Freel Peak, Markleeville Peak
By: Jerry Keating
Twelve persons originally signed up for this Northern Sierra intro trip July I 1- 12, and six persevered in spite of itinerary changes prompted by an exceptionally heavy snowpack.
Rather than approach Freel Pk. (10,881') from Armstrong Pass as scheduled, we opted to climb the peak's south ridge from near Horse Meadow. From SR 89 0.8 mile southeast of Luther Pass, we drove USFS Road 051 about 4.3 miles, then took a left-hand spur for another .5 mile. Snow patches remained in the shade at the spur's end (8400'), but we managed to stay on dry ground virtually all the way to the summit. We reached the skyline immediately east of the peak in about two hours, then followed a use trail to the summit. Participants were Bill Sanders (the -1959-SPS chair), Gordon MacLeod, Barbara Lilley, Mike McDermitt and the leaders Jerry and Nancy Keating. Mike's work demands limited him to Saturday only, and the remaining participants agreed to skip Round Top (which each person had done at least once before) and instead climb unlisted Markleeville Pk. (9417) on Sunday. From the northeast side of Carson Pass on SR 88, we drove 7.5 miles south on Blue Lakes Road Sunday morning to a meadow (7920') in Charity Valley. From there, we ascended the peak's south ridge, crossing several easy snowfields along the way. Wildflowers were in full bloom on the lower slopes, but another week of sun was needed higher up. Views westward included Round Top, which still retained heavy snowfields and would not have been feasible without an ice axe.
With many of the region's peaks volcanic and the meadows green all summer, this area has a scenic character that makes it well worth the long drive from Southern California. Were it closer, it probably would be overcrowded and, therefore, less attractive.
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