Vindu wondered why on earth I’d want to do this hike again. Fourteen miles later, I was wondering too.
It is a hike that must be done once. Mount Diablo dominates the East Bay landscape, visible from pretty much every high ridge across Contra Costa and Alameda counties, and most of the east-facing ridges in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Marin has Mount Tampalpais, which has excellent redwood forests and expansive views from its summit, but as hills go it’s a piker compared to Diablo, which is over a thousand feet taller. No matter how high you might be, if you see Diablo from the trail it’s whispering in your ear: you could be going even higher.
Sunday’s hike was a rerun of one I did back in January, from the Regency gate on Diablo’s north side, starting with a climb to a knob called Mount Olympia at over 2900 feet, then dashing over to North Peak and the Summit, both of which are over 3500 feet, then returning to where we started.
Of the three of these peaks, only one — Olympia — genuinely rewards the effort: a steep, calve-burning climb ends on a gorgeous overlook where the view goes on for miles in every direction. North Peak has a bunch of radio transmission towers – there were even a couple pickup trucks on Sunday — and the Summit has crowds of tourists and Harley riders. Not the strongest incentive for hiking over seven miles with over 4,000 feet of accumulated elevation gain and being only half-done.
Then again, as special guest Rick Deutsch of Hike Halfdome fame said when we finished: “It’s a great workout.” (By the way, if you go hiking with Rick you’ll have to get used the sight of his back side — he’s tall, long-legged and a very fast walker, hills or no hills — hardly anybody can keep up with him.)
OK, enough blather, let’s look at some pictures:
First thing in the morning, from near the Regency gate: the sun hits the hillside at a perfect angle. That’s Vindu on the left and Andrew, a guy who answered Vindu’s Bay Area Linkup invitation to take in “three hills of hell” or words to that effect. People came anyway. Vindu asked me along because I had done this hike before, though any concept of me “leading” the hike was absurd, given that I walk only a bit faster than a banana slug, and that’s going downhill. I had great views of everybody’s back sides all day, except in the parts where they hiked on out of sight.
One of many Diablo peaks on the way up to the top.
Vindu spotted this cool tarantula, which we all promptly set out to annoy as much as humanly possible by sticking cameras in its face. Nothing worse than spider paparazzi.
I also fall behind because scenes like this must be photographed.
Heading up the one flat stretch of the Olympia Trail — it’s over 400 feet of climb in less than a half-mile to the top from here. Some of the steepest hiking in the Bay Area.
Somebody got his face in the way at the Mount Olympia summit.
From Olympia there’s a cool, craggy trail over to North Peak, whose summit culminates at the top of this crazy-steep patch of mountain road. Coming back down is the real treat.
Vindu occasionally writes about telecommunications for the Mercury News business section, so it’s appropriate to see him up here with all the cell phone towers.
Rick kicks back and enjoys his apple.
One of many excellent chunks of rock near North Peak.
The visitors center at the Diablo summit does have some cool interpretive info inside, and you can buy ice cream bars and Cokes.
One last view of North Peak from the trail heading back down the hill.
Most of the gang, at hike’s end. Vindu and Andrew, also out of camera range, were trying to figure out how to make the timed shutter release on Vindu’s camera work. They never did get it figured out.
To get back to my original point, on whether the Three Peaks route (or, if you’re really hardcore, the Four Peaks ) is worth doing: Sure, to cross it off your life list. Also: if a rare snowfall hits on your day off in the winter: go for it. Otherwise: The trails around the Diablo summit are all much nicer than the summit itself; the hike across the mountainside from Olympia to North Peak is excellent, whereas the peak itself makes you want to move on to the next one.
Getting Peak Fever out of your system is probably the surest way to enjoy future Diablo hikes.