Smatko Peak
Peak 9,470ft P500
Peak 7,010ft P300

Sat, Oct 20, 2018

With: Tina Bowman
Paul Garry
Jim Fleming
Dave Titus
Anne Mullins
Asher Waxman
Mary Jo Dungfelder
Gary Schenk
Keith Christensen
Vicky Hoover
Laura Newman
Kenny Snyder
Alexa Synder
Olivia Snyder

Smatko Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 3


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.

Peak 9,470ft

There was plenty of time in the morning for some extraneous peakbagging before meeting the group at 10a. I had planned two nearby peaks, but one of those I had done the previous evening at sunset. The other, Peak 9,470ft, rises 500ft higher to the west of Smatko Peak, an imposing face on the south side, but easy slopes to the north. A Forest Service road forking off the Sherman Pass OHV route gets one within 1/3mi of the summit. It was the last weekend for deer hunting in the area and the place was crawling with them - hunters, that is, not so much deer. When I arrived, a pair of hunters were getting ready with their guns and camo gear. They were friendly enough, but I don't think they were too happy with me wandering through the woods where they planned to hunt and were gone when I returned to the jeep 15min later. I wandered over to one possible highpoint to the northwest before finding the spot elevation point to the southeast. They both registered the same elevation on the GPSr, but the southeast point had a small cairn. Not much in the way of views.

Smatko Peak

Mine was the first vehicle to show up for the meeting point at the junction of Sherman Pass Rd and Forest Route 22S41, signed for Bonita Meadows, soon after 9a. Several vehicles arrived in short order, folks who had camped at Troy Meadows CG the previous night. Most of the folks arrived before the 10a starting time, save for those that had already canceled and Laura's family, who unbeknownst to us were stuck in traffic on Interstate 5. I had hiked with Paul, Anne and Keith previously, met Tina on several occasions and knew Gary and Asher by reputation. Vicky was the eldest member of our party, an SPS list finisher from 1981, the 20th person and 3rd woman to do so. Tina was a 2x finisher and our trip leader, along co-leaders Paul and Jim. Scott had cancelled due to work commitments and Iris didn't feel like making the long drive by herself. This was my first time signing into an official SPS trip and I proudly took a photograph of the momentous occasion. While waiting, we shared the usual assortment of peakbagging stories, ate some muffins that had been brought out, and generally wiled away the time until the appointed hour and then some.

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.

Peak 7,010ft

My route back out of the Southern Sierra took me along M-50, going from the Kern River west over Parker Pass and down through California Hot Springs. I stopped at Parker Pass to visit this unnamed summit less than half a mile from the road. There is an old trail that goes over a saddle SE of the summit which I used on the way up to approach the peak from the south. The summit was forested with no views, as was most of the route. I nearly tripped over some strands of barbed-wire laying on the ground, part of a fence that runs up the ridgeline and is in a slow state of decay. On the way down I took a more direct route which took me through some heavy brush before finding easier going back to the start. All of about 30min's time was spent on the effort. Back just after 3:30p, I finally called it a day and headed home. It would be after 8p by the time I got to San Jose, just in time for the cold that had been festering since the start of the trip to morph into something more bothersome. And so it goes...

Scott Barnes comments on 10/22/18:
"Forever" will probably be the amount of time that I regret missing this.
Gary comments on 10/23/18:
For an octogenarian, Vicky did great. She might have slowed down over the years, but she had no problems on any of the terrain. It was great meeting her.
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