June 09, 2019

The Third Mountain



In the Bay Area there are three notable mountains that might be attempted by the discerning alpinist.  Each is prominent, presents unique challenges to the climber, and has its own unique personality.  Mount Tamalpais, nestled as it is among the villas of Russian oligarchs, is a deceptively peaceful place, and on a good day elicits associations with the Asia of the western imagination.  This is carried to its logical extreme in Tom Killion's fine Tamalpais Walking, which venerates the mountain in faux Ukiyo-e style.

And there is Mount San Bruno, looming over Brisbane like Ali over Liston, a brutal wedge of stone on an otherwise bucolic peninsula, its aggressive stance accentuated by its onetime status as a nuclear weapons base.

As documented here, I have met the tests of both peaks - not without misadventure - and lived to tell the tale.  And, I hasten to add, I accomplished this by fair means, without the use of supplemental oxygen, sherpas, porters, yaks, or any of the other accoutrements of the posers trotting around the Himalayas nowadays.

But there is one mountain that continues to defy me, tugs at my imagination, yet also elicits the deepest respect, even fear:  Mount Diablo.  Diablo.  The Devil's mountain.  The very name inspires awe.  Rising 3,849 brutal feet above the Bay Area on one side, and the Central Valley on the other, it was for the indigenous people of the region the center of the world, the point of creation.  The Ohlone called it Tuyshtak, "at the dawn of time."

As with all mountaineering ventures, one must weigh up the risks against the rewards.  The usual risks apply - given its proximity to urban areas, one must expect the same type of overcrowding that has become a hazard for the advanced alpinist everywhere.  Water, of course, will be a necessity, and it will likely be necessary to bring some type of food along, too.  So many variables to consider, so many ways to go wrong.

But the reward - for the hardy few who succeed - is astonishing.  According to the State Park website:
[Y]ou can look to the west, beyond the Golden Gate Bridge, to the Farallon Islands; southeast to the James Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton at 4,213 feet elevation; south to Mount Loma Prieta in the Santa Cruz Mountains at 3,791 feet elevation, north to Mount Saint Helena in the Coast Range at 4,344 feet elevation, and still farther north to Lassen Peak in the Cascades at 10,466 feet. North and east of Mount Diablo the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers meet to form the twisting waterways of the Delta. To the east beyond California's great central valley, the crest of the Sierra Nevada seems to float in space.  All in all, you can see over 8,539 square miles and parts of 40 of California's 58 counties from the Summit of Mount Diablo.  

I know these things, yet try to keep up the appearance of detachment and disinterest.  And yet my mind wanders.  I find myself inspecting maps of the area, and eyeing the Osprey Mutant 22 with its integrated hydration system and La Sportiva's TX3 with its "climbing zone" toe.  Perhaps, with the right equipment, I could make up for some of loss of strength and stamina that comes with advancing years.  Perhaps, with the Garmin inReach Explorer I can maintain contact with base camp and send texts to my accountant over the Iridium satellite network, even under the most difficult conditions.  Perhaps...

But in the face of these unknowns, there is one certainty.  El Diablo will be utterly unforgiving of error.

1 Comments:

Blogger VMM said...

I'm down for this climb.

June 9, 2019 at 4:25 PM  

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