Ascent of Montara Mountain on 2021-05-10

Climber: Edward Rice

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Monday, May 10, 2021
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Montara Mountain
    Elevation:1898 ft / 578 m

Ascent Trip Report

I parked at a small gravel lot on the east side of highway 1 in Montara State Beach, where North Peak Access Road ends. It's a slightly scary place to back out from onto 1 with all its fast traffic. On the way up, I started down North Peak Road but soon took a right across the footbridge into the little ranch that is now part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, then followed a paved road through that and around to the base of an eroded path up a steep hill. I took this path up and over and down into a pleasant gully full of Monterey pine (Pinus radiata), and then a somehow even steeper and more eroded path back up out of the gully to the beginning of the Alta Vista trail.

This trail is steep, eroded, unshaded, and unrelenting. But if you're trying to get some good climbing in for training, which I was, I can't think of another trail anywhere in the Bay Area that goes uphill at that kind of grade for that long, so I welcomed it. There are occasional series of parallel logs across the trail connected by cables to control erosion and act as makeshift stairs, but mostly it's just steep gravel or hard dirt with lots of ruts.

The first little knob the trail gets to in the summit area, called Peak Mountain on the USGS quad, has sweeping views of San Francisco as well as glimpses of the Bay and Marin Headlands. There's a San Mateo County benchmark on top that just says "Pedro 1969" if I recall correctly. The summit area was full of wildflowers and little knobs here and there. The highest two are fenced in to protect communications equipment of some sort, but the view from the saddle between them is great, so I sat down there and ate lunch. I didn't see anyone on the way up until I saw one hiker also taking a break in this saddle.

I decided to preserve my knees, sanity, and dignity by forgoing the ultrasteep descent on Alta Vista in favor of taking North Peak Road all the way down. The difference in difficulty between the two is almost comical. Taking North Peak Road back to the car was not terribly much longer (less than half a mile difference on my map) but the grade is by comparison incredibly gentle, with good switchbacks. There were lots of mountain bikers. I'm not a good descender and usually my time down is pretty similar to my time up, but it took me about twenty minutes less to get down via this route than it had to get up.

Overall, good hike, good views, and nice to know for future reference that there's a pretty challenging route option as well as a very easy one.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2182 ft / 664 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2182 ft / 664 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6.6 mi / 10.6 km
    Grade/Class:Class 1
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2096 ft / 638 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1831 ft / 558 m; Extra: 265 ft / 80m
    Loss on way in:265 ft / 80 m
    Distance:3.1 mi / 5 km
    Route:Alta Vista Trail
    Start Trailhead:Montara State Beach  67 ft / 20 m
    Time:1 Hours 43 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1917 ft / 584 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 1831 ft / 558 m; Extra: 86 ft / 26m
    Gain on way out:86 ft / 26 m
    Distance:3.5 mi / 5.6 km
    Route:North Peak Road
    End Trailhead:Montara State Beach  67 ft / 20 m
    Time:1 Hours 21 Minutes

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