OverviewOn June 24th, 2007 I joined fellow SP member dbraunstein to hike Freel Peak and Jobs Sister. Not only was it a beautiful day, and the hike amazing, we also found a quick descent that got us from over 10,500 (just below the Freel summit) down to the car at 8,200 feet in just over an hour! Below is a description of our hike and the various experiences and moments we had on this wonderful day.
Hiking up to FreelThe road to the trailhead was pretty rough at spots. We accessed it about 0.8 miles east of Luther Pass on 89. It took us about 15 minutes on the dirt road to drive the 3.4 miles to the trailhead.
From the trailhead, the route was pretty straightforward. We made it up to Armstrong Pass after one mile. We had been confused about the actual elevation gain of this route. A hiking book I had indicated about a 1650 foot climb to the summit, but that was impossible given that Armstrong Pass itself is still nearly 2200 feet from Freel's summit. Clearing up this confusion we soldiered on up the Tahoe Rim Trail. About half way up the trail was when we met the first and only hiker we'd see the entire day. He was hiking the entire Tahoe Rim Trail and was already half way there after trekking for a week.
Just over a mile later we hit the spur trail heading to Freel's summit, feeling good. The day was perfect, we were making good time, and we were only one mile away from hitting the highest mountain in the Lake Tahoe Basin (as well as the El Dorado County Highpoint).
The final trail to Freel's summit has been made over in recent years. It now is pretty well marked with cairns. The way the trail has been routed makes it not that difficult considering that you have to hike nearly 1200 feet in only one mile. In about 45 minutes we found ourselves at Freel's summit. We had made good time: 2 hours and 45 minutes. It was 11:30am.
The views from the summit are all encompassing. Lake Tahoe, Desolation, Castle Peak north of Truckee, Mount Rose, Como Peaks (Nevada), Round Top, Red Lake and other peaks to the south. Even the Sonora Pass area was clearly visible.
As we sat down to have our lunch, we were persistently bothered by a small chipmunk begging for food. He even stood on his hind legs and raised his arms in a begging motion. I guess he is used to people, and used to them giving him food. By the time we were finished with our lunch, he had brought another chipmunk to join him.
Jobs SisterAfter sitting on Freel's summit for about 20 minutes, we were feeling good, ready to bag Jobs Sister. The descent to the ridge was a bit steep, but not too bad. Once we got down, we took the use trail on the ridge between Freel and Jobs Sister. As we got closer to Jobs Sister, we noticed a lot of white rocks. We aren't sure whether those rocks are marble or quartz. My money is on the latter. After taking a look at the rocks, we scaled up the sandy slope for the last 300 feet. It took us about 45 minutes to get from Freel's summit to Jobs Sister's.
The views here seemed even better than on Freel. Lake Tahoe was even closer and you can see the wide valley south of Carson City. Star Lake is another great attraction you can't see from Freel. In addition Jobs Sister has most of the same views, although Freel blocked some of the peaks to the south and southwest.
The Descent and the way homeFrom Jobs Sister we headed back down to the ridge. Early on the trek down we were looking for an easier way down to the car. We found that we could head back to the road where the car was by bushwhacking down the east side of the peak. By the time we topped Jobs Sister, we had already decided on heading back down to the road through the buswhack. It was Dan's idea, and a good one at that.
From the ridge, about 1/4 mile below Freel Peak, was the place we planned to start our descent. We saw an open slope below and headed down. The sand was soft and we found that we could descend with ease. In fact, we skated down; something that took minimal effort. It was a welcome respite from the slogging we'd been doing navigating between Freel and Jobs Sister.
Within 15 minutes we had descended 1300 feet from the ridge. We were now about two miles from the car. We did a little bit of routefinding, but it wasn't that difficult. We encountered some brush, but were able to find an easy way through it. We made it back to the road at about 2:50pm, one hour and 2300 feet below the ridge where we started the descent. It took another 5 minutes or so on the road to reach the car.
[img:304986:aligncenter:medium:View from the descent towards Round Top, Red Lake, and Stevens Peak]
The way home produced a bit of a shock. Although peaceful from the summit of Jobs Sister, the woods south of Fallen Leaf Lake were ablaze. Smoke and the red of fire lit of the sky. There was no sign of this one hour earlier. The smoke was already traveling far to the east, hovering near Freel and over much of South Lake Tahoe. It was pretty scary. We did not stop to take a photo. I guess it felt weird to document the destruction, although in retrospect, it would have made for an interesting photo.
Overall this trip was a success. We had bagged the two highest summits in the Lake Tahoe Basin, found a rewarding and short descent, and we avoided the smoke that surely would have affected our hike if it had happened earlier. We both felt for the people affected by that fire. It was so big and the entire trip back we could see firefighters were rushing to contain it. As of the following day, the fire was burning up nearly 2,500 acres and destroyed at least 220 homes. A State of Emergency had even been declared in California. The Angora Fire continued to burn and was one of the worst fires in the region that year.