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Hill Climb Events in the Pacific Northwest

Keeping a good thing going

Hill climb events are some of the oldest forms of motorcycle racing in the Pacific Northwest.

As far back as the early 1900's hill climbing events were held just east of the Duwamish River near where Boeing Field sits today. Such racing was quickly embraced as a spectator sport and dozen's of hill climb events were cooking across the Pacific Northwest in a short time, remaining a popular destination for enthusiasts all the way into the 1970's.

Above: Half way up the 800 foot climb in Yakima, riders must jump a six foot deep, ten foot long pit. Coming up short could mean the ultimate endo...

But as land was bought and sold, one by one these events disappeared. The Jolly Rogers once had a hill in Kent Washington, but even that stronghold could not endure the encroachment of civilization with neighbors complaining about the noise. And it could be argued that the hill climb races were there long before anyone started building tract housing and business parks. But money talks and the hill was eventually sold.

Above: Getting air off the first steep section of track, now heading for the slalom.

Some clubs have managed to keep the tradition going. The Olympic Peninsula Motorcycle Club still runs their own hill climb events three weekends a year at their track in Port Angeles, June through September. And despite their location, all events go off rain or shine.

Above: The morning freestyle exhibition keeps fans entertained as the track is prepped for the final day of competition at Yakima.

But it was 2001 when promoter Ron Dillon brought pro hill climb competition back into the Pacific Northwest. The Big Nasty as it's called, continues to break attendance records for both registered riders as well as spectators. The event, held each September in Payette Idaho, is a continuous three day party getting more extravagant each year adding a fireworks show and additional competitions like pro bull riding and a mud pull. If you plan to camp at the event site, don't plan on getting a lot of sleep. The latest trend is for attendees to haul hot tubs into the camping area.

Another Idaho resident got the idea to bring pro hill climb competition back to Washington. In 2011 promoter Jeff Snipes opened up the Northwest Nitro Nationals  utilizing a historic hill climb location easy of Yakima and north of Sunnyside at the junction of SR 24 and SR 241. The event is considered the start of the annual pro circuit and like the Big Nasty, it draws some of the best pro riders from all over the west.

Above: Replacing that living room couch at home? Simply store the old one so you can take it to the next hill climb event.

And like so many kinds of racing, the technology today is decidedly different from the past. In the old days riders wrapped chains around the rear tires to better their traction up the hills. Today most riders use sand paddle tires and some may go as far as to insert screws into the paddles. Fuels vary with a number of riders using nitroglycerin or nitrous oxide to add a little kick into the mix. Who doesn't love the smell of spent nitro on a Sunday morning?

As with any dirt focused motorcycle event, these competition weekends bring out entire families with plenty for all to enjoy. Snipes and Dillon both add a free style show spectators can enjoy as the tracks are prepared each morning.

Right: Future west coast champ in the making.

We can lament the days gone by, but it's people like Dillon, Snipes and the OPMC who carry the torch and keep the fun of a good hill climb weekend in the Northwest alive today.

PT/Spring 13

Above: A KTM rider attempts to beat the morning record at Yakima as promoter Jeff Snipes looks on at a full house of spectators.

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