The Last Stretch of Dirt on the Mount Washington Hill Climb Is Getting Paved

Like Pikes Peak, the United States’ second-grandest hill climb race will soon be held on blacktop alone.

byJames GilboyMay 26, 2022 3:53 PM
A Subaru WRX kicks up a cloud of dust as it drifts on dirt toward a patch of tarmac
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In 2012, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb raced on full pavement for the first time, bringing its era of dusty drifts to an end. Now, that chapter is closing at the United States' other grand hill climb, Mount Washington, where pavement from the bottom to the top of the mountain is nearly complete.

The Mt. Washington Auto Road group announced the development on Facebook, sharing images of the paving process, and revealing that trucks had to be driven 5 miles in reverse up the mountain to deliver their loads of road material. Lisa McCoy, the road's events and marketing director told me that, unlike the rapidly paved Pikes Peak, Mount Washington has been paved piecemeal over the last several decades, and that this final segment "basically completes the project."

This final, "most challenging section," according to McCoy, is nearing completion and has remained unpaved because it required the road to be widened and cleared of boulders to accommodate drainage culverts. McCoy said the paving company anticipates the tarmac will connect this Friday, closing the 161-year chapter of the road being partially or completely unpaved.

While motorsports at Mount Washington will no longer be conducted sideways in a cloud of dust, it'll be faster than ever, proven by the internationally acclaimed hill climb completely paved before it: Pikes Peak. The mountain's 19-mile roadway was fully paved in 2011, making the following races immediately quicker, and allowing a new course record in 2012 after decades of struggle to break the 10-minute barrier (at which only a few succeeded). In 2013, Peugeot brought a purpose-built 208 T16 Pikes Peak and nine-time consecutive WRC champ Sebastien Loeb, who shattered the course record with an 8:13.878 run, later beaten in 2018 by Romain Dumas in the VW ID.R.

Travis Pastrana en route to his Mount Washington course record in 2021 | Subaru

McCoy speculated if racegoers will see a car break the five-minute barrier; the current record of 5:28.67 was set by Travis Pastrana in 2021. Considering competitors will be able to fully optimize their cars for tarmac, a new record is likely an inevitability, though we won't know for sure until the next race. That won't come until 2023 at the soonest, McCoy said, as the automobile hill climb has historically been a triennial event, and last year's race was originally supposed to run in 2020. Regardless, it seems certain that the course record will fall soon.

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