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Hiking Stats as of 11/21/2018
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 325
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Oct 26, 2013 - Freel Peak / Jobs Sister

 

Partners: Kyle Breen

Distance: 10.10 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,102 feet

Trip Time: 6:47

Maps and Stats:
Today was to be a bit of a celebratory occasion, as I only needed 2 more Tahoe OGUL peaks to earn consideration for the OGUL Peak Emblem Status. Aside from a stray minor storm or two, winter weather had yet to take any kind of hold in the high county, and Kyle and I decided it would be a great opportunity to visit Freel Peak - a peak listed on the SPS, WSC and OGUL Peak lists, and, along with being the highpoint of El Dorado County at 10,881 feet, is also the the highest peak in the Tahoe Area. Adding to the adventure would be an attempt on nearby Jobs Sister, which looked to be little more than a mile trek across an easy class 1/2 ridgeline connecting the two peaks. Jobs Sister is also an OGUL Peak, and was slated to be my 15th, earning me the OGUL Peak Emblem status. We had designs on extending the hike and summiting Jobs Peak as well, although time would likely be the determining factor in whether or not we attempted the trifecta.

The further south you head in the Sierra the higher the peaks are. While Kyle and I tended to go for peaks on Highway 80, which is the northernmost trans-Sierra highway, to reach these peaks we would be taking US 50 to South Lake Tahoe. We met up at the Target in Roseville and carpooled across the Sierra, ultimately taking a single lane (albeit paved) road several miles off of Highway 50 outside of Meyers to reach the trailhead. If there is one recurring theme that seems to continue to bite us (and more often me, since I am usually the one to plan the route) it is our continued tendency to lose the trail and wind up making our hikes harder than they need to be. In this case, we were immediately given a choice of 3 directions. I had thought we should go straight on the wide fire road, although there were alternating choices (both of which appeared to lead downhill so were quickly rejected). We set off at 10:30 in spite of the warnings and all was well for the first half mile. Soon we reached a trail junction and, in looking at the map, noticed that if we went left we could head straight up the mountain, while if we went right we would have to hike over 2 miles extra as the trail seemed to take a very easy grade up the hillside. Of course going left meant that we would be committing ourselves to an extremely steep climb, with the added bonus of not really knowing if we would have a trail. No matter, we had our GPS so we wouldn't get lost.

The trail we took was a legit trail, just steep as it climbed the sandy hillside. This would be somewhat of a problem throughout the day - the slopes of Freel are incredibly sandy - and while that may sound nice and pleasant, is much more difficult than granite, rock, or just plain dirt. This is because you slide down after each step, so in effect it takes 4 steps to reach where you would normally get in 2 or 3. The steeper the slope the worse the impact of the sand. As we wound our way up the mountain we could see that we were separated from the main trail by a stream, and we would need to cross that and find the correct trail at some point. As we got closer to the ridgeline we started worrying a bit that we wouldn't be able to traverse the ridgeline and would be stuck on the wrong peak, so we made the decision to cross the creek and head cross country in search of the trail. I had the trail mapped on my GPS, yet somehow, after climbing close to 1,000 feet we still could not locate it. I could see that we were headed right for the summit of Freel Peak, so I wasn't worried about ultimately finding it, but I was getting a bit worried about how long this little off trail excursion was taking. I was nearly resigned to just going off trail the entire way to the top, which would be quite a steep and difficult climb, when all of a sudden - we found the trail! As soon as we got on the trail we noticed a massive difference. No more sandy slope - no more digging into the hillside, no more grabbing onto rocks and branches to steady ourselves on the way up. Looking back at our route shows the difficult path we chose.

Now that we were on the Tahoe Rim Trail it was a short little jaunt up to the junction with the Freel Peak Trail which would lead to the summit. The Freel Peak trail is an enjoyable hike up to the sandy summit, with exciting drop offs on one side and a sensitive plant area, where a rare alpine species of some sort makes its home. There's nothing difficult about getting to the top from here, save for the altitude and the sand. By 1:30 we arrived at the top of Freel Peak, and some spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. From the top we had great views all around , although our focus was on scoping out the way to Jobs Sister so I could get my OGUL Emblem. We signed the summit register, and for the second trip in a row, noted the signature of the incomparable Bob Burd (and son) who I am guessing was the artist in the family. We took a summit shot of myself and Kyle and set ourselves to the task of the trip over to Jobs Sister.

Following in our newfound tradition, we immediately took the wrong path down, thinking that we should take the west slope down and circling around to eventually head east towards Jobs Sister. This resulted in a steep descent, although with the sand it was somewhat enjoyable. Once we reached the level of the col between Jobs Sister and Freel we found the trail. We were able to see that the trail actually started all the way back at the summit of Freel Peak, although we could not imagine the pain and difficulty hiking back up the steep, sandy slope would put on us. Oh well, we would deal with that later. For now, we followed a nicely marked trail. We were not sure if we wanted to go to Jobs Peak or Jobs Sister first - in looking at the geography it looked like maybe we should circle the south side of the Sister, connect to the ridgeline to Jobs Peak, then on the return, follow the ridgeline up to the summit of the Sister and then returning back to the trailhead. As we circled the side of the Sister we realized that the distance to Jobs Peak was further than we had thought, and required what looked to be a large elevation decline and a difficult ridge traverse. Looking at our watches, we could tell that we had no chance of getting over to Jobs Peak and then retracing our steps back here, then descending down before dark. I wasn't too disheartened by this decision, as all I needed was one more peak to get to my number. So up we went to Jobs Sister.

We got to the summit a few minutes after 2:30 and were amazed at the views of Lake Tahoe. Actually, the views from Jobs Sister were just fantastic in all directions. From this vantage point the route to Jobs Peak was easy to see, although still looked quite difficult, with some level of snow looking to pose a challenge as well. With any hope of getting Jobs Peak now officially gone, we spent nearly a half hour on top, enjoying views to Nevada, the jagged peaks of the surrounding mountains, and the snow covered summits of the high country. There was no summit register, but we did get some fun summit shots of Kyle, (2) and myself. After taking in the views for a few more minutes, we decided to avoid the crazy trail back up to Freel and instead we would once again show our master off-trail skills by shortcutting down Jobs Sister, then traversing cross country north of Freel Peak until finding the Tahoe rim trail again. It was easy going for a while, and we enjoyed descending the sandy slopes. We didn't expect to see a massive quartz deposit on the north side of the Sister, however. This was quite an interesting sight - especially considering that the quartz didn't go all the way to the summit. Where did it come from? We would not find the answer on this day, so we kept going down, through snow, sand and trees before bottoming out and turning west to look for the Tahoe Rim Trail.

We actually found the trail quite easily, much to our surprise given our track record. We followed the trail as it passed the turnoff for the Freel Peak trail, although we couldn't bear the thought of winding down the many miles of the trail when we knew we could shortcut the descent in a manner similar to how we did several hours earlier on our way up. But this time was tons of fun. We glissaded down, much like skiing on sand, with our only obstacles being the trees. As we got lower, the trees thickened, the sand turned more into a dirty mix, and we got into a bit of a bushwacking nightmare. We were able to hear the creek, and we crossed it without incident and once on the other side were able to locate our original steep trail from the morning. From there, it was an easy descent, and as the afternoon faded away we bade farewell to Freel Peak. We were back at the TH a few minutes before 5:30, where we located the sign that basically told us we had taken the wrong trail. We should have headed towards Armstrong Pass. Oh well, we got our multi-summit and I am now eligible for OGUL Peak Emblem Status!

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