Mt. Hamilton, Take One – Monday, May 30, 2016

Here’s my ride report for my first attempt up Mt. Hamilton.

a few weeks ago, Coach Ben had reminded me that NOW is the time to ride Mount Hamilton, while the flowers are out and before the high summer temps kick in on that 18-mile one way climb (yeah, and that’s from the “easy” side!).

He was also in favor of me doing the Marshall Wall ride on Sunday, so that left Saturday or Memorial Day Monday for Mount Hamilton.

I’ve been aware of the 42-mile version of this ride up the western face for a while now, and decided Monday’s holiday was the day to try it. And almost succeeded, and even though i didn’t go all the way to the summit for the coke/candy machines and the big view, i was content with my decision and my result.

Phil had said earlier last week he’d be game for this, but we had’t settled on a time or cue sheet. Knew it would involve a start at either Penitencia Creek Park or Alum Rock Park (closer to the begin of the climb). Didn’t post on GPC-Talk because Phil was targeting returning home by 2:30pm for a 3:00 pm yoga class. (note to self, it’s a short ride but takes LONGER than that!).

On our way there (car), we passed by the construction site of the upcoming Milpitas BART station (southeast corner of Capitol Avenue & Montague Expressway, so much closer than Fremont BART!), scheduled to open some time in Fall 2017 – and that got me excited about transportation options to the area for future forays either up Hamilton, Calavares Road and/or Sierra Road.

So what happened? Well, there was a large group (60-80 riders) of mixed abilities (A – C+, which roughly translates into “T – MB” in GPC-speak. From Alum Rock Park, once i got going (had to negotiate a multiple-attempt restart on a slight, but still – for me – challenging uphill from a dead stop, once in past the first gate and the congestion there, something my old ACL injury makes a difficult proposition). At the next gate (out of the park onto Alum Rock Way), we got in the mix of the Western Wheelmen folks, and I was right in there with the large group of gals who at first seems stronger than me, Phil seemed happy chatting it up with some Wheelmen about our Century and the Sequoia (theirs) and then their pace ratings, so i kept going on ahead with the main group, then i got my mojo on and started passing a bunch of folks.

Long story short, and advisory to rookies. I was feeling pretty good (as good as one might, facing that length of a climb with temps reaching the low-mid 80s), but ended up with a cramp 2 miles below the summit; walked it out for 1/2 mile, then after Phil came along, decided to walk it out a bit more before finding a shade tree in a corner with a breeze, a great view of the summit and a nice spot for my picnic lunch less than 1.2 miles from the top, and decided “yeah, i could hop on and go up there, but i could also just enjoy my picnic, save the summit for another day, and not put myself any further into “stupidland” on a hot day. It was also a great spot to greet the never-ending train of cheerful cyclists i’d passed between 1/2 hour and 1 hour or more earlier:
1) it’s a LONG climb – better to slow down at first, and hold back some energy for the last two miles!
2) views are spectacular, and right now the wildflowers are gorgeous, better the higher you get on the mountain. Go now, but start your ride EARLY in the day.
3) there are very few places to pull off the road and in much of the distance, the double yellow line is a mere suggestion of two lanes in a width more appropriate for one vehicle. It seemed too many of the motorists seem to be more concerned about not crossing their wheel over the double-yellow than whether they are passing too closely to a human being on a bicycle. Fortunately, many of the drivers are also very courteous and safety minded. Motorcyclists all behaved exceedingly well.
4) Although there is no shoulder, there are occasional places to pull off the road for a short breather. Do it. (Even the people who went by me in the lower sections seemed to be pull over and take a breather under a shade tree somewhere along the line, some more than once. Guess what, they all passed me later! and made it to the top).
5) Rest Area at mile 10, in the elbow after a slow rolling descent, where you can get water and a restroom. I felt good at the time, and knew i had “enough” H2O (two BIG bottles plus my 1 liter CamelBak) so kept on going. Really, just STOP! Drink the rest of your bottle RIGHT there and fill it up again. More importantly, take the opportunity to get off the bike. Your legs will thank you if you give them a rest… for many of us (most?) cramps are more a factor of overworked muscles – suffering from the same motion over and over – than dehydration. That is certainly true in my case.
6) the return trip is a lovely, long but non-technical descent, but re’s a lot more climbing that direction than you realize. (-:

Will i do it again? YES. Definitely.
Soon? possibly – but with a plan to start at least 2 hours earlier in the day.
Here’s a suggested cue sheet/map from Google maps (starting at Penitencia Creek Park) which sez the 20.6 miles should take 3:43 of saddle-time (one way) on a bicycle for the average Joe and that sounds about right:
Penitencia Creek Park-MtHamilton Cue-Map. This version goes through Penitencia Creek Park, then takes Noble Ave for a stretch at the beginning (before Alum Rock Park), a quieter option than Piedmont Road to Penitencia Creek Road); and at the mid-point, goes left onto Yerba Buena Trail and past Joseph Grant Park (nice lake) instead of staying on Mt. Hamilton Road (Hwy 130) the whole time to the top. Looks like a nice option! (curious about what the experienced folks think of that?).

Go have fun and explore!

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