of the main buttress.


First Ascent?

We didn't have time to scour the summit area for signs that someone else had been there, but our hunch is that we were the first.  Mountains are usually climbed by their easiest routes first and later waves of climbers
 take on the difficult wall and ridge routes.  For sure no one has climbed our route, the southwest gully. 
 Of course all the named peaks have already been
climbed in The Sierras.  This mountain exists on the USGS Olancha Quandrangle 7.5 Minute Topo as a circle of topo lines marked 7212 at latitude 36 degrees,
  17 minutes, 30 seconds North, and a longitude of 
118 degrees and 4 minutes. Have  at it.
  Take along 100 feet of webbing and 15 descending rings to get down.




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