Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tahoe Triple Crown Hike - Freel Peak, Job's Peak and Job's Sister

Tahoe Triple Crown
Three of the four highest peaks in the Tahoe Basin
All in one day...
Freel Peak(the highest at 10,881 ft)
Jobs Sister (second-highest, at 10,823 ft)
Jobs Peak (fourth-highest, at 10,673 ft)
(Mt Rose is number three... we did that one already)

We've been talking about completing this hike for a while now and with signs of fall weather coming, we knew we didn't have much time. Tahoe had their first bit of snow just last week! 
We scheduled and kept a watchful eye on the weather. 

Forecast was for 39 degrees with partly cloudy skies (forecast shows sunny here, but that changed with the last update) and 45mph winds. With windchill, that makes it 25 degrees. Yikes! 

Knowing that the weather is going to continue to decline, we decided to make a run at it anyway. We knew it was probably going to be cold and wet, but we packed our rain gear, layers, hand warmers and plenty of food! We were doing these in a clockwise order starting with Freel, then to Job's Sister and finishing with Job's Peak before completing the loop back to Armstrong Pass. 

 We were up early, like 4:30 early. Coffee, breakfast, pack lunches and snacks and hit the road.
It was already raining. Going to be a cold and probably a wet day....


 We've had a bit of a hard time getting really good directions on getting to Armstrong Pass, so this post will include specific details on how to get there... From Highway 50 heading East, take Highway 89 (at this sign).


The sign on 89. You're going the right way...

 Highway 89 as the sun is coming up. 
What a gorgeous day it's going to be, even if it is cold, wet and windy!


This is the turnoff from Highway 89 to Fire Road 31051. It's super easy to miss. If you get to Highway 88, you've gone too far. It's marked with a small marker and a piece of mylar tape. 

These are the coordinates to the turnoff.

It's only a paved road for a very short time. 

Then the dirt road begins. We found this to be pretty easy to drive, as long as you go slow. 4x4's not necessary, but a lower riding sedan may have some trouble. 

1.5 miles in and another marker. Still on the right road. 

Cattle guard at 1.7

First bridge

Second bridge

And tada!!!! This is the parking lot to the Armstrong Pass Trailhead. No fanfare or signage to speak of, so I'm providing GPS coordinates. 

This is where we parked the car... We set a waypoint on a GPS so we could easily navigate back here. 

The trailhead is located at the end of the parking lot. "OVER HERE" I'm saying...

A quick "Trailfie" and we are on our way!! 

This is the trailhead. A little bridge with a water crossing to start the adventure!

The trail is pretty easy to follow. There are boulders to step on, sandy dirt beneath you and plenty of switchbacks. 


We stopped for a quick "2 Hikers in Love" shadow kiss because well, we are... 

.91 miles in, you will come to your first split in the trails. Previously, I've missed this turn and added a few extra miles to the hike. Don't make that mistake. Turn right here...

Star Lake is the trail you want to be on. 

Beautiful morning on the trail. 

Gorgeous views already and we've only just begun...  
But that sky, it's a bit unsettled. 

Some cool rock formations. 

We are 1 mile in

Still in the trees, but that will change soon. Full exposure on it's way. 

Two leaves that were laying on the trail in the shape of a heart... so cute. 

At 4 miles, this is your next turn. Turn right to head towards the peak! Trail is getting sandier, but still easy to follow. 

But before we head to the peak, we decided it was time for a snack! The snack bag was loaded. 
Pumpkin seeds, dried figs, dried mango, KIND bars, granola, hummus, coconut crisps (crack) and some homemade banana cookies. (click here for the recipe)

Time to head to the peak!

Trail getting steeper and even though it's very sandy in spots, there are areas with lots of rocks to climb on. 

More of the trail

Making the turn towards the peak



Getting closer!

Woohoo!! Peak #1 of our Triple Crown in the bag!!

Peakfie!! From Armstrong Pass, this was 5.25 miles and just over three hours with several clothing changes to acclimate to changing weather and a snack break.  Spent the day so far putting layers on, layers off, rain jackets on, rain jackets off, rain covers on/off the backpacks, etc. We looked like we are doing wardrobe changes in our pics. A different outfit for every peak! haha It had been fairly mild up until now, but winds are picking up, hence the crazy hair. The weather is changing and we've been rained on a little and the temps seem to be dropping. 

Views from the peak of Lake Tahoe (and a rainbow)


View of Job's Sister from Freel Peak

The trail leading over the Job's sister. 

