Mount Hamilton (ride report by Oleg)

Today I rode up Mt. Hamilton – the West side of Mt. Hamilton is an 18 mile climb  (from East Foothills) with a few short descents thrown in the middle – so even though Mt. Hamilton sits at 4,200ft elevation, the 18-mile west side climbs a bit more, 400 ft or so, than if descents weren’t there. And of course on the way back the descents become short but annoying climbs that interrupt the rhythm of a good descent. The final section of ascent is about 6.5 miles long and is very steady at 6%. Nothing too steep. 

East side of Mt. Hamilton is steeper and shorter – it drops 2,000 ft in 4.5 miles, for an average of about 8%. A lot of very sharp switchbacks.

After the first 3 miles of climbing (almost a 1,000 ft) I had a flat – I changed it but decided to go back to the car to get another spare tube. By the time I started climbing again it was 10AM – and the temperatures were forecasted to be in the 90ies in Livermore and even warmer inland.

About half way I had my first encounter with a mountain lion. I have lived in California for 5 years now and has never seen one in the wild. It looked like a large cat and was standing by the side of the road staring at me. It must have decided that I am no threat because it then proceeded to slowly cross the road right in front of me. I was too slow to reach for my camera, by the time I got it out the mountain lion was gone in the bushes.

The scenery was absolutely amazing, see the photos below. By the time I got to the final 6.5 mile section of west side, leading to Observatory, it was hot – it went from 64F at the start to 90F in the final section of the climb to the top! I ran out of water, but I knew there was water at the top. 

It took me 2 hours to go 18 miles! I decided to venture onto the backside, descending 5 miles on the east side of Hamilton and then riding up again, for an extra 2,000 ft. The descent on the east side was fast with a lot of tight corners and reduced radius turns – no cars whatsoever. I think I only saw one car going up. 

Now the temperature was 98-99 with sun on my back, completely exposed to the sun with almost no shade and very little breeze. It was hot! 

I suffered through the climb up to the top at pedestrian speed of 6mph or so, refilled my water bottles (I drank both bottles on my 45-minute climb of east side) and descended down to East Foothills. The temperature was still 95F at the finish. The two short climbs on the way back were annoying, as I had no energy left. But descending west side was a lot of fun, with good road surface (for the most part – they were doing some resurfacing today) and nothing too technical or dangerous. No sight of mountain lion on the way back (I had my camera ready but no luck). A fun day in the sun, even though a bit on the hot side for me.

57 miles with 7,700 ft of climbing. Strava suffer score of 272 – felt a lot worse than that though. After so many tough rides in the past 5 days I am really tired. Was barely moving today but glad to finish the ride as intended, plus extra 6 miles and 1,000 ft due to early mechanical.

At the top of Mt. Hamilton. I forgot to zip-up.

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