Success! I’m the first female unicyclist to summit Mt Washington!
It was awesome and not as hard as I thought it would be. The weather wasn’t what I was hoping for: 100 miles of visibility and no wind, but that’s a lot to ask for from Mt. Washington, but a girl can hope, right? Meeting time was 6:00am. Most of us were warming up. Jesse Lyman was rollerblading. Sue Wemyss and Jon Pensak were roller skiing. I was unicycling around the parking lot. After a few interviews with some of the media who were there, and a few group shots, we started up at 6:30am.
The start was pretty uneventful compared to other events we have here—a 1,000 runners for the Mount Washington Road Race or 600 cyclists for Newton’s Revenge and the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb. Saturday, there were only 9 of us, and we weren’t racing. Steve Caming, who drove his car backwards to the top, was out of sight in a matter of seconds. Then the rest of us, under our own power, disappeared into the trees after a few minutes. Climbing the lower half of the road was a difficult task, but I didn’t come off my uni on the steep sections and took a few breaks on the flats…well, the less steep portions. I couldn’t wait to get the views above treeline which marks the halfway point. I rode through the S Turns at 4.5 miles and approached the 5 Mile. I told myself not to come off, because I knew how challenging it was to remount. To make the 5 Mile even more challenging, Nat from road crew was dragging the gravel so we could get open to the public, this left me a narrow strip of hard pack to maneuver. I was so excited when I made it around Cragway Turn without slipping that I started up the next grade and half way up lost traction and fell. It took me five remounts before I made it to pavement. The Road had opened and cars were making their way up which gave me less room to keep my balance, but I remained calm. As I passed the 5,000 foot post, there was a cheering section, a family with their Groucho Marx glasses and the media were taking pictures.
After that it was fog all the way to the summit—very eerie to look 50 feet ahead of you and see nothing.
I was glad I wasn’t traveling very fast. At 6.5 miles, I rounded the Hairpin turn, a 15% grade, and I struggled. After that short climb, my legs started getting tired and I had just about a mile left to go, but I knew I could make it. The next and last hurdle standing in my way was the 300-foot wall at the very top at 22%. It’s pretty scary just to look at, never mind walking it. I’m a pretty positive person when it comes to physical challenges, but I kept telling myself I wouldn’t make it—not the way to be thinking at this point. I could hear some cheers and wanted so badly to ride the entire road even if it took me a few tries. If I came off, I was prepared to try the grade until I conquered it. I pedaled to the first parking lot and came off. I looked up and said to myself: “I’ve got this. I’m doing this no matter what”. I took a few deep breaths and went for it. Pedal after pedal I slowly turned the cranks and before I knew it the grade let off and I only had a few yards left. I did it! I climbed the Mt Washington Auto Road on my unicycle! As I crossed the finish line it didn’t matter that I was the first female to accomplish this feat, I only cared that I reached my goal. I made my way over to the famous wind speed record sign and my knees were shaking uncontrollably. I had “sewing machine knees,” as some people call them. Sue Wemyss was there shivering like crazy even with warm clothes on. Her ascent took her 2 hours and 15 seconds.
Great Job Sue! Steve “Backwards” Caming and “Phone Booth” Ben congratulated me. I was interviewed and then put some warm dry clothes on. Holding the New World Record sign that Ben had brought, we all gathered for a group photo.
I climbed the Road in 2 hours and 37 minutes! Well within my goal of 3-3.5 hours. I wouldn’t let myself wear a watch because I knew I would be looking at it the whole climb. I’m pretty competitive and didn’t want to push myself to the point at which I’d be suffering. After all, I wasn’t racing. I just wanted to have fun. At 1:00pm, we had a ceremony in the Red Barn Museum. It was proclaimed by Howie Wemyss, General Manager of the Mt Washington Auto Road, that May 28, 2011, was Alton Weagle Day. Alton’s niece Barbara Weagle from Groveton, NH was there to receive the certificate and we were all given our own proclamation of firsts.
Along the climb I did have support from two of my great friends, Regina and Jeff. They filmed and cheered me on from the van and carried extra clothes, water and food for me. It takes a lot to support someone and can be a waiting game, so thank you both for taking the time to help me through this adventure! Also a huge thank you to Dave at Littleton Bike and Fitness for providing me with a brand new unicycle to conquer the hill! -Meg