Race Details

Sea to Summit Triathlon Medal near Mt. Washington Summit
The Basics

The Sea to Summit Triathlon is a largely self-supported race consisting of:

  • a 1.2-mile swim near the Maine coast
  • a 95 mile bike ride (depending on course variations) from Maine into New Hampshire, following roads of your choosing, with 6000 feet of climbing
  • a strenuous five mile run/climb up the tallest mountain in the Northeast: Mount Washington, with 4300 feet of vertical gain in altitude

How unique is Sea to Summit? At dawn, competitors are swimming at sea level. Seven to 12 hours later they are standing at the highest point in the Northeastern United States.

This is a deliberately small race, with a limited field of 125 experienced triathletes. Each competitor must designate a support person, or porter, who will be present at the start, drive the course (although not alongside the athlete), take away the bike at T2, and chauffeur the athlete down the mountain. For relay teams: as the race progresses one of the non-active team members assumes the role of porter.

The event will start at 4pm on Friday, the day before the race, with a mandatory packet pick-up for racers and their porters at the Spring Hill Recreation Center in South Berwick, Maine. Important instructions are given, along with last-minute news. The next morning is Race Day. As weather plays a critical role on race day (in the past, the swim has been cancelled due to thunderstorms, the bike has been adjusted due to road construction, and the run has been altered due to high winds or remaining snowpack) this meeting, while brief, is mandatory.

The Sea to Summit Triathlon was developed and refined over 25 years for those looking for a new and unique challenge. Race direction is headed by Andy Scherding and Kathleen Walker of New England Endurance Events.

THE COURSE
Swim

The swim is a two-loop circular course in Knight’s Pond. Swimmers are guided by marker buoys with substantial on-water support. While scheduled for 1.2 miles, the route may be shortened to adapt to changes in weather conditions.  Both the entrance and exit of the swim are gentle.

T1

Upon exiting the water, athletes will run for 200 yards up a hill to reach the bike racks. Bikes must have been placed in the racks prior to the swim. Security personnel will watch the transition area. Once you obtain your bike, you will mount in the designated area and begin your journey along the rural roads of Southern Maine.

Bike

For the bike leg, there is no set course: the route which most athletes have taken in the past will be provided to all racers in advance but some athletes do follow other roads — with the exception that racers are forbidden on sections of Routes 4 in Maine and Route 16 in New Hampshire. Cyclists must obey all traffic signals as they would on any training ride. A “most-often-followed” cue sheet is made available to all athletes well in advance of Race Day.

T2 is located at the Wildcat Ski Area parking lot on Route 16, between the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center and the Mt. Washington Auto Road.

Very important:  Porters MUST find locations to park their cars enroute that do not inhibit either vehicular traffic or the cyclists. There are many parking lots along the way….use them. Porters should drive ahead, park their car well off the road, then locate the safest location (ideally when the cyclist is going uphill) to hand food or drink to their athlete. Do not hand food or drink out of a car window. There will be race officials driving the roads and violations could disqualify the athlete.

T2

The second transition will be located in the parking lot at Wildcat Ski Area, on the right-hand side of the road. As you climb 2000 feet over the last 11 miles of the bike leg, your porter will have driven ahead and will be waiting to take your bike and exchange your gear. As soon as your porter arrives at T2, he/she should hand over your pack to our race official for examination. That pack must contain, at minimum:

  • a wind-breaking jacket
  • a base layer in addition to what you might be wearing (wicking material recommended) for your upper body (Lower body base layer not mandatory but recommended)
  • hat and gloves
  • 36 ounces of liquid
  • food source(s) totaling 800 calories
  • basic first aid kit including ace bandage
  • sunscreen
  • flashlight or headlamp with fully charged batteries. DO NOT FORGET THIS!

Hiking poles are used by some athletes for the climb but are not required.

All athletes will be checked by a medical professional before being allowed to head out on the run. If at this check you are asked to wait a bit before continuing — perhaps to eat and drink and regain your bearings — please understand this is for your safety and is the honest judgement of an impartial but qualified professional. If you are told that your race must stop at this point, please also honor the request without fuss. By simply getting to this point you have accomplished a very difficult feat, and a turkey dinner awaits as your reward.

Run / Hike

Prior to reaching the mountain trail you will be crossing Route 16. Take the same level of care as if you were a pedestrian. Run south (downhill) on the road’s shoulder for 1k (0.6 miles). The Pinkham Notch trailhead will be to your right, and several signs outside the visitor’s center point to the Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail, which will be your only route up the mountain (unless instructed otherwise by officials). This is a 4.4-mile journey from Pinkham Notch to the finish; however keep in mind that for each mile you travel you will average over 1000 vertical feet of altitude gain. The last two miles are the most difficult.

Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail is a very popular trail in the summer and athletes will be sharing it with hundreds of hikers if the weather is ideal. Think of this as a big bonus: for once the hikers begin to understand they have a race in their midst they become our biggest fans. The trail is not considered technical by mountaineering standards but it is extremely rocky and becomes quite steep as you climb the headwall of the ravine.

