It came from the top. My partner and I had to infiltrate Marin County and find out (by all means necessary) what was going on Mount Tamalpais.
This directive took us a little bit by surprise, but that’s the way it works in our business. You never question anything coming from G or the Black Tower. So early last Tuesday morning, we packed our gears and headed for the hills. It took us about 45 minutes by car to reach our destination, riding a sinuous little road that meandered erratically through an arid landscape. The parking lot at the top, save for a few maintenance workers, was practically empty and no one was there to collect parking fees.
It had been a while since I last climbed that mountain, and I felt the physical strain right from the beginning. But an order is an order… we had to soldier on. My partner was in better shape than I am but was not keen on this mission. She is a flatlander, and I could sense that this stunt was not her cup of chai.
But up we went. It was already around 85° F and the temperature was rising. The path leading to the top was fairly easy at the beginning but became progressively steeper and difficult as we went along. Mount Tam is 2,572 feet (or 784 meters) high and even though it is not Everest, it still requires a fair amount of strength and stamina.
Carrying a bulky camera was also a hindrance and a distraction, but our orders were to document our expedition and I felt that I had to do this properly. An alpenstock would have been ideal, but we had none. Later on, we met some people who used one
Mount Tam is close to the ocean and like any sector of the Bay Area, it is subject to haze and fog. And on that day haze was hanging over the entire area. Haze, I will have you know, is the “bête noire” of shutterbugs. It envelops everything with a thin blanket of vapor preventing a clear, well-defined shot of a particular objective.
As we climbed higher and higher, we were finally rewarded with a spectacular view of the Bay Area with the ill-defined shape of San Francisco in the background.
We were just a few meters from the top when my partner balked at the completion of the task. The trail was indeed narrower and rockier than ever, and it was the nuisance of carrying a bulky (and pricy) camera that swayed me to listen to her and abort our mission.
I had in the meantime taking enough shots to satisfy the suits in the Black Tower. Nobody noticed us, apart from a friendly hiker (bless his soul) who urged me to continue to the top. But I am part of a team and could not abandon my partner.
We came down slowly (my partner much faster than I did) and returned swiftly to our safe house awaiting our next mission.
To be continued…
PS: Be sure to watch the pictures of this daring raid!