Eylar Mountain P1K CC

Mon, Nov 22, 2010

With: David Alexander

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 Profile

Eylar Mtn is the fourth highest summit in Santa Clara County and one of only five whose height exceeds 4,000ft. It is located on private ranch property as is most of the Diablo Range. I've been wanting to reach the peak for more than five years though I never put any serious effort into it. When I got an email from David that he'd be available for a hike around Thanksgiving, this was the peak he suggested. So I gave it some serious thought. Much of the lower hillsides are thick with brush making a cross-country approach difficult at best. The only reasonable road to reach the summit starts from paved Mines Rd and goes past two occupied homes. This seemed a bit dicey. The satellite view showed a swath of semi-clear land a few hundred yards north of this road that might allow us to bypass the homes and reach the road above them. This route we settled on became known as The Swath.

We had only Monday or Tuesday night for this adventure as I was scheduled to take the family to Los Angeles for the holiday on Wednesday. The weather had changed since the previous week and more than half an inch of rain had fallen in San Jose over the weekend. The forecast for Monday night showed more rain, and then yet more rain for Tuesday. Acknowledging that I'm mostly a fair-weather hiker, I wrote to David suggesting maybe we should leave the effort for another time as the weather wasn't cooperating. David replied that he was still very much game for it, regardless of weather, a polite way of telling me I was being a pussy. I acquiesced and resigned myself to potential misery, packing my rain gear in my daypack. On Monday afternoon I noted that it had hardly rained all day and the forecast was now making Monday night look like the better choice. I emailed David who was driving down from San Francisco at the time and within a short time we had set plans to head out within the next few hours.

David had grown dreadlocks since the last time I had seen him more than a year ago. Now going to school in Colorado, he is only home in Los Gatos around the holidays. So on our long drive out from San Jose, through Livermore and up Mines Rd, I made him give me a dissertation on the development and care of dreadlocks. I had been under the misconception that dreadlocks were the natural result of not maintaining one's hair, but came to find that that is not the case at all. A great ammount of effort it seems goes into initiating the process and keeping it up. Not that I'm going to get to make any practical application of my new knowledge - what hair I have is barely attached to my scalp as it is.

We arrived at our destination with the aid of a GPS coordinate we had picked from the map to land us at the start of the swath. Worked beautifully. It was just before 6p when we hopped the fence alongside the road and made our way over to the start of The Swath. It turned out to be a rather steep, but delightfully grassy ridgeline. It looks to have been plowed as a firebreak or similar some time in the past. Cows now grazed it regularly and there were numerous cow tracks angling up the slope as evidence (as if all the poop wasn't enough evidence). We climbed this open slope for almost 800ft and perhaps half a mile before we had some modest brush to contend with where the unbroken grass slope finally gave out. The easy brush slope took us higher and then left in a traverse to avoid heavier brush above. This led to another open slope under an oak canopy and soon thereafter to the road we were looking for. We never saw lights from either of the two houses so we weren't sure exactly where they were. Later in the evening on our drive back we saw a truck driving up the road so perhaps we were just lucky to find them not at home.

The ground was wet from the start. Patchy snow found on the ground became more uniform the higher we hiked. My boots held out for only the first half hour before my socks and feet began to get wet and eventually soaked. The moon had risen during our ascent of The Swath and was just over the trees when we reached the road. We could see stars to the east but found clouds overhead and thicker to the west from where they were coming. We would not have much help from the moon. The lower part of the road was on the Biel Ranch, the middle on the N3 Ranch, and then the upper back on the Biel Ranch, judging by the labels we found on several gates we passed through. My toes grew numb with the cold water that seeped in through the boots and surrounded my feet, but it was only a minor inconvenience. Cold hands would be a bigger problem and I kept these in my pockets to keep them warm, eventually pulling out wool gloves when it grew colder. Luckily the rain/snow held off even as we found ourselves in a thick fog for the last several hundred feet of elevation to the summit.

It was probably only with the help of the GPS that we found the summit in such a fog as we found ourselves in. The summit is crowned with the remains of an old lookout tower. The cab atop is missing, but the support structure rising more than 30ft was still intact. There was no stairway or ladder by which one could access the top had one wanted to. There wasn't much to photograph. The pictures we took were mostly blurred by the fog, the flash ineffective as it reflected to brightly off the suspended water droplets. We spent some time looking around for the benchmark indicated on the topo, but found this fruitless due to the several inches of snow that covered most the ground.

Our return to the car went via the same route, largely uneventful. The short outing took two hours. The Swath is undoubtedly the way to go, we agreed. So much so that it would probably be fine to use it for a daylight ascent as well, provided one look out for trucks on the road - the evidence was clear that they are regularly used.

We had a second peak in mind, Red Mtn, located on the opposite side of Mines Rd, along the crest of the range. The start was about four miles further south along Mines, so we headed off to do what looked like an even easier peak. There was a house with lights on not 50 yards from where we parked. Right from the start, this was not going to be a piece of cake. We hiked east along the gravel road south of the home, the gate left open but marked Private Property. We found another house with lights off the south side of the road about a quarter mile in, but like the first, no dog or persons stirring to confront us. Near the end of the road about a mile from the start is another home marked as a school on the topo map. The home is a small collection of buildings and a great amount of junk and trash judging by the satellite views I had seen. The obvious route to Red Mtn goes right by this home with a bright outdoor light to dissuade us. We choose to take another road, not shown on the map that continues east along the drainage. After a short time we realized this did not lead to where we needed to go so we backtracked some, then did some moderate bushwhacking up to a small ridgeline southeast of the home.

