Freel Peak

8 Oct 1998 - by Pat Ibbetson

Today I got really sick at work and for the first time in my life I used paid sick leave and went home to deal with the most awful cold and/or sinus infection I've ever had. Once at home I immediately felt better and was bored out of my gourd. I could have gone back to work...or I could have gone to Tahoe.

It was deja vu all over again when driving along US 50 near Twin Bridges I got stuck behind a pack of cars waiting for a flag man. I couldn't belive it. It was in this exact same spot just 50 weeks ago that I sat for what seemed to be an eternity while they repaired flood damage from the previous winter. Unlike last time however, I was now trapped behind a bunch of people from out of state that had no clue how to drive, let alone drive in the mountains. I should have made SR 89 in about an hour after leaving Sacto but I didn't reach South Lake Tahoe until 3pm, almost 3 hours and numerous road rage seizures after I left.

With my plan to hike up Freel, Jobs and Job's Sister flushed down the drain I casually drove over Luther Pass and then turned left onto Toyaibe NF OHV road 51. Almost due south of Freel Peak, the jeep road makes a sharp turn south with a spur road leaving to the north east. I drove up this spur road a few hundred yards hoping to drive past the swamp I went swimming in last year and looked for a spot to park my truck in that I could see from the peak.

Once a suitable parking spot was found, I put on my tennies and headed north, making a miraculously dry crossing of the creek and headed northeast towards Job's Sister, avoiding the willow thickets I went through last time. Some twenty minutes later I emerged from the brush zone and began trudging up the steep sand, now aiming to the left.

A few minutes later I picked up the use trail I found last year and followed it to the summit, still practically running. When I reached the saddle east of Freel it became clear that I was significantly underdressed for the occasion, with a fierce wind coming from the west, which was quite silly considering that I experienced the same bone chilling weather in that same spot just one year prior.

Less than 5 minutes from the saddle I reached the spot where I turned around the last time, and two minutes past that I could see the summit. What a fool I was to turn back last year, since I returned to the car in the dark anyway. Once on the summit I tried to ignore the hideously ugly radio transmitter (I've seen much less obtrusive radios on top of peaks, for example the one on top of Mt. Givens) and took in the 360 degree view from the highest peak in the Tahoe Basin. It was nice, but I was freezing cold, so I found the last blank page in the register, signed it and started back to the car, having left it only an hour ago.

After 10 minutes of running down through the sand, I reached the brushy area. Here, already in the shadows of the higher peaks to the west, the sage brush was covered with a thick coat of frost which made going downhill a rather slow affair, probably slower than when I came up. I made it to back to the car about 30 minutes after leaving the summit, with much more light than I had the previous year. Once safely in the warmth of my car, I looked at the peak to the north and realized how worthless it really is. The view just isn't that great, in fact if it weren't for the pictures I took I would have already forgotten it. Its only truly redeeming quality is its elevation but for only 90 minutes (not counting the drive) of relatively easy hiking it makes for a nice trip.

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