Time to sign the peak log and get going to peak #2, Job's Sister

A view of the rainbow in full. It was gorgeous!

We are heading to Job's Sister. We need to go "that way!"

Coming down from the top of Freel was interesting. VERY sandy and steep. It was about a 600 foot drop to the bottom before we climbed back up to Job's Sister. Trekking poles were definitely a HUGE help here. 

The trail to Job's Sister. It was visible in most parts and pretty easy to follow. But getting out on the saddle meant the wind break was gone. Winds were getting pretty bad. 

Looking back up at Freel Peak as we make our way to Job's Sister

There are some areas where there is really no trail, but with the peak in sight, you just keeping moving towards it. The trees do provide a bit of a wind break. The winds are now gusting at 30-40 I'm guessing. 

Getting closer to the top of Job's Sister!

Almost to the top of Job's Sister and Freek Peak is in the background. 

The views from the top!! The views from Job's Sister are probably the best of any mountain we have hiked. Even though this is not as high as Freel, the views are spectacular and in my opinion, better than on Freel. 

"Peakfie" #2 of the Triple Crown is in the bag! Took another 1.2 from Freel Peak to get here. 
We are at about 4 hours and 10 minutes from the trailhead. 

Someone has recently added a peak log/cache jar. We added a quarter for good luck and signed it. 

Our next leg... Job's Peak. I think that one is going to give us a run for our money today. Winds are definitely picking up. Gusting much higher now. Hoping we aren't fully exposed on the way. 

Full view of Tallac from Job's Sister (notice the snow patch, it's a small heart)

On our way! We thought coming down Freel was sandy, but coming down from Job's Sister was deep! Had to stop several times to clear the rocks from my shoes. As you step down into the sand, you slide down the hill. Although it cuts down on the amount of energy expelled to descend, it's a slippery slope... of sand!

We found a spot with a bit of a wind break and decided to have some lunch before heading to the peak. Lunch was a turkey/hummus wrap stuffed with a cucumber and feta salad. YUM!

Job's Peak is getting closer. 

It's sandy and there is a trail there. It's a little hard to follow at times, but we were able to stay on it. It wraps around to the next ridge instead of heading into the valley. This was definitely the way to go as heading into the valley, then up to the peak would have been a steeper climb and we were starting to feel the fatigue a bit. Especially with the whipping winds. 

Had lots of breaks to pause and try to stay grounded while the wind whipped by. Winds were probably gusting upwards of 50mph. 

The peak is in sight. The winds were really challenging. 
This was adding to the adventures of the day!

Tahoe Triple Crown Complete!! 
It was so windy and cold and freezing rain was pelting us. At 50+ mph, freezing rain felt like shards of glass, it was about time to make a quick descent. 

This is what the peak looks like

The peak log is inside the mailbox. Awesome!! 
Signed the log, left another lucky quarter and Stowed it away. Hoping the offering to the peak gods will help clear the weather a bit for us. 

Chris at the peak. Having to hold himself up because the wind gusts were about to send him down the rocks. From there, he could also see the weather system closing in on us. Again, another sign we needed to head down. 

I had to make a quick run at the top of the rocks too, but decided it was just too windy. 

The weather is coming...

Heading down was fast, but still challenging. Footing was hard at times since the ground is so sandy and the whipping winds were constantly challenging our balancing skills. But we got down off the peak. 
Since we are making this a large loop, we stayed to the left (skyline) side of the trail. This will take us down the backside of the mountain back towards the fire road and trailhead. As the crow flies, about 3 miles. 

Trail heading down. 

We are almost done! 

Still on the trail. It's meandering through the trees and we are ready to get back to our car. 

So, we decided to just head directly towards the coordinates of the car. Bushwhacking through this area was not difficult. Still steep and sandy, but continuing to head down was the plan. 

I guess our offering of the lucky quarter was accepted. The weather was clearing now and the skies turning blue with pillowy white clouds. What a beautiful scene. The top of Job's Sister is in view.

We eventually made it back to the Fire Road which led back to our car. What at amazing day. Definitely recommend this hike and so glad we were able to get it done, even with the crazy weather. 
We were laughing at what a crazy time we had with the wind, but it added to our adventure and I wouldn't change a thing about how the day went. Simple amazing! 

Our GPS tracks as recorded by Strava.

Elevations of the three peaks. 

Having now completed this in the clockwise direction, I really think this was the best way to approach it. The descent for both Freel and Job's Sister was down the South East side and it was VERY deep sand. It would have been a very difficult climb up in that direction. Was glad to be going down that way. 



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