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Unassuming Peak 8,916ft has the distinction of being the last Sierra summit ever visited by prolific peakbagger Andy Smatko, back in 1997, a few years before he passed away in 2005. He was the first to complete the SPS list back in 1964 and went on to climb more peaks in the High Sierra than anyone, ever. Tina Bowman and the Sierra Club had spent two years trying to get the peak official named for him, but after much paperwork and deliberation at various USFS adminstrative levels, it was ultimately rejected. Undeterred, Tina was leading an official SPS outing to visit the peak and unofficially commemorate the peak for him. Scott and Iris had recently joined the SPS and it didn't take much effort for them to talk me into joining the outing. We were to meet at 10a off the Sherman Pass Rd in the Southern Sierra for the short hike to the summit.
It was around 10:15a when we finally started out, Tina in the lead for our 0.6mi distance to Smatko Peak. Once can actually cut the distance in half by starting further west on Sherman Pass Rd, but Tina found the parking limited there and decided against it. There is a fair amount of brush and downed trees to navigate through and we didn't make great time. In fact, it was comically slow and more than once Tina apologized for the slow pace. I reminded her that I had children and was equipped with various gears appropriate for the occasion. We would hike along for a few hundred yards, then pause to let the stragglers catch up. One of these was Jim who was carrying a heavy wooden sign that was intended to be planted at the summit. The other was Vicky, the eldest of the group and we could hardly get upset - it was with no small measure of surprise that I watched her navigate the terrain as well as she did. With our rather lax pace, it took well over an hour to reach the base of Smatko Peak where we were greeted by a 60 to 80-foot high rock outcrop. It looks quite impressive on the south side that we traversed around to get us to a gully on the southwest side that offers a class 2-3 route to the summit. It would be two hours before the first of our group began to reach the top of the gully, just below the summit, and another half hour before the last of the group would finally make their way to the highpoint. It was probably the slowest climb I'd ever encountered, but then I didn't have an agenda or anywhere to be that afternoon so I was more than content to enjoy the amusement of it all.
Jim and Dave began digging in the dirt below the highpoint to plant the heavy sign Jim had so lovingly carried up. It was mounted to a stout 4x4 stake of painted wood, hand-routed with the name "Smatko Peak" and the elevation of 8,916ft. Laura and her family could be seen below to the east, just making their way to the base of the rocks after arriving late at the TH. Her husband and two young daughters were along for the ride, as was Manny, their dog. It was around 12:45p by the time we had everyone at the summit for a group shot. Terry Flood had left a register a few years earlier, but Tina had brought up an ammo box and official SPS scorecard which we all signed before leaving at the highpoint. We regrouped just below at the new sign where we could spread out more comfortably and get out of the wind some, having a small party of snacks and libations to commemorate a climber's life well led. There were no rousing speeches given on Andy's behalf - in fact there was no one among our party, even Vicky, who had actually met Andy, never mind climbed with him. But we had fun anyway, enjoying the fine Fall weather atop Andy's summit until nearly 1:45p that afternoon. I planned to drive home to spend the evening with my wife rather than back at Troy Meadows CG with the group, so I verbally signed out from the hike with Tina, bid everyone goodbye and headed back on my own. I dropped down a chimney/chute off the east side directly below the sign, then made my way back to the vehicles in less than 15min.
This page last updated: Sat Oct 27 19:44:27 2018
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