Please do plenty of reading in advance about Mt. Washington to fully understand and appreciate the unique conditions that can occur on this mountain. Weather near the top invariably is much different from at the bottom — or even at the midpoint. The race benefits from the assistance of park rangers, amateur ham radio operators and members of clubs such as the AMC. We will have volunteers sweeping the run course from Wildcat to the summit via Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail, as well as a staffed checkpoint at the AMC lodge alongside Hermit Lake (at the base of the ravine). At Hermit Lake our staff will have a limited amount of emergency supplies and food for any URGENT need that arises. There are public restrooms near this lodge, and a few hundred yards further up the mountain is a hand-pumped well for additional drinking water.

You are allowed to bring your porter or another companion along for the climb as long as they are physically fit, have signed the pre-race waiver and have to have the same items as their athlete in a separate backpack. While there is a privately owned shuttle service that carries hikers back down the mountain, it is first-come-first-served with  no advance purchases allowed, so we suggest having another friend or family member drive up to the top to meet you at the finish.

The Tuckerman’s trail is well marked but there are other trails leading up the mountain. Please be warned: if you take one, you are on your own. However, every trail intersection is well marked so it would be difficult to venture off in error.

Your race is not over until you reach the timers table near the Rock Pile at the summit.

Time Limits
Swim 6:30am. Bike 1:00pm. Finish 4:30pm.

With a start time of 5:30am, athletes are expected to have concluded their swim by 6:30am. The most critical time cut-off, however, will be at T2, at the end of the bike leg. Athletes must have arrived at Wildcat Mountain by 1:00pm and have passed a medical check in order to be allowed to continue. Additional athlete cut-offs are 2:30pm at the AMC shelter near Hermit Lake, and 4:30pm to be an official finisher at the mountain top.

Under no circumstances will an athlete be allowed to proceed as an official racer if they miss any of these cutoff times. Should they continue they will be considered to have left the race, with no further assumption of responsibility by the event organizers. All vehicles are ordered off the mountain by New Hampshire park staff at 6:00pm, and it’s a long walk down.

Please understand the reasons why these limits have been put in place. As the sun sets (much earlier on this, the eastern side of the mountain) the conditions on the headwall and at the summit can be extreme (up to 100 mph winds and freezing temperatures, even in summer). Hundreds of hikers have died on Mount Washington. However, many thousands enjoy the trails and the incomparable beauty each year — if they are prudent, respectful and exercise caution as they venture to the top of New England.

FAQs
Field Limit

When the idea for S2S was first proposed to the White Mountains National Forest, the field limit was set at 50. As the race has sold out each year, the limit has been gradually increased to 75, 100, and now 125 — large enough for some great competition and camaraderie, yet small enough so as to not lose this day’s special quality. Once we reach 125 race registrations, the directors will start a waiting list. As experienced athletes know, out of 125 hard-training athletes someone is going to get injured. So don’t dismay if you find the race to be sold out!

Pre-Race

The weekend starts with packet-pick-up at the site of the swim: the Spring Hill Lodge, which rests on a hill above the water. Pre-swimming is allowed. Staff will be available to answer questions. The athlete and his or her porter both must pick up their race packet at this time. There will be no race day packet pick ups. 

Post-Race

Upon crossing the finish line you will be greeted with a medal, space blanket and nutrition. There are indoor facilities, restrooms and cafeteria nearby in which to warm up or relax. There is no official race vehicle to take you down the mountain. Most racers ride down with their porter or, if the porter has accompanied them on the climb, with a friend or family member who has driven to the summit on the (toll) auto road. There is a private shuttle service available but advance reservations are not allowed, so it’s possible extremely late finishers may not be able to find a ride back to Wildcat (T2).

At Wildcat, a full meal awaits you. Each racer and his/her porter dine without additional charge. Friends and family members may purchase a meal ticket for $35. Kids eat free.

Need a porter?

We do receive requests from athletes looking for a porter for race day. And we hear from triathletes who’d like to observe the event one year before registering — yet still be in the thick of the action. So, the S2S race directors serve as a sort of clearinghouse for matching up competitors and porters. If you need a porter — or are entertaining the idea of being one — please write us!

What about the sherpas?

The S2S goes back to the mid-1990s, and for years the race’s support people have been informally referred to as “sherpas.” In recent years, the 18 indigenous tribes of Nepal have made it known that they would prefer that the name be reserved for members of their tribes. We were pleased to make the switch to “porter.”

(Free) Summit Flag?

As a proud partner of the Sea to Summit race, 5ummit 5omething wants to help you celebrate completing this momentous challenge with a custom-designed Mt. Washington summit flag.

When you finish at the summit and proudly wave your summit flag, you will be crowning an unforgettable memory and help us spread our mission to rid our trails of all those discarded cardboard summit signs.  5ummit 5omething is committed to creating cherished mementos that celebrate shared experiences and inspire outdoor adventurers to reach their own personal summits.  Our unique summit flags and line of souvenirs create an everlasting connection to the summits that you have bagged.  Post a selfie and hang your Mt. Washington flag on the wall.  Whatever you do celebrate your memorable journey.

the 2024 sea to summit adventure triathlon