Sat, Apr 3, 2004
A 4:45a wakeup didn't seem like sleeping in, but it was almost an hour later than usual. Somewhat recovered from our long hike to Mokelumne Peak the day before, we were ready to tackle something new, but maybe not quite as hard. In an effort to help Matthew in his quest to climb as many SPS peaks in the year as possible, I assented to a climb of Freel Peak, one I'd visited some years earlier. The draw for me was to also bag nearby Jobs Sister and the somewhat further Jobs Peak on a three-peak dayhike. That we would start from SR89 was another draw since I had taken the route off Pioneer Trail on my first visit to Freel Peak.
It was the last day of Standard Daylight Time, which meant that it was getting light out very early in the morning. We could probably have started out at 5:15a or so without headlamps had we wanted to (we didn't), and by the time we pulled into the trailhead at 6a the sun was already up. We followed Yamagata's directions as best we could, which wasn't very far. His directions follow Forest Service Road 051 for some 4 1/2 miles or so, but we only got about 50 feet off SR89 before we were stopped by snow on the road. Oh well, we hadn't really expected to be able to drive much further, and thought we might have to park alongside the main highway anyway. Like the previous day, the snow was hard and easy enough to walk on with just boots, so we kept our snowshoes strapped to our packs. Again, we wouldn't need them until later in the day. Unlike the previous day, the wind had completely died down and we would only get slight breezes while on the ridgetops. The weather was highly cooperative today - not too cold, not too sunny - afternoon clouds would come in to keep things cool, perfect hiking and climbing conditions really.
We followed the fire road for almost five miles. For the first mile the snow was intermittent, thereafter continuous until we reached Horse Meadow. We had some views of Round Top to the southwest, Stevens Peak to the west, and Hawkins Peak to the south, all bathed in a fine morning sun. Ahead we moved into the canyon carved by Willow Creek, shaded (thankfully) a good deal by a high ridge to the east. We had a view northeast towards Freel, but instead of finding two peaks on the ridge, we saw four, all of them looking to be about the same height (this was an illusion). Once we reached Horse Meadow we crossed the creek on a snow bridge and began the long ascent towards Freel Peak. We had over 2,000ft to climb in about two miles - a fairly steep rate. We climbed a ridge with some nice views on the lower half, moved northeast across a flat region we came across halfway up, then put on our crampons for the final 1200ft climb to the saddle.
We could have taken a direct line up the south slopes to Freel Peak, but the ground was exposed on that slope, and looked to be a horrible dirt/sand slog. Instead we chose the snow-covered line to a saddle between Freel and the intermediate bump between Freel and Jobs Sister. Because of the steepness we needed to rest often. I tried to time the rests to land in shaded regions - it was getting pretty warm for only 8:45a. Once at the saddle we turned west and headed up the East Ridge, staying on the snow as far as possible, then scrambling over the rocks and talus the remaining distance to the summit. The last time I had been to the summit was nearly 6 years earlier, and I had remembered a radio tower at the summit. There was no sign of it now save for a few shards of metal and a couple concrete blocks that sandwiched the summit register now. I didn't know if I had imagined the tower or not until Matthew said that Yamagata mentions the tower in his notes as well. I don't know who pushed to get it removed, but it was nice to see it gone.
Arriving at the summit at 9:45a, we stayed there half an hour taking in the nice views (W - NW - N - E - S - SW) (though not as clear as the previous, windier day), enjoying a snack, and resting. Today's outing wasn't expected to be as tough, so neither of us was in any particular hurry. We noted the summit register was chock full of loose, unreadable shreds of paper, dozens of business cards, perhaps a dozen pens, and a few registers. The peak gets climbed a great deal. I decided to tidy the register up by packing out all the loose crap, business cards, and extra pens, leaving just the three books and a few pens in the ammo box.
We headed back down the East Ridge on our way to Jobs Sister. To add some fun, I tried to stay as much on the ridge proper as possible, adding some short, fun sections of class 3. I was atop the intermediate bump between Freel and Jobs Sister before I turned to see where Matthew was. He had followed me on the game of staying on the ridge, but was now atop the one obstacle that exceeded our free-solo abilities (I had bypassed that one without going to the top). Matthew retreated, followed it around on the south side, and continued up. In the meantime I continued on to Jobs Sister a short distance away, but almost 400ft more climbing. It was 10:45a when I arrived, Matthew a few minutes behind. Having taken only half an hour from the summit of Freel, I wondered why I hadn't climbed it on my previous visit. Probably I was less obsessed then. Again we found a register in complete disarray - this peak seems to be climbed as often as Freel itself, even though it is neither an SPS peak nor a county highpoint. Again I collected all the loose, wet, and unreadable pages and packed the junk in my pack. I was now carrying an extra three pounds of this stuff. We spent another half hour at the summit, taking our usual array of photos, then headed off.
