The famous Mount Washington “American Inferno” race started in 1933. It was a top-to-bottom race from the peak to the valley floor. Toni Matt won the race in 1939 when he “schussed,” or skied head-on, the head wall by accident. It was a foggy spring afternoon and Matt won the 8 mile race in a record time of 6 minutes 29.2 seconds, with an estimated top speed of over 85 miles per hour.
The 2013 race showed just how tough this competition can be, with freezing temps and high winds the competitors battled it out the entire way up and down the mountain, through Tuckerman Ravine.
Years later, Matt said that when he reached the floor of the headwall, at the transition from steep to relatively flat, he felt lucky to be "nineteen, stupid, and have strong legs."
Charlie Proctor and John Carleton were the first men to ski the steep head wall in 1931. “We skied it out of necessity, simple as that," said Proctor in an interview with me back in 1992. He said he “just wanted to get home.”
Proctor and Carleton's first tracks down the steep, icy face gave birth to a New England tradition and Matt’s record breaking run not only earned him a place in skiing history, but more importantly created international folk lore that exists to this day.
Friends of Tuckerman Ravine is an organization with a mission to “seek and preserve the historic recreational use of the Tuckerman Ravine and Mount Washington.” And it is in this light they still hold the Tuckerman Inferno pentathlon each year.
The race is open both to teams of five (one of whom must be of the opposite sex) and to solo TuckerMen and TuckerWomen competitors.
The Tuckerman Inferno pentathlon consists of an 8.3 mile run, a 6 mile kayak race down the Saco River, an 18 mile bike race north through Pinkham Notch, a 3 mile run/hike up the Tuckerman Trail to Mount Washington's Tuckerman Ravine and a 1 mile ski/hike giant slalom to the floor of the ravine.
This is an amazingly hard event, as hard as it was skiing the head wall on wooden skis and leather boots back in 1931.
For the full results of this year's race, check Facebook.
Listen to the interview on the race and on activities on the Saco River on Edging the Xtreme on RadioBDC:
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