The Devil’s Mountain

After a 6-day guided tour along the coast in California, I found myself at my sisters house in Walnut Creek (east of Oakland) with my bicycle and riding gear, and remembered that she lives near a pretty major climb – Mount Diablo. I borrowed my wife’s laptop (I was deliberately laptop-free on the trip), did some research on some bike forums, mapped out a route in, downloaded it to my Garmin, and got ready. The next day, I got up early to avoid the usual heat, and found that it there were scattered clouds and it was in the low 60s. Perfect.

I rode into Walnut Creek, hooked back south, and rode towards the entrance.

The riding was nice, and I soon hit the North entrance:

There are two entrances to the park; a north one, and a south one. I chose the north one because it’s regarded as the harder way up (I’m not likely to have the opportunity to do it again in the near future), and because the road that I rode to get to it is a better choice early in the morning. The climb from this side is 11.1 miles and 3448’ of climbing, a nice HC segment and the second one I’ve done in four days. The weather is still cloudy, which makes the climb cool. There’s an easy 2-3% section at the start, and then the climb settles down in the 6-7% range. I climbed pretty fast a few days ago and I quickly settle at about 220 watts and a heartrate in the low 150s. I pass a guy that is much slower than me, get passed by a guy much slower than me, and wind back and forth up the switchbacks. There is no other traffic; I don’t see a single car for this whole section. It’s peaceful but the pace is fairly hard; mindful of the length of the climb I’m trying to keep up with my Nuun and eating some cheese-its now and then (they are my new cycling wonder food). Eventually, I hit the ranger station where the north and south road meet the summit road; I hop off for a quick break and, clued in by the internets, walk around the back of the building to refill my water bottles. I’m about halfway.

I head out, read and ignore the sign that says, “HEADPHONES IN BOTH EARS ILLEGAL”, and start up. It’s sunny now, but really not very hot. This section is about the same as the earlier section, and I settle back into a groove. It’s more crowded because of the people who come up the south side (which, in addition to being easier, is considered to be easier to get to from BART), and I pass one rider, and then a group of four. A guy slides up next to me, says “cool paint job” (my bike has is a Trek ProjectOne), I speed up a tiny bit to talk to him about it, but after about two minutes tell him that I need to slow down because I can’t hold his pace. He apologizes for making me ride too hard, and rides off.

I continue to climb at a nice pace. Eventually, the road tips up a bit, and the climb is in the 8% range, maybe a bit more. I pass a couple of more cyclists and get passed by one more, and finally start getting near the telecommunications towers on the summit. I round one, and then am at the finishing summit pitch. This is an host 17%, and while it isn’t that long, it’s long enough. I stand up and gut it out for the last little section, ride to the top of the parking lot, and then get off my bike and pause to catch my breath. There are seven or eight other cyclists here, and just one car. The observation tower is closed, so I have to settle for the views from the summit parking lot.

There are some more summit pictures here.

After taking pictures, I look around and see that a couple in a tandem is at the summit. I did not pass them along the way, and they showed up close behind me, which means they were either climbing as fast as me, or perhaps a bit faster. I walk over and tell that I admire their insanity for doing the climb on a tandem. I get back on the bike, and start rolling down.

The road is either 15 or 20 MPH on the way down. I hadn’t noticed it on the way up, but it’s a pretty curvy road; some sections are easy to do at 25, but you are going to be slowing down to the speed limit pretty frequently and you will be on your brakes for quite a while. One car waves me by on the way down (it’s easier to be fast here on a bike than in a car), and I descend down to the ranger station. I turn to the south this time, and descend down that section. I’m following the route on my GPS, when the path suddenly veers off, but the road keeps going straight. I stay on the road, and can tell it’s the right road by the trickle of cyclists heading towards me. I’m soon back in the neighborhoods, and I stop to figure out where I am. The route seems to be clipped off, heading straight back rather than following the route I designed. I think it’s probably a designed-in limitation in RideWithGps. I spent some time looking at the route this morning, and am sure quite that I can’t make all the turns I need to makme, but I also know that if I just head west, I’ll eventually run into bike trail, and I know how to get back from there. I turn in the direction I want to go and head off.

Eventually, I ride into Danville, and under the 680, and I pick up the trail and ride back. There’s a final 15% climb up into the neighborhood, and then a nice 20% driveway, and I’m done.

A very nice ride. I lucked out on the weather, the climb itself was the right level of challenge; the only thing I didn’t really enjoy was having to use my brakes a lot on the descents; I’m spoiled by the long fast descents around Mount Rainier.

My second HC ascent in four days, and my second Strava Extreme rating.  217 watts for 90 minutes. A great way to spend the morning.

Strava link.

So, what do you think ?