Mount Diablo, the 2nd tallest paved Bay Area hill climb

10.9 miles, about 3500 feet of climbing...this is the real thing!  Mount Diablo is eclipsed only by Mount Hamilton in total height, but, unlike Mount Hamilton, there are no downhill sections as you head towards the top.  Also, the average grade is steeper than Mount Hamilton, and that killer section at the very end is a religious experience!  Brian Krause, from our Redwood City store, did this ride with me on Sunday morning, March 18th, 2001.  Amazingly, in my 33 years of cycling in the SF Bay Area, this was my first time ever up Mount Diablo.  --Mike--

9:15am 10 minutes into the ride, and we've been climbing for...about 9 minutes! We started the ride at Blackhawk & Mount Diablo Scenic Blvd, about five minutes from 680 in Danville. 9:23am At this point, the road is still called Mount Diablo Scenic Blvd.  Don't know if too many Boulevards have 20mph speed limits, but we're in no position to challenge it. 
9:34am Very pretty road, very little traffic, although I suspect this changes in the summer! 9:42am The speed limit has dropped to 15mph for this section of road, but it's still not in danger.
9:45am Brian approaches the Northgate/Southgate instersection & ranger station.  The party's over! The grade increases from here on, but the views improve as well.
9:49am In the background you can see San Ramon below, and the Peninsula hills in the background. A scene not unlike Mount Hamilton, with the peak visible in the distance.
9:50 For a brief period the grade levels off a bit on one of the many switchbacks.
10:11 At this point the top is looking very, very close at hand.  Of course that's a lie! 10:20 Rounding one of the last curves before the final section, about to overtake another cyclist.
10:22  They told us it was steep, but they didn't tell us is was a cow path!!!  I wasn't able to take more photos while riding up the hill, as the grade went to well over 10% for a hundred meters or so.  Before heading down I took the photo on the right, where you can see the road drop out of sight.
Are the views from the top worthwhile?  Sure, once your heart stops pounding enough so that your eyes are no longer bouncing around in your head.  The problem is that you climb that super-nasty section, and then... stop!  There's no place to go, you're at the end of the line, only your heart and lungs are still midway up that last steep pitch.
On the way back down we stop at the Northgate/ Southgate ranger station, which has been overtaken by Team in Training (Leukemia Society) riders. We also spotted Amy Abele on the way down, whom we proclaimed Goddess of Mount Diablo.  She asked "You aren't taking a picture of me, are you???"  Little did she know it was going to end up on a website!


In February 2002, Eric Bain and Kathy Fong became engaged at the top of Mt. Diablo.  Ostensibly a regular ride up the mountain, Eric had gone up a couple days ahead of time and hidden a bottle of Champagne at the top.  Here's our correspondence-

Eric: Wow, what a place to propose! I recognized it instantly. Way cool.  Even a Chain Reaction water bottle on the right-hand side of the photo.  You're off to a great start.  --Mike--

Eric's Reply-

Mike,  Good eye, picking out that water bottle! If you liked that photo, check out the one I've attached. I hid the champagne and glasses in the snow a couple days ahead of time, so we could start the celebration right away. I doubt it will catch on as an electrolyte replacement drink though.  Eric

Last updated 09/08/07 Hit Counter since 05/06/05


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