Jobs Peakto the east around Gardnerville, and it was folks in that area that probably named the peaks in the 1800s. We headed down the South Face of Jobs Sister, heading for the saddle between the two like named peaks. A thousand feet down, then almost 800 feet back up to Jobs. We followed the easy sandy slopes where we could, slid carefully down some snow slopes that were unavoidable, then followed the rocky ridge southeast up from the saddle. Bypassing the intermediate highpoint on the north side, we skirted around on the firm snow, eventually picking up one of several use trails leading to the summit of Jobs Peak from the west. By the time I arrived at 12:15p I was a good deal ahead of Matthew, some 20 minutes or so. A full-sized mailbox is used as a register, the box encased in a pile of rocks. Outside, sitting on some snow was the current register, the paper fairly soaked through. Inside the mailbox I found wads and wads of paper fragments, all tightly jammed in the box, completely full. Digging the stuff out felt like digging in a trash can, only this one going back 10 years or more. There were newpaper clippings football champions, highschool classes, and other newsworthy items. There were business cards by the dozens, plastic room keys, assorted IDs, even a still-valid CA driver's license (who leaves their driver's license in a summit register?). Disgusted with it all, I decided to burn all the loose stuff. By the time Matthew joined me at the summit, I had a small bonfire going, and was busy tossing business cards into the flames. I left the several register books in the mailbox, packed out the plastic cards, and reduced the rest to ashes. Matthew found my little diversion somewhat amusing, taking a photo of it. He also pointed out that my fire was leaving burn marks on the rock face behind it. I hadn't thought of that, but now it looked like I had just left a lasting scar at the summit. Very bad karma. I'm afraid I'm going to hell for this one...
It took a very long time to burn all the stuff and we ended up spending an hour at the summit. That was longer than I can ever recall spending time in one place on a hike. Matthew was delighted with the extra rest - he enjoys a leisurely summit stay. Heading back down, we decided to climb the intermediate bump to the west that we missed on our way to Jobs, then followed the ridge south and southwest from there. This gave us a wide, looping route down towards Horse Meadow. As we got lower on the ridge we ran into softer snow and so switched to snowshoes. On these slopes we slid and mushed our way down over 1,200ft through the forested slopes. Before we reconnected with the road we had followed on our way in, we found ourselves at the very creek crossing we'd used in the morning before starting our way up Freel's South Slopes. Back at Horse Meadow, it didn't take long to find our exit road. Of course we still had 4 1/2 miles to return, back over two bridges, some uphill, and what seemed like several more miles than we'd taken on the way in. Matthew was showing a good deal more reserves than myself and eventually moved ahead out of sight, finishing up at the car a good 15 minutes or so before me. When I found him at the car at 3:45p, he had yet to remove his boots, but was instead poring over his Yamagata peakbagger's notes. Evidently he not only had more energy than me at the end, but he was looking for another peak to bag. I put a bit of a damper on his new-forming plans by saying we didn't really have time to climb even the easy peaks since it would be dark in less than three hours. He somewhat resignedly removed his boots and began to pack up. I then modified my comments by saying that although I was done for the day, I would be happy to take him to the trailhead of his choice and pick him up at a later time of his choosing (I'm thinking I can have several margaritas in the interim). He pondered that for a moment but decided he'd already changed out of his wet socks and boots. These seemed to be the linchpin upon which continued action depended, and once he was in dry socks and tennis shoes the urge to continue the adventure had rapidly drained from him.
So we called it an "early" day, only 9hrs out, and headed back to South Lake Tahoe. I had spied the Starbucks at the "Y" junction earlier in the morning on the way out, and since Matthew had turned over the driving duties to me, I made this our first stop. Matthew said he had been to a Starbucks once before, but left without making a purchase due to the exhorbitant pricing structure. This I acknowledged but countered that price was no object when it came to feeding an addiction for Frappuccinos. Starbucks Card in hand, we entered the establishment, placed our order and took in the luxurious sofa accoutrements while we waited. Looking around and sinking easily into the plush seating, Matthew commented that he was beginning to see the attraction...
Afterwards we enjoyed a Subway dinner while hatching plans for the following day. Our original plan called for a rather mild outing to Thunder Mtn and Thimble Peak, two peaks on the border of the Kirkwood Ski Area. Seeing that Matthew had been thirsting for a bit more challenge today, I offered that we might be able to stretch tomorrow's outing into something far more ambitious, and I suggested we could probably get Round Top (another SPS peak) in the bargain. It looked to be 13-15 miles and 4500-5500ft of gain (depending on which direction one took) to include the entire ridgeline between Martin Point near Kirkwood and Carson Pass. If we travelled in opposite direction, we could drop one of us off at Carson Pass to hike starting from there, while the other drove to Kirkwood and started in the other direction. Upon reaching Kirkwood at the end of the day, that person could then drive back up to Carson Pass to pick up the other. Matthew was intrigued and began poring over maps and even got out his laptop and loaded his TOPO! software for the Tahoe area. After a good deal of deliberation, he concluded we'd best stick with the original plan. That was fine with me I said (I would work on him some more the next day...).
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Freel Peak - Jobs Sister - Jobs Peak
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