Just how steep is the course? The Mt. Washington Hillclimb is known as the toughest hillclimb in the world! It is 7.6 miles in length with an average grade of 12%, extended sections of 18%, and the last 100 yards are an amazing 22% grade! Sprint that to the finish!
Only a handful of times a year are bicycles allowed on the private Mt. Washington Auto Road for the bicycle hillclimb, and this is the cream of the crop. There is no downhill riding; riders must arrange for auto transportation to the base. Weather at top can be downright nasty, even during mid-summer. In August of 2007 the hillclimb was cancelled due to steady winds of 72 mph, freezing temperatures, frozen precipitation, and rime ice.
Mt. Washington is also home to the worst weather ever recorded on earth. The highest non-tornadic wind speed ever recorded on earth was at the summit of Mt. Washington at 231mph. Hurricane force winds are present 100 days a year on average. This is part of what makes Mt. Washington the toughest bicycle climb in the world.
The Mt. Washington Hillclimb is more than just the “cycle to the clouds” as it has been called. Most racers and their families arrive the night before for event check-in at the base of Mt. Washington, to chat with other riders and see the competition, and visit the official race store, vendors and exhibitors’ tent. On the morning of the race, over 100 Tin Mountain Conservation Center volunteers converge on the race course to help with base parking, site setup, check-in, sale of merchandise, summit parking and timing, serving food, medical assistance, ham radio communications, the awards ceremony, and cleanup. While the first riders pass the finish in about one hour, the last riders cross around the three hour mark. However, all are recognized for the feat of climbing the “Rockpile” and supporting Tin Mountain Conservation Center programs.
Prior to the awards ceremony hosted by Richard Fries at the base, a now famous turkey dinner is served by Harts Turkey Farm. Since its start in 1973, the popularity of the hillclimb has continued to grow, attracting both elite professional riders and amateur cyclists from all parts of North America. Since auto parking at the summit limits the number of participants to 600 racers, competition just to register for the hillclimb is intense. In recent years, after registration opens at 8:00AM on February 1st, all 600 slots have been completely filled in less than 10 minutes with a waiting list of over 200 after the first half hour.
The allure of the Mt. Washington Hillclimb is manifold: the extreme nature of the ride, the chance for amateurs to ride along side pros, the beautiful natural surroundings, the fabulous organization of the event, and the environmental cause it supports.
Tin Mountain Conservation Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit providing education programs that foster greater awareness and understanding of the natural environment for school children, adults, and families. Since it was founded in 1980 by Barbara Rockwell Henry and David Henry in Jackson, NH, the Center has offered hands-on programs in the schools, at summer camps, and within communities throughout northern New Hampshire and western Maine. Each year Tin Mountain works with over 5,000 in public and private school, in addition to its homeschool programs. To see a sample of our work with students, click here.