I am not a peak bagger, so thus summiting Freel Peak, located in the Carson Range at about 10,880 feet, has never been on my list of 1,000 Things to Do Before My Knees Give Out. That said, it’s spring here at the lake, which means longer days, and ostensibly the famed Sierra corn snow is getting close to harvest time. So when a friend let us know he was going to take advantage of Heavenly’s last day of lift operations to attempt skiing (in his case, snowboarding) Freel, N and I were interested, if only for the potential to ski 3,000 feet of corn snow and the chance to see the top of one of the highest peaks in the area.
A trip of this caliber is not for the weak. Clocking in at close to 12 miles of skinning up and skiing down, our route took us from the Heavenly boundary line, followed the Tahoe Rim Trail roughly from Monument Peak to Star Lake, and then veered sharply upward as we skinned to the saddle at 10,000 feet. While the 6 of us (3 skiers, 3 snowboarders) started out together, it became quickly apparent that we would have to split up, as our ideal routes differed greatly due to our equipment. So we continued contouring our way towards Freel, while our friends figured a more direct path would be easier on snowshoes.
Our friend K had to be at work that night so we decided to not try for the summit when we hit the saddle around 1 pm, which was a good call. The descent, which was not the corn snow we’d hoped for, included quite a bit of intimacy with shrubs and plant life as we crossed and recrossed creeks and drainages looking for the dirt road to our rescue car. Seven and a half hours after we left Heavenly we arrived at the truck. Never has a bottle of water and a seat looked so inviting.
Knowing the routefinding now, I’d like to reattempt this when snow levels are a bit lower, as the terrain looks like a lot of fun in powder. And the views, well – they’re unparalleled, making every minute of the climb up *well* worth it.