3/2/2022 2:55:00 AM, Nathan

Freel Peak (#13) and Round Top (#14)

Day 10, Freel Peak and Round Top

Another day, another pre-dawn wake up call, and another rad peak to ski: Freel, the tallest point in the Tahoe area! I eagerly started up the snowed-in forest service road just as the sky began to glow with the dawning of another gorgeous day. The forecast was for sun and warm temperatures, and I was hoping, with careful timing, to get a nice, soft, corn decent of Freel’s large south face. The road hike in was a little long and a bit boring, but eventually I was looking up at the face -- and a whole lot of dirt.

The warm, dry, windy weather had stripped the face almost completely bare of snow. Fortunately, upon closer inspection, a very shallow gully on the right side of the face was filled in well, and connected to a serendipitous ribbon of snow snaking down from the summit, along the east ridge. It would go! The frozen snow made for fast, efficient travel, and I found myself on the summit an hour ahead of schedule -- with the steep face below still frozen solid. Fortunately, the weather was pleasant, aside from a light winter breeze, and the views were endless, so I settled in for a summit siesta while I waited for optimal skiing conditions.

It was wonderful to spend time fully soaking in the grandeur from my lofty perch. After an hour I was getting antsy, so I clicked into my skis and started the decent. The wind-rippled snow along the ridge was bumpy and funky, as expected, but once I dropped down onto the face, wonderful, smooth turns awaited. I made wide, fast turns, dropping hundreds of feet in a matter of seconds. It was over all too soon, and I found myself back at the bottom of the face, with a long, flat road to slide back out. Fortunately, the endorphins from the great decent made the miles glide by easily. I was back at the van a little after noon, with plenty of energy to spare.

The next peak, Round Top, was only a short drive and quick climb away, so I decided to keep the momentum going and head up it. I drove to Carson Pass, windows down and blasting music, glad to be alive. In no time I was back on the skin track, headed towards another great peak. Round Top is steep, rocky, and foreboding.

Its north face is split by three distinct couloirs, which grabbed my attention one after the other. All presented teasing hints of skiing potential, but each in turn revealed hidden, steep, rocky cruxes that would require a rappel or manky downclimbing to pass. I wasn’t too disappointed- in order to ski steep, technical lines well, and enjoy them, I need a certain amount of mental preparation beforehand.

Today, I was anticipating mellow, soft skiing off the west ridge, and that is what I would do. There are plenty of steep, gnarly lines in my near future. I left my skis on the west shoulder, where the snow turned to scree, then traversed increasingly difficult, loose, volcanic rock to the summit, found at the east end of the peak’s crest.

Nearly every time I ski up a peak with a short but tricky summit scramble, I leave the appropriate footwear behind, opting to just do it in my stiff ski boots- and nearly every time I regret it. Maybe someday I’ll learn… but probably not. Eventually, I found myself soaking in summit views once again.

Swirling clouds to the west promised a spectacular sunset, and I was tempted to linger on the precipice for a front-row seat. However, I have another early start tomorrow, and dinner was calling. I gingerly reversed the scrambling and returned to my skis. The sheltered, north facing snow was still surprisingly soft after about a week of dry, windy days. I relished the powder turns, then pushed and glided my way back to the trailhead.

View the Freel Peak activity here and the Round Top activity here.

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