During his 1923 fund-raising tour, George Leigh Mallory was frequently asked what drove him to climb Mt Everest. His standard answer: “Because it’s there.”
The allure of climbing to new heights is not restricted to mountaineers, as I learned during one of our post-ride feasts. “I’ve never climbed Mt Diablo.” “I’ve never climbed Mt Tam.” “I’ve never climbed Mt Hamilton.” “I’ve never climbed any of them.” So marked the birth of the “Peak of the Month Club.” The goal: ascend all the major peaks in the Bay Area and a bit beyond. First on the list for April: Mt Diablo.
Rising over 3800 feet from its base smack dab in the middle of Contra Costa County, Mt Diablo is visible from almost everywhere in the Bay Area. That’s why in 1852 the US Coast and Geodetic Survey chose Mt Diablo as the base point for the north/south and east/west meridians used to establish land boundaries in most of Northern California and all of Nevada. Mt Diablo may not be the center of California, but it is of our maps.
Today it’s Diablo’s never-ending vistas that draws most people to drive up the narrow winding road to its peak. But for cyclists, it’s the hard work of climbing up 3200 feet in 11 miles with a brutal 16% grade for the last 150-yards that draws intrepid riders. For me, the view at the top is just a mid-ride treat. The long winding descent with expansive views the whole way down is my sweetest reward.
Why do we climb challenging peaks? Is it simply because they’re there? I think Mallory gave a better answer later: “What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.”
What adventures bring you sheer joy? What do you live for?