When we came into view of the house we heard a dog begin to bark and it kept at it. We were more than 100yds from the home but it was clear the dog was sensing our presence. We studied the map and concluded our only way up was going past the house. And though no one came out to see what was up with the dog, we decided not to chance it and returned to the car, content to call it a night. Further investigation would be needed to find a way this peak.

We drove back to San Jose, arriving around 10:30p and early enough to surprise my wife. "What are you doing home?" she asked. Keeping her on her toes, of course. :-)


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Anonymous comments on 11/14/12:
This peak is on private property. Biel Properties, Inc. OUR family's property. If you took the time to read the "no tresspassing" signs, you would have realized that. We have had problems with people involved in illegal activities (in addition to tresspassing), and do not want hikers roaming all over our hillsides. Since our property is on both sides of Mines Road, it is somewhat likely that the homes you were trying to avoid trying to get up to Red Mountain were also some of ours. Please be respectful of the ranchers who own the property. Also think about how you would feel if you found a couple of "hikers" wandering around your backyard.
MerrillO comments on 11/16/12:
Please remember that this *is* private property. It is someone's home. Our home. It was distressing to see your first photo with your companion jumping over our fence with the "No Tresspassing" sign right on it! Would you like us sneaking into your yard in the dark of night, for the thrill of it? Because it isn't right for only you to have access to such a lovely yard?
Anonymous comments on 11/18/12:
You can't stop Bob, you can only hope to contain him.
Anonymous comments on 12/04/12:
In reality, these peaks do not belong to any one individual or entity. They belong to Mother Nature and in that respect should be available to all.
Al Sandorff comments on 12/19/12:
Let me know when law enforcement sees it that way. I like to say it's not illegal if you don't get caught, and it's not unethical if nobody gets hurt. I don't suggest using that excuse to climb Bald Mountain in Area 51 however.
Anonymous comments on 12/23/12:
these are entertaining discussions about private property, this land only became "ours" when we forced the origianal inhabitants off by gun point. Its as much mine as it yours, so there! hehe
Bielblood comments on 08/28/13:
anonymous 12/23/12: that is where you are wrong. Observance of the Private Property signs is also for your safety. You know not whereof you speak.
Anonymous comments on 06/03/14:
That's right BIELBLOOD. Well said.
Kirk D. from Sparks comments on 06/04/14:
21st Amendment's MONK'S BLOOD is available now in fine Bay Area Craft Brewing stores now, oh joy ! This very tasty (in cans) 8.3% ABV is a nice addition to any backcountry camp. Aloha . . .
HH comments on 09/08/15:
Snoturd is quite the writer. Looks to be an OK climber too. That's where it ends. Another Silicon valley Geek with no respect for others. I'm sure Bob cries foul and quotes the law when it suits him. Breaks it and encourages others to do so when it suits there needs. Not much of a penalty for trespassing in this fucked up State anymore. Law enforcement isn't much good around here anymore either. Lots of DOPE grower's though. The landowners get shot at from time to time. Dangerous Country!! You've seen the heavy brush and endless rugged canyons out here. Easy for someone to disappear. Landowners in the area are more in tune to this activity and seem concerned about your safety. Also, the recent damaged to cars left along the road is on the rise. Lots of kids from who know's where traveling the road. So be careful. For those of you who feel someone else's property is OK to trespass on...just know that it only takes a licence plate # and the last 5 digits of the vin. # displayed in your window to get the registered address of the vehicles owner from the DMV site. Now folks can come PARTY at your place. COOL!!
Anonymous comments on 09/08/15:
I Love the comments here and these private property holders seem like nice people and actually really cool. Of course we all want to respect private property and we want you to be very happy and thank you for watching out for possible dangers for hikers. For that, I think most all will stay away. It's just with Bob -- he's our #1 hope in the world of hiking of someone who has the chance to touch all summits in California. Doesn't knowing one person in the history of mankind will have touched all summits in Califorina bring a little happiness to the heart?! I'm just really rooting for one person to touch them all and Bob has my vote -- he has a chance. To those private property owners who let just 1 person touch your highpoint -- many thanks from the bottom of many hearts!! I'll spread the word to make sure none other than Bob will do a repeat. Thank you for your informative comments and any understanding for Bob's goal & dream as it is surely appreciated....
I don't want to disappoint you, but I'm not going to climb them all, there's simply too many for one lifetime. And I won't make excuses for my trespassing. Landowners have a right to be upset, to protect their property from the likes of me, and to discourage further infractions. I see no reason for anyone to give me special treatment.
Anonymous comments on 09/08/15:
Note to HH : Snoturd and Silicon Valley Geek are juvenile takes. I look forward to your comments on the scenery, botany, geology, the thrill of the ascent, and the the wonder of the great outdoors.

Your semi literate ramblings re. a harmless night hike are well, 'kind of boring' . . . Some fresh air may do you and yours good.
Anonymous comments on 09/08/15:
Appreciate your modesty but you are special. Thanks for giving the climbing community a chance to climb along with you via your reports (you might not climb all of them but at least let us armchair hikers have our fantasies that anything you're attempting is possible)
slowpoke comments on 02/08/16:
Sweet! It's too bad that the views were nonexistent and that you didn't make it to the second peak, but I love reading about these adventures!
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