Another Tuckerman Inferno is in the books, with local legend Andrew Drummond claiming his third victory in a row in the Elite Male division.
Whitney Withington of Brookline, Mass took home the title for the Elite Female division.
Mount Washington Valley powerhouse team All Stoved Up and Tucked Out cruised to a comfortable win in the male team division and the fastest overall time, and the Tuckerettes, also locals, pulled off a come-from-behind win in the female team division. The Guilford Tucksters won the co-ed team division.
“It was another successful Inferno,” Race Director Jake Risch said. “Conditions always seems to throw challenges at us, and this year was no exception, but everything came together and went really well.”
A five-leg multi-sport race known for being one of the most challenging endurance events ever created, the 18-years-running Inferno brings racers along a course from the Ellis River to the shoulder of Mt. Washington. The last leg of the race is usually a hike and ski of the steep Tuckerman Ravine, but avalanche danger in the bowl on race day this year forced officials to start the ski leg at Hermit Lake Shelter and send racers all the way down the Sherburne Trail to the finish line at the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center.
An Instagram post from ski patroller and Inferno volunteer Josh Browning shows conditions on the mountain during race setup.
In addition to avalanche danger, strong winds made for a tough race, especially for the running and road biking legs.
“Once you get to the top of the hairpin you can usually relax because the grade is easier, but this year the headwind stopped you in your tracks,” said Erik Nelson of All Stoved Up, who posted the fastest bike time at 1:00:38.
Here are some highlights and stories from the race:
Jayme Okma Lee from Rockport, Maine earned third place in the Elite Women’s division, but had to contend with a binding that broke at the top of the 2.5-mile run down the Sherburne. Conditions were extremely rutted and hard-packed on the twisty Sherbie, making for a tough run on two skis, let alone on one.
“It sucked,” Okma Lee said. “I fell three times, and it took me half an hour. But it was okay. At least it made for a good story!”
*The button on Burkett’s right shoulder supports the #Cody Floyd Strong Heart Recovery Fund.
All Stoved Up beat everyone to the finish line, including the timers. Snowboarder Matt Burkett, who anchored the team with a fast run down the Sherbie (thanks to high-altitude training in Colorado), arrived to a finish line devoid of people. “I’m like, where is everybody? I went up on the snowbank and yelled over, ‘I’m finished!'” Burkett said.
The timers quickly caught on, and before long a healthy crowd had gathered at the finish line as the rest of the racers came down.
The Tuckerettes won the women’s team division for the second year in a row, but for skier Carrie Burkett (married to Matt Burkett), the win was far from assured.
“I knew we were behind going into the last leg, and I didn’t recall passing the other girl on the way down. The end was terrifying, with enormous bumps and ruts, super hard and I was going really fast. I almost ate shit and a swore a bunch in front of all the spectators. But I thought we were in second, so I charged into the finish line and that’s when they told me that we won,” Burkett said.
Adam Freierman took on his first ever solo Inferno attempt, and posted a respectable ninth-place finish. A snowboarder, he pioneered an innovative way to traverse the flats to the finish line, laying on his board after a running start to penguin slide his way across the finish line.
Matt Risch and Emma Mabel Carlson prepared the river section of the race on Friday, bringing a chainsaw in the canoe to take care of potentially hazardous stringers. “The water level was mid-to-low, which helped things run smoothly,” Risch said. “We didn’t have any kayakers drop out.”
Andrew Drummond is no stranger to endurance races, but the Inferno holds a special place in his heart.
“It’s the most unique event by far of any endurance race I’ve done,” Drummond said. “Each discipline can deter someone from doing well overall, so it brings out the most versatile outdoor athletes. It has a lot of history and a great community.”
The annual Tuckerman Inferno is put on by the Friends of Tuckerman Ravine. Funds raised from this year’s inferno will go to install a Wi-Fi relay to the Hermit Lake Shelter so Snow Rangers and avalanche forecasters can better communicate conditions to the public. “We’re also going to sit down with the Snow Rangers to identify a list of needs. There’s sequestration and hiring freezes going on at the federal level, which effects the Forest Service and everyone else. Niche programs like the Snow Rangers are going to be struggling for money. Their budget barely covers the payroll and equipment, and for everyday operational needs we can step in and help,” Jake Risch said.
*Correction to sponsors made April 12.