Mount Washington Vs. Tim Johnson
I’ll ride anything, anywhere at anytime
We wish everyone was like Red Bull Cyclist Tim Johnson, honest, humble, fun to be around, enjoys drinking a beer, eats pizza,is always up for an adventure, capable of climbing mountains via any kind of bicycle and making it look easy…when it’s really not that easy. Add to the equation the Worst Weather on Earth via Mount Washington, NH and a RedBull backed video project and you have a job everyone wants go on.
This wasn’t the first time we were involved in a project around Tim Johnson, in 2015 we followed Tim on a 90 mile test course for Cannondales hybrid bike the “Slate”. What we’ve noticed by spending time with Tim on both projects is his unique perspective, he’s been around the cycling world for a while and he’s always thinking in a new way that allows us to craft a unique story around his projects. When he told us his time record for ascending Mount Washington in the summer had been broken some years ago, and that he’s now looking to set the record for the winter, we knew we were in for a rough trip up the mountain.
Mount Washington is the largest mountain in the Northeast United States (6,288 ft), and the most prominent mountain east of the Mississippi. The region’s weather is known to be erratic, and it doesn’t help that Mount Washington lies in the convergence of several storm tracks. At the top of the mountain lies the Mount Washington Observatory a “Bond Villian” esque structure that was built in 1932 and was the first of its kind in the world. In 1934 it measured a surface wind speed, at 231 mph, a world record until 1998.
Being from Utah we are used to the cold and snow, but the East Coast presents an arctic like coldness and wind forces that we have never seen. Upon our late night arrival we prepared for a scouting day up the Mount Washington Auto Road with the Ranger Mike Pelchat. First thing he asks is, “if we have spikes?”. Why would we need spikes?, apparently to walk on the ice that covers the entire road and to simply keep yourself planted and not be blown off the side of the mountain. The beginning ascent seemed rather tame as the area has not had as much snowfall this year, but we were quickly consumed by the wind and a sheer coating of ice over the entire road, good thing the snow cat has ice spikes.
We stop and get out to see the Presidentials, a nearby mountain range to explore the wind and test out these micro-spikes we just purchased. We quickly learn that even ice spikes will not keep you planted on ice when the wind gusts at 125 mph. Being lifted and blown over, only to toss the camera in the air and be blown across the ice- Noted- keep your head down and stay low, Mt. Washington really does have the “Worst Weather on Earth” -their tagline nonetheless.
Tim comes into Gorham,NH that evening and we get a chance to sit down with him in his hotel room and talk a little about his preparation for the ride and his native background with the Mount Washington Auto Road climb. At first, we thought this climb was just about Tim doing something that had never been done before, but we begin to discover Tim’s real history with the Mount Washington Auto Road. Not just being a ride he has won several times 2000 / 2001, but that it was a consistent meeting place for Tim and his father. Tim’s dad always came to see him at his Auto Road races and it seems he has returned not just to climb the hill, but to remember his dad.
The morning of the ride starts off with bluebird skies and beautiful clouds. We know that we need to get moving quickly, as the weather can and will change in minutes on the Mount Washington Auto Road. With 2 snowmobiles and a snowcat as support, Tim takes off. We follow with the snowmobiles and the cat bringing up the rear. In the beginning we thought it would be a slow pace up the ice and steep incline of the road, but Tim seems to be out pacing us on the snowmobiles. Everytime we try to get ahead of Tim, he quickly blows past us and keeps pushing. Leap frogging up the Mount Washington Auto Road, we overheat one of the snowmobiles and are stationed on the snowcat as Tim continues to climb the seer ice covered roads. Tim only stops once or twice for small adjustments and pushes to the top in an amazing 1:45:48 time, pushing through -19 degree wind chill and 49 mph wind, he pushes his fat bike to the top.
Reaching the weather station at the top of the mountain is an ice landscape wonderland, every square inch of anything is covered with some sort of the rime ice feathered out like icicles blown in every direction. We get to sit down with Tim to do a post climb interview and enjoy the view. Tim talks about the climb and the details of pushing through and the thread of his father seems to come out again, he said he was thinking about him a lot on the ride up and how it made him remember his father and the past. Right about the time he says, “he was thinking about his dad”, everyone sees a Crow fly past the window outside (you can see it in the video for just a second), maybe it was his dad checking in on Tim.
The descent is probably a little scarier than the ascent, flying down a 14% grade on an ice road, makes for an equally exciting adventure and Tim is the kind of person who can and will enjoy the way up and the way down. For having found success in both the cycling and the cyclocross worlds, it’s unique to work with a professional like Tim Johnson someone that’s committed to their craft and community even after all these years. Cheers @TimJohnsonCX.
- Director Skylar Nielsen
- Producer Ross Asdourian
- Camera Operator Skylar Nielsen
- Camera Operator Lance Clayton
- Camera Operator Jordon Utley
- Editor Catura Jensen
- Editor Jordan Utley
- Photographer Brian Nevins
- POV Aaron Chase
- PA Jeff Welch