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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mount Diablo: "Just the Right Amount of Banged Up."

I'd heard about Mt. Diablo for years but for some reason the hike never happened. Finally, after some encouragement from my friend Scott "Shroomer" Williams, I made the trip up north to hike this legendary peak. 

Diablo isn't the tallest mountain in the world but it does have an imposing presence in the Bay Area. At  3,838 ft. it is one of the most visible landmarks in California. The mountain stands alone and is surrounded by legends and creation stories of the native people who called this land home.

The Main Summit of Mt. Diablo

After hiking from Burma Rd. to the main summit up a 42% grade, with Shroomer and a really nice hiker named Chris, I set off on my own. My goal was to hike to the four main summits in the park. I quickly bagged the Main and North Peaks making my way towards Olympia peak. The connecting trail between the peaks was quickly cutoff by a series of large downed trees.

North Peak

Burn Area

Summit Tower
This was a great excuse for some cross-country exploration. I started climbing up to the ridge and scrambled up some loose scree. The ridge was beautiful and I was very happy to have been forced into this detour.

When I reached the last knob on the ridge, I met another impass. Both sides of the knob were quite steep and I chose to make my way down the rocky north side. About 20 meters into the descent, a large rock broke under my right foot. I fell quickly, bounced and spun around. I felt my lower back and face hit the ground. Based on the impact zones, it's still kind of hard to imagine the path that my body took in the air. When I stopped falling down the hillside, I immediately started to give myself a once over in order to evaluate my injuries. There was decent amount of blood coming from various spots on my legs. The back of my right thigh was gushing pretty well and I used a bandana to stop the flow.

Fortunately and miraculously, I didn't have any facial or head injuries. I took a selfie to make sure I wasn't missing any adrenaline masked lacerations. It seems like the visor of my hat saved my face.

I was shaken, but the injuries though bloody, were minimal. It was good wake-up call. Random things happen; large rocks can break off. I can also make better route decisions and think more about the the quality of the rock I'm traveling on. Diablo has some special geology that you can read about here. I thought about fellow Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador Barefoot Jake's rescue earlier this year. I also thought about my self arrest in the North Cascades last June. This lesson was mostly painless but I stood there shaken, staring down at my strewn trekking poles and hat scattered amongst the scree and brush. Things could have been a lot worse.

Gossamer Gear Minimalist Day Pack

After the initial shock, I started to feel great. This was just the perfect amount of banged up. Roughed up to the point where you feel like you are on an adventure, pushing your limits a little, and learning lessons. Not banged up to the point where you feel like an absolute idiot for making terrible decisions. It's a fine line.

After taking a few minutes to evaluate my aches and pains, I carefully made my way down to the trail below. The rest of the day was beautiful and thankfully more uneventful. There were some great climbs, cascading waterfalls and the biggest swarm of ladybugs I had ever witnessed.  Ladybugs aggregate in enormous groups to keep themselves warm in the winter. There was also a large section of the park that had burned that previous fall.

I finished the day with over 7,350 ft. of elevation over 22 miles. It was one my favorite day hikes I've done in years. I will definitely be back to hike this mountain again in the coming months. This is the one of the best winter training grounds in the Bay Area and a land of incredible diversity.

Unfortunately, my GPS went out for a couple miles on the climb up to Eagle Peak. However, the majority of my route can be seen here.

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