Hitting the Trail!Freedom Peak had been a peak that I had seen for years from my Provo residence. Until recently, I didn't even know that it had a name, I just knew that it was located south of the pyramid shaped, terraced peak, which I later found out was named Shingle Mill. Upon doing some research on Freedom Peak on summitpost and on Google Earth, I knew that it was a peak I that I could not wait to stand on top of. I was keenly attracted to the fact that those who had attempted the climb noted how it had what many considered a crazy knife-edged ridge that one would have to traverse to make it to the summit. Having climbed Lone Peak and Pfeifferhorn, I felt confident that I had the skill and knowledge to safely traverse this peak.
About a month earlier, I had hiked up to Cascade Mountain, situated northwest of Freedom, and I'd also hiked Shingle Mill via the Dry Fork Trail, so I was very familiar with the trail that would lead up to the saddle between Shingle and Freedom.
When I had hiked Shingle Mill the month before, I had also wanted to tackle Freedom, but a storm moved in, and the clouds shrouded the peak of Shingle Mill and Freedom, not to mention I was with an inexperienced hiker and the temperature was barely 40 degrees. It was in our best interest to put off Freedom for another time which was disappointing... however, by hiking Shingle Mill, it gave me a birds-eye view of the ridge between Shingle and Freedom, and quite frankly, I found it a little intimidating.
I would have my chance to give it a go a month later under much more favorable conditions. My hiking buddy, kteichert and I both had the morning of Monday, September 21st off, so we decided to hit up Freedom and then Shingle Mill.
We hit the Dry Fork Trailhead, located about a mile past Rock Canyon Campground off of Squaw Peak Road at about 7am. The trail leading up to the Cascade saddle is a very pleasant and well worn trail walk. Along the trail, we spotted some deer that were grazing just west and under the Cascade saddle. The Dry Fork trail winds along the bottom of the cirque under Freedom Peak and then shoots north along a decades old jeep trail that crosses the CCC terraces under Shingle Mill to reach the Cascade saddle. We made great time up to the spot where the Shingle Mill Trail forks right and back south from the Dry Fork Trail. After following the trail up the west ridge of Shingle Mill we followed the trail back south along another CCC terrace back underneath Shingle Mill to the saddle between it and Freedom.
Navigating the Knife-EdgeOnce at the saddle south of Shingle Mill Peak, it gave us an excellent view of what we were about to get ourselves into. I had seen it a month before and had spent the month leading up to this moment trying to disspell the the thoughts of unease, and it had worked... until I saw the ridge again. My feelings of confidence, wavered slightly, but I was not about to turn around this time, I didn't have a good reason. It was beautiful and clear outside, albeit very cold, (about 38 degrees) and I was determined to stand on the top of Freedom Peak.
We began our ascent along the ridge until we reached the knife-edge. We climbed the knife-edge for a couple hundred feet, and then decided that it was safer and much warmer to drop down on the east side of the ridge, about 25 below the knife-edge. While it was still very steep, at least we could only fall off one side instead of both sides. We found that the climb wasn't as perilous as it looked from the saddle, however, every step and hand hold was carefully chosen, for one mis-step would have led to a probable unstoppable slide and tumble down the east cirque some 1500 ft below. I used the strategy of always maintaining at least three points of contact at all times, and I didn't have a problem.
Kyle did have a scary moment, as a rock, roughly the size of a pizza box broke lose from the mountain, causing Kyle to slide down the ridge about 15-20 feet. Luckily, he remained calm and his feet caught on some small cracks in the rock slabs. We took a minute to catch our breath. Our fingers were pretty frozen from the constant biting wind blowing, so we briefly warmed them up and continued up the ridge. The last 200 feet or so to the summit isn't bad at all. We reached the top and saw the summit cairn. It was bitter cold up there, and neither slope provided any cover from the biting wind. With the wind chill, it was easily only 30 degrees, but we had made it!
Finding the Summit RegistryI had read the comments left by vanman98 on the climber's log for Freedom Peak, so I knew that there was a registry up there. Just like he had mentioned, a foot or so south of the summit cairn, I found a small glass jar with a rusted lid tucked under a bunch of rocks. What we found inside was the coolest thing I'd seen in a summit registry. It dated back to 1976, and back then, it apparently went by the informal name of Storm Mountain. Freedom Peak, as it is officially known was given it's current name back in 2005.
The views were spectacular in all directions, especially looking toward Provo Peak. After some pictures, and perusing the registry, we made our way down. I'm determined to hike it next summer with additional registry paper, larger summit container, and more utensils. I left my calling card, a FedEx pen next to the container since the pen was too long to put in the bottle. One of the coolest things was when I opening the jar, it smelled like an old library book. Very nifty. This was a wonderful hike. We made it to the summit in a little under 2.5 hours. Roundtrip was about 6.5 miles, for just Freedom. Going to Shingle after Freedom is only additional mile or so, a nice relaxing hike compared to Freedom's ridge traverse. It's definitely a hike that I will plan on doing each summer!