Letter: Flint Smith the climber | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Flint Smith the climber

I enjoyed Scott Condon’s profile of Flint Smith (The Aspen Times, June 13). Scott’s account omitted Flint’s career as a climbing instructor. I’ll add an anecdote that fills in this gap.

On July 21, 1977, I was sitting on the top of Pyramid Peak with Suzanne Resnick, who worked for Tukey Koffend at Uriah Heep’s, the latter’s clothing boutique in the Hotel Jerome. We watched in astonishment as eight helmeted children who were too young to walk to school by themselves stepped up onto the top of the summit block. Bringing up their rear was Flint Smith, the eldest of the four sons of the Climbing Smiths family. I have climbed Pyramid Peak 43 times, a number of which included hikers with no climbing experience who never would have done it on their own initiative. Pyramid Peak makes the list of the five most difficult of the 54 fourteeners. On the west-face route, even with adults, a guide has to watch them every second on the short cliffs at the top of the Fin Chute cut off that leads to the Fin Chute itself and another getting onto the summit block. Flint told us that he had had the 9 and 10-year-old boys out for two weeks.

During that time, he had led them on several overnight hikes and given them extensive practice in rock climbing, both up and down with an upper belay. He made it easy for them to clip on and off the belay rope. He had taught them how to choose and test handholds and footholds and shift their weight accordingly. They were divided into pairs who watched out for each other. They were taught to obey and not go off on their own. For this day’s climb of Pyramid, they had started from a high camp in the north cirque to split the 4,400-foot-vertical ascent into segments that their third-grade bodies could handle. He was sure that they could do it, and more importantly he had taught them the rudimentary skills and awareness to begin a lifetime of safe off-trail hiking and climbing.

David Bentley


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