Dornbush Ave officially has a 31.98% grade. That makes it the second steepest street in Pittsburgh, after Canton Avenue. However, Canton is only 460 feet long, while Dornbush is close to 1,330 feet. Dornbush is also tucked away in the East Hills of Pittsburgh. This area has a bad reputation for violence and drugs. At least that’s what you hear over and over on the evening news.
That stormy Tuesday night, me and three companions met at Bakery Square and made the two-mile trek to the base of Dornbush Ave. The worst thing we encountered was weeds overtaking the sidewalk on several occasions. Once we reached the base of the hill, we paused for a moment and the plunged up the hill. Dornbush is not like a playground slide. The steepness comes and goes as the ribbon of road lays on the hillside. On one side are stairs. Churn, churn, churn, I kept my legs moving, a 3/4 mile version of high-knees. About halfway up, my breathing grew ragged and my heart rate skyrocketed. Staggering over the lip of the hill, I came upon a neat little street with modest ranch houses and nice yards. There were a couple of kids riding bikes along the level top street. I made the left and went down Wilkinsburg Ave. This was pretty steep as well. The few people I saw sitting out on their porches were friendly. There was a man assiduously chopping at a downed tree in his big front yard. I ran up Dornbush four times, taking a new way down each time. One woman shouted out that I was so brave to run down that street. Another woman, taking the stairs said “Hi” and commented that she should run u[ the hill as well. The fourth time I passed the wood chopper he just paused and quizzically said,”Again?”
Finally, I finished. My knees and calves were aching. I waited a bit for Tom, while Amy and Carson had started their run back already. Tom went up five times. There was a sprinkle of rain and we zipped back towards Bakery Square.
Here’s a view going down Dornbush Ave from a driver’s perspective. I didn’t have the temerity to capture a video running up it. Anyway, on long steep streets like this, I typically look down and just keep going. Trying to see the top of a mountain you’re trying to overcome is a sure way to get overwhelmed.