Mount Washington NH, is the biggest climb in the Northeastern United States and often dubbed the toughest hill climb in North America or even the world. I wouldn’t challenge the idea that this is the toughest hill climb in the Northern Hemisphere. Additionally, foul weather is often taking on a big role in this hill climb.
The Mount Washington Bicycle Hillclimb is regarded as the grand-daddy of all hill climbs in the northeastern portions of America and careers were launched for winners on this impressive mountain. In 1997, for example, Tyler Hamilton broke an almost 20-year-old record here and in 1999, he again broke his own record. In 2002, we witnessed a new kid on the block named Tom Danielson, who brought Hamilton’s record down by one more minute.
The track is mostly paved and it rises more than 4720 feet in just over 7.5 miles which translates to a nearly 12% average grade. At the top, there’s even a 22% grade section! The Mount Washington climb is rising pretty monotonically and on the way up, there are no flat or downhill parts that allow for catching your breath.
There’s also a pretty long stretch of well-groomed gravel. This poses no problem for 23-mm tires but the section may get very soft in rainy conditions. Currently, bicycle riders are allowed to ride up this privately-owned road for just four times per year. These four days are actually the July and August race days and their respective practicing days and on the way down, riders need to take auto transportation. See also this comparison of Hillclimb races for cyclists.
Even in summer, weather conditions at the top can get downright nasty. Last year, for example, at the August climb, the temperature was in the ’60s right at the start of the race but only 39 at the top and the wind was howling! That very night, it even snowed at the top! At several occasions, it was even necessary to cancel the race entirely due to weather conditions.
Mount Washington is truly home to pretty bad weather. One of the world’s highest wind speeds in non-tornadic conditions ever recorded was at Mount Washington’s summit at a staggering 231mph. The fact of the matter is that hurricane-force winds occur at the summit more than 100 days per year on average and this is one of the reasons that the Mt Washington hill climb is among the toughest bike hill climbs on the planet.
The massive demand for partaking in this bicycle hill climb is the reason that there are two races held each year. In August, there is the traditional Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb and since 2006, there is a second bike race in July named Newton’s Revenge. The two races are independent and benefit different causes.
Both of the two races are held on a Saturday morning with the Sunday for backup purposes. Both hill climb races provide practice climb races around one month before the actual race and both of the races also include awards banquets when the races are over. See also this post about the Kangamangus Highway- Crank-the-Kanc -in New Hampshire.