The trip up Diablo last weekend was a raging success. It was especially nice to get onto what I consider an ACTUAL mountain and do some vertical. To be fair, Mission Peak and places here like it are great training grounds, and I do enjoy them for what they are. But grassy rolling hills, no matter how steep they are, are no match for high, rocky peaks, jagged cliffs, sheer faces, and deep canyons.
Now, I realize that as BIG mountains go, Diablo isn’t much in terms of elevation… just 3,849 feet at its apex. (Oh yeah, and never mind the fact that after spending a half-day climbing its steep slopes, you top out into— a parking lot full of minivans. Yep… there’s a road all the way to the top, and you’ll come huffing over the last bit of trail, straight back into… uhhh… civilization? Sorta defeats the point of getting out and climbing, to my mind—but that’s another story.) That said, there are some challenging climbs on its flanks, and that’s exactly what Greg and I set out to do last weekend.
In looking over the possible routes up the mountain, most ended up at the true summit, but we found a route more intriguing than the others… the North Peak side. Despite being slightly lower in elevation than the main Diablo summit, Diablo’s North Peak has a much smaller footprint than the rest of the mountain, which results in a far more vertical and challenging climb. One more bonus… the consensus was that there’s very little traffic on our chosen route, and that, combined with the additional challenges of its terrain, is just what we were looking for.
We chose to do the North Peak loop by way of Mt Olympia, a 10.2 mile stretch of trail and fire roads that eventually took us to the tops of not just two, but three peaks. First Olympia, then North Peak, and then on the descent, you re-ascend a bit to top out on Bald Peak, an extra summit we weren’t expecting when we set out that morning.
With weight on my back, it was hard to miss the fact that it got ever steeper as we climbed, and the last half mile or so to the summit of Olympia, the kinks in the trail straightened out and turned pretty much straight upward on a 35-40 degree slope. Ouch! But awesome! Haha
As we topped out on Bald Peak, we spotted a couple of huge black condors chilling out on the outcrops of rock that banded the Bald summit ridge. Those two were pretty much the only wildlife we spotted all day—apart from some hairy mountain men (and yikes! women haha). We encountered only two or three groups the entire 6 hours… perfect.
On the way down, my feet and knees were hurting under the load, but with a few strategic rest stops and a quick patch of a tiny blister on my left foot, it was no big deal.