In winter 1977 a Lockheed Lodestar with over two tons of high-grade marijuana in its hold crashed in Lower Merced Pass Lake in Tuolumne. Alerted by a friendly park ranger, Yosemite’s Camp 4 emptied practically overnight as broke-as-a-joke climbers hiked 18 miles to the lake to chop through two feet of ice and recover the score of a lifetime. Some estimates place the value of the weed as high as $600,000. But the story didn’t end there. No one knew who had owned the “Lodestar Lightning,” or whether they’d want it back—Narcos weren’t known for their generosity. In “Angels of Light,” published in Ascent in 1984, Jeff Long wove fact with fiction to produce one of the richest pieces of climbing writing ever put down. Thirty-three years later the plane crash and its aftermath are one of climbing’s greatest and most-repeated campfire tales.
Fritz Stammberger was a leading alpinist in the 1970s, unafraid of pushing boundaries regardless of the cost. Then he vanished mysteriously in the Himalaya, leading some to believe that he had run afoul, possibly even captured as a spy. Jeff Long, who was with Stammberger on his last expedition digs into the mystery.