While photographers love the jagged crags of Mt. Tallac, Freel Peak catches the eye from the distance- the highest peak in the Tahoe basin, Freel is visible from as far south as Sonora Pass, and surrounded by the smaller summits of Job’s Peak, Job’s Sister, and Trimmer Peak.
From the Sky Express lift on Heavenly Mountain Resort, every once in a while you see ski tracks arcing down the smooth northeast snowfield of Freel- and ever since that view first caught my eye, I’ve wanted to ski it.
My first attempt on Freel was a resounding defeat- Ben Pope and I slept too little, lost the trail, and got altitude headaches by High Meadows. We napped in the springtime sun while we watched 60mph winds strip snow from the summit, then bailed and got lost on our way down.
Freel’s remoteness encourages epics, but this year I had dialed the approach while doing laps up High Meadow Road. So one February Saturday I set out with Bennett and Mike Garry, aiming our skis up High Meadows Road to see what we found.
Instead of a wind-stripped ridge, we found deep warm snow and slow trail breaking all the way to the saddle between Freel and Jobs’ Sister. Then things suddenly transitioned into wind-scoured snow and ice, making the final 800 feet to the summit a dicey, delicate skintrack.
The vistas from the top stretch from Sonora Pass to the Sierra Buttes, and are awe-inspiring any season of the year. The snow on the descent was a bit less inspiring- bulletproof ice and windboard on the summit cone, gradually transitioning into soft old powder as we dropped into the lower angles of the bowl. The best skiing was actually not on Freel, but instead on a bowl of trees between Job’s Sister and High Meadow that we hit on our way out.
We still got lost on the way out, wandering around the flatlands of High Meadows and getting turned around following other peoples’ skintracks. With the help of GPS, we managed to get back to the cars just in time to not need headlamps. Next time, stick to the ridge on the way out…. but lots to explore up there!