FREEL PEAK (10,881') 10X, AND PYRAMID PEAK (9,983') 22X September 15-16, 2000

Rejoining the weeklong SPS Northern Sierra peak climbs, I met the group Friday morning at the side road 051, off Highway 89, just south of Luther Pass. I hitched a ride in a truck up the rough dirt road to the spur road 051F. The plan was to make a loop.

All the now, seven, climbers began hiking at 8:43 a.m. up the road, then trail to Armstrong Pass, to connect with the Tahoe Rim Trail. We briskly hiked up, reaching the trail col at 9,680 feet elevation by about 10:30 a.m., to enjoy a rest and some good views already.

A use trail leads right up a sandy bowl to the summit. This is one of the best views of Lake Tahoe. Freel Peak is the highest peak along the Lake Tahoe Rim. I could see the lake paddlewheeler as a small dot. I topped out at 12:05 p.m.

We had lunch, and I placed another register book, as the ones there were full. We stayed awhile, then it was time to head down. We took a use trail to the saddle to the northeast, then plunged down loose sand, southeast, all the way to Horse Meadows, 2,000 feet below.

Crossing the small stream, we connected back with the road 051 and came back to the cars and trucks at 2:13 p.m.

After our motoring out, I left the group briefly to take photos of the few spots of yellow in the just turning aspen in Hope Valley. In two or three more weeks it should reach its peak. It seems the fall colors are early this year.

After a nice meal in South Lake Tahoe, I headed west on U.S. 50 to meet the group, along the Wrights Lake Road, at the Lyons Creek Trailhead. It is now allowable to camp anywhere on roadside USFS land in the El Dorado National Forest. If the site is primitive, with no fee stated to be required, the camping is free. Responsible camping is dictated, though.

We made a small campfire, which I doused after everyone had retired.

It was freezing the next morning. Another climber came up to join us. We five, now, began our climb of Pyramid at 7:43 a.m. It took two hours to hike to Lake Sylvia (4.6 miles). There, we contemplated our route. My talus chute didn't look inviting without snow. We headed northeast up the lake drainage, and found a class 2 gully that led to the west ridge. Some loose rock proved mildly hazardous. The leaders seemed to determine that many routes would go from higher up in this lake drainage. By me, the hiking is much easier along the top of the west ridge. A sporadic use trail can be followed that way.

Hopping up the final few hundred feet over large boulders, I summited at 11:45 a.m. I shot pictures of the familiar, but still astounding view, with the many beautifully blue lakes, as the others had lunch.

About a dozen other climbers were also enjoying the top.

The SPS Mountain Records directives state "remove" as far as register action, after talks with the local USFS. The leader was opposed. I signed in my 22X, and gave the plastic tube canister to a young kid, who secured it next to the peak's rock highpoint.

Starting down at about 12:20 p.m., we headed directly for a small lake at 8,400' elevation to the southwest, and to the left of the west ridge. I was curious if a use trail could be located around this way. This unnamed lake had a nice view back toward the peak, with good, bright patches of red heather on its shore.

We descended further and circled low around the bump 8662'. Then we hiked down over right, back to the Lake Sylvia Trail. After another hour and fifteen minutes, we came back to the trailhead.

The others were to split up, with one to drive home, another undecided, and three to do Mokelumne Peak (9,332') the next day. Two will have done nine SPS-listed peaks over nine days. I was tempted to do Mokelumne Peak again, for a 5X and route check for my Peaks Guide, but had no more food or water. I didn't either feel it was important enough to camp another cold night, so returned home after a big bowl of soup at a foothill restaurant.