The morning dawned misty and overcast; even low-lying areas to the east, which the marine stratus layer often did not reach, were reporting 100 feet and a quarter-mile. By noon, however, conditions at the airport had improved to 1,800 broken, 2,800 overcast and 10 miles visibility. A Cirrus SR22, whose destination lay to the east, took off just before noon and headed for the pass, intending to follow the highway to the desert before turning eastward. The elevation of the departure airport was 800 feet, so that the overcast layer was at 3,600. The Cirrus initially climbed to 3,300 feet and then immediately descended back to 2,200.