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Ascent of Mount Tamalpais on 1992-08-23

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Sunday, August 23, 1992
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Tamalpais
    Location:USA-California
    Elevation:2571 ft / 783 m

Ascent Trip Report

Therefore I went back to the U.S. 101 freeway area and parked at a upscale semi-outdoor shopping mall in Corte Madera, CA, and found a bookstore where I browsed through a couple trail guides and bought a detailed street map of Marin. Thus armed, I drove into exclusive Mill Valley, CA, and, after getting totally confused in this labyrinthine mess of a town, even with a map, I found Summit Avenue, a very steep and narrow road lined with nice houses clinging tenuously to the hillside that took me up and up until dead-ending at a gate. I turned around and parked on a wide dirt shoulder, and, taking only my water bottle and my map, set off up the dirt road, intent on climbing Tamalpais. My map wasn't a trail map, but I knew I was as close and as high as I could get to the summit by road on the east side of the mountain.

I followed the road a bit through the forest, past a huge, shady, fenced estate, and when it seemed to me that the road was just contouring I struck off up a very faint trail leading steeply up a densely overgrown ravine, following a trickle of a brook. This brought me up to another road, which I followed to my right, where views of the Bay Area below me through breaks in the trees were starting to open up. I struck off up uphill on another faint path, but this one dead-ended in a thicket, so I had to retreat.

I returned to where I had emerged on this upper road and continued up the faint path in the brook valley, which after more steep uphill in mossy ravine faded into a more level and distinct trail that contoured to my right to yet another trail that led uphill. There were awesome views to the Bay below me as I attacked this trail, which I later found out was called the Tempela Trail. At every chance I took the steeper fork, and as I neared the top I heard voices and could see a house and observation platforms. Near the top the steeper forks of the trail were essentially cliffs, but I had fun scaling the rocks, since the rock was good and holds plentiful.

I scaled one last cliff to find myself up at a paved, flat trail, where I climbed over the railing, surprising the tourists with my sudden appearance. I followed this flat path to my right as it contoured almost all the way around the summit cone. I was perplexed by a bunch of guys running around with walkie-talkies acting like commandos, their chatter loud from even on the trail below. The paved path took me to the end of the auto road up the East Peak of Mt. Tamalpais, where there was a refreshment stand where I bought a trail map of the mountain, a coke, and some candy--sometimes roads up mountains are a good thing. After my snack I climbed up the rough path to the mountain's summit.

The view from Mt. Tamalpias was perhaps the best I had ever seen from anywhere at anytime. It was a perfectly clear day, and the entire San Francisco Bay Area was laid out at my feet: the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, the skyscrapers of the city, the East Bay hills, the Pacific Ocean, and, closer, the houses, stores, and roads of Marin. There were a bunch of us sitting on the rocks under the weather observation tower just sitting silently, awed at the spectacle in the late afternoon light.

The only problem was the guys with the walkie-talkies. Apparently they were a group of rock climbers illegally climbing in the State Park, and they used their radios to communicate about the whereabouts of rangers so they could avoid them. It was completely ridiculous, since they seemed to be having more fun pretending to be commandos with their radios than they did rock climbing. A woman on a rock near me was the command center for the operation, directing the operations of others with her walkie-talkie, and I overheard their chatter: "The Ranger's coming on the path! Better head for that rock over there. . .Roger, I think I'm clear. . .I don't see him. . .Do you think it's OK over by the big outcrop?" The most hilarious part was when ham radio hobbyists and airline pilots started coming in on their frequency, upset at these pirates, threatening them with huge fines for FCC and FAA violations unless they got off.

After over half an hour of the awesome view and inane radio nonsense I reluctantly headed down, since it was getting late and I didn't want to hike down in the dark. Armed with a trail map, I hiked down the steep Fern Creek Trail to the Old Railroad Grade Fire Trail, which wound down switchbacks to my car on Summit Avenue. I saw many mountain bikers on these trails, Marin being the birthplace of the sport. I had heard they even had rangers with radar enforcing the 15 mph speed limit on these trails.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1621 ft / 494 m
    Trailhead:Summit Drive-Mill Valley  950 ft / 289 m
    Grade/Class:1
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear



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