Mount Washington in New Hampshire has a historic reputation for changeable weather -- more emphatically, the worst weather in the world. As a result, planning a day halfway up the side of Mount Washington involves a certain amount of anxiety, especially when the weather forecast is for rain. I expected a day like yesterday.
However, when I drove up to the base of the mountain, the clouds were breaking up a bit, and there was a patch of blue overhead. Still, the forecast was for rain, and I was prepared with raincoat and umbrella. I was determined to go up the Mt. Washington Auto Road to photograph the hillclimb competitors on course.
Because the top was obscured by clouds, the hillclimbers practiced only on the lower half of the road. Mountain road vans delivered photographers and some spectators to the last set of turns in the practice route. Approximately halfway up the mountain, we had passed through one layer of clouds, but we were still below the clouds at the mountain range's summits.
I expected wind; the air was calm. I expected rain; the upper layer of clouds parted enough so the sun shone through. The temperature was higher at that altitude than at the mountain's base. So much for the raincoat and umbrella, at least for a while.
On a road that had enjoyed sunshine a few minutes earlier, David Higgins driving Subaru Rally Team USA (SRT USA) #75 WRX STI arrived in fog. Higgins was the first to make the run by virtue of his having the fastest time during practice on Friday. I heard him approach, and, just out of sight from my position, he stopped. Then he finished the run.
Higgins was followed by the rest of the competitors. Because a number of the corner workers and safety volunteers had radios, we could follow the order of the cars. Three or four would be on the road at the same time, clawing their way to the mountain's midpoint.
As the morning wore on, the damp pavement dried. Times quickened.
Higgins wasn't fastest the first run, but his second ascent was almost 16 seconds faster than anyone else during practice on Saturday. Times are listed here.
SRT USA is not fielding the only Subaru in the hillclimb. Here are some others.
On Sunday, there are two ascents of the entire road for the fastest time. The drivers hadn't practiced the upper half of the Auto Road, so the challenge is more from the road than the other competitors.
It has always been about the mountain.
-- Ric Hawthorne