Free-Heel Peak

  David Schneider ascends Freel
David Schneider climbs the last 1000' of Freel Peak
Weekends in March, you'll find plenty of skiers having fun on Mt. Tallac. And there are great runs to be had on Castle, Silver, Rubicon, Pyramid, Ralston, Waterhouse, Red Lake, and Stevens. But Freel Peak, the highest of them all (I think it's the highest point between Mt. Shasta and the Sonora Pass area), is a prize reserved for the strong.

Freel Peak is high, but kind of tucked away, so it's a long 4000'+ tour no matter how you do it. The most popular trailheads are, from Freel's south, the east side of Luther Pass, and from Freel's north, the High Meadows Drive trailhead off of Pioneer Trail. Free parking is available at both of these places, though parking is very limited at the small lot at the end of High Meadows Drive. Average tour elevation is 8300'. March is probably the ideal time to do this tour; much later and you'll lose snow coverage down low, particularly on the south-facing slopes near the east-of-Luther trailhead.

  David descends Freel
David Schneider descends Freel
In March '01, we parked east of Luther Pass, at the "Dangberg Camp" turnout at 7300'. From there, it's a gentle 1400' traverse up to Armstrong Pass. We dropped down the Trout Creek drainage to around 8000', and began our traverse up the very scenic southeast-facing gulley that lies to the west of Freel Peak, having lunch at the 9700' saddle about a mile northwest of the summit. From there, we followed the west side of the ridge up to 10200', where we crossed over into Freel's northwest bowl, which we traversed to the summit.

For our descent, we dropped down the north bowl, just northeast of the summit. From the flats at 9500', we continued north, towards Monument Peak, to High Meadows, doing sweeping tele-turns through the trees in the increasingly wet snow. At High Meadows, we turned west, following the power lines and the snowmobile route down to the High Meadows Drive trailhead. It was a full, very satisfying 8-to-6 day.

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