The two main objectives of this outing were to: see how many people had signed the Mt. Isabel Register Rad, Al Pine, and I had placed in February of 2006; and to bag Pyramid Rock, a 4,019 foot knoll 2 miles southeast of Mt. Isabel. Originally these 13 miles were to be hiked, yet since it was only Ben and myself going, we both decided that bringing our mountain bikes would greatly reduce our decent time down Mt. Isabel. With the help of Google Earth, we picked out our route (almost entirely on private property), which would be to ascend the West Ridge of Mt. Isabel, which I knew would be tough with the bikes. We were to crest Isabel, then bike cross country down her east face and hook up with a ridge that led to Pyramid Rock. Once the ridge was obtained, it would be smooth sailing on a private ranch road right to the base of Pyramid Rock. Not one of our epic trips, but definitely no stroll through the park, that was for sure.
Curse Daylight Savings!
Smith Creek crossing
Hiking the bike up the west ridge
The Spring Daylight Savings change sucks, especially when you have a day trip planned that day. I woke up at 8, felt like it was 7, and the sun had just come up. Ben and I left Los Gatos by 8:45, both of us groggy from the loss of the hour. But it didn't hinder us, and we got up to the Twin Gates Parking lot on Mt. Hamilton Rd in 45 minutes. Armed with our bikes, lots of water, my GPS, and a camera, we start to ride toward Smith Creek Fire station at 9:40 am, about 1 mile down the road. When we reach the trailhead, we go through the gate and head along the Smith Creek trail, which is closed to bikes, but we're rebels, so we don't care. Within 10 minutes from the start, Smith Creek has to be crossed. With a good amount of water flowing, it was impossible to cross without getting wet, yet the cool water felt good as the temperature began to rise. Biking along the creek was slow, yet we made about as much time as a hiker would through this section. We hopped a fence, crossed Sulphur Creek, and were at the beginning of the fireroad that led to Mt. Isabel. We were on private property at this point, however, we had no qualms, because the road showed no signs of travel whatsoever. The absence of tiretracks and the fact that large, fallen trees covered the road in some spots made this clear. The latter made it difficult for the bikes in some cases, that, and also the plain steepness of the road. Despite this, we made pretty good time going up the ridge. We were able to bike some stretches, which made up the time for having to haul out bikes up the steep parts. Near the top, we hopped a final fence that crossed the fading road and picked up the continued road on the other side. Within 10 minutes of strenuous bike walking, we reached the crest and biked the final stretch up to the summit of Mt. Isabel.
On the summit of Isabel
Biking the east face
By now it was around 11:45 and the sun was high and hot. Sweating profusely, Ben and I find our register and, to our surprise, see that 7 other parties have been up in 1 year. Excited, we eat a snack and take in the views. It was an unusually clear day, and the snow-covered Sierra were visible 100 miles to the east. Marvelling at what might have been the first mountain bike ascent of Mt. Isabel, we study the east face, below us, and see what the best way would be to get over to the ridge that leads to Pyramid Rock. We pick up the bikes and begin the 400 foot descent down the east face. This was pretty fun. With no trail, we were free to bike wherever we pleased. We descended down the open grassy slope, then dropped into a grove of Pine and Oak trees. Avoiding the thick brush of the higher end of the small bowl we were in, we aimed for a small clump of Oak trees. We pushed our way though this and came to the beginning of the ridge road that would take us to Pyramid Rock.
We biked down this and to the right, following the crest of the bowl.
At the start of the ridge
Approaching Pyramid Rock
Approaching the summit of Pyramid Rock
Biking the ridge went fairly quick. The road we were on was a ranch road, however, this one seemed more maintained than the road that ascends the West Ridge of Isabel. We even saw faint ATV tracks in the dirt. Nevertheless, we weren't afriad; like I said, we are rebels. The road followed the ridge, and great views were to be had anywhere you looked. I found myself almost crashing a couple of times due to not paying attention to biking and looking off into the Diablo backcountry. There were a few sections that we had to walk due to steepness. Within about 20-25 minutes we reached the foot of our objective, the dark knoll known as Pyramid Rock. We ditch the bikes and make our way up the 100 foot gain to reach the summit. Just as I had expected, the summit Pyramid Rock wasn't much of a rock at all, just some 3 foot rocks jutting out of the top towards the sky. I did notice a somewhat large outcropping on the side of the knoll, down a bit, but other than that, it wasn't very interesting. O well, another obscure Santa Clara County peak bagged! I break out some yummy tortillas and Ben and I take in the views. There were no signs of people around at all. After about 10 minutes, we decide to start our journey back.
View from Pyramid Rock
Steep section on the ridge
Slogging up the east face of Mt. Isabel.
Going back along the ridge was pretty uneventful, and we made it back to the small bowl that connected to the east face of Mt. Isabel in 20 minutes. We began the ascent back up to Mt. Isabel summit, yet the going here was slow. We managed to sort of bike/hike our way over to the east face, yet once we got onto the face, it as so: push the bike up, brake, step up, repeat. Push, brake, step. Push, brake, step. For 300 vertical feet, with the sun beating down on us. This was a bitch, but we finally summited again and took a well needed water break. We knew the hard parts of today's trip were over, and we looked forward to the ride down the West Ridge. We left the summit at 2 and just bombed down the fireroad. We made it down to Mt. Hamilton Rd. in 15 minutes. It would take a hiker about 1 hour 45 minutes to hike the same stretch. "Oh, so that's why we took the bikes" we thought as we rode the final stretch on the road back to the Twin Gates parking lot. Back at the cars at 2:40, total time clocked in at 5 hours to the minute. I checked the thermometer in the car and found out to my amazement that it was 82 degrees! In winter! Damn Bay Area weather...
After getting stuck behind a bunch of Sunday Drivers coming down Mt. Hamilton Road, Ben and I made our way to Falafel's Drive-In in San Jose and relaxed before we both went home and watched TV, uh, I mean, finished our homework.
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