Sunday, August 16, 2009

The summit or bust

I got this wild idea into my head a couple of week ago that I would climb Mount Diablo for the second time this summer. I went up once in June in the middle of a fog shrouded day so this time I would wait for a really hot day in mid-August and then make a solo hike up the mountain. I didn’t want any wimpy little walk. I wanted a death march. Ask and yea shall receive.

Ok so I did this act of lunacy once last year. Hiking long distances on Mount Diablo in the summer months is not exactly fun. I like to think of it as more of a rite of passage. Only the brave need try. The brave or the really stupid. I am sure I fall into the second category.

With three liters of water, a couple of energy bars, two bottles of Gatorade and my will neatly typed on my desk (not really, I don’t have a typewriter) I began the long hike from the Mitchell Canyon staging area to the summit. The good thing was I have done this hike before. The bad thing was I doing this hike again.

It’s not really a death march but it is pretty darn close. This was my fourth time climbing to the summit, my second time this summer so I knew all the bad spots on the trail. I always take the same route, Mitchell Canyon to Deer Flat to Juniper to the summit so I knew what to expect. The first sign of despair are the switchbacks. They help carry you up in altitude but quickly make your legs the consistency of butter in the sun. Survive the switchbacks and your home free on the trail.

I got an early start on the hike and made it through the first nasty set of switchbacks and to Deer Flat in only one hour and fifteen minutes. Not bad for a chubby old photographer. The morning sun was going to bake the trail quickly so I pushed on as fast as I could. It was getting hot but I did manage to stay hydrated much better than last summer’s adventure. I hit the Juniper Trail with some steam left in my tank and made it up to the summit of Mount Diablo in just under three and a half hours.

After a nice rest stop I headed back down. The switchbacks just seem to fly by on the downhill route as I headed home. The thought of an ice cold Gatorade waiting for me at my car helped keep me going on the last mile or two of the trail that now was radiating the stifling summer heat back up in my face. Six hours and fifteen minutes after leaving the parking lot I crossed the gate at the Mitchell Canyon staging area. I didn’t get to see a rattlesnake this time, bummer.

No it wasn’t the death march I had expected but maybe I am in better shape than last year? No, who am I kidding; I think I just drank enough water this time not to pass out. Summertime on Mount Diablo makes for hot long hikes but my motto is “It’s the summit or bust.” Who knows, maybe next summer I will climb the mountain each summer month. Now that’s an idea…

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