This past weekend marked the 64th year for the Knox Mountain Hill Climb, even though it only actually started running up that Kelowna hill 57 years ago.

The Okanagan Auto Sports Club (now the Knox Mountain Motor Sport Club) actually held its inaugural hill climb in 1956 on Hillcrest Road in Penticton and called it the Okanagan Hill Climb.

The next year it moved to Westbank and ran up from Okanagan Lake for 1.1 miles, according to club historian and four-time champion Allen Reid.

It ran there for four years but was cancelled in 1961.

READ MORE: iN PHOTOS: The lost speedways of the Thompson-Okanagan

It was in 1962 that the hill climb moved to Camp Road in Lake Country on a course that was just over one mile long. From then on it ran on the May long weekend every year until it was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID.

“Pits were on the loading slab of the Winoka Packing House that covered the entire point across from The Store and all the empty spaces in the surrounding area,” according to an article attributed to Richard Gibbons and posted on the Lake Country Museum and Archives website.

“The route wound its way up past Gray Monk Winery with the long, straight road leading to the S-turns at Camp and Davidson and the finish line a few hundred meters beyond that intersection on Camp Road,” he wrote.

“By 1964, the event had gained prominence throughout the Pacific Northwest and race drivers from circuits such as Westwood in Coquitlam made the trek to Okanagan Centre. The Okanagan Hillclimb event had become hugely popular with, at one point, a reported 5,000 spectators in attendance.”

Camp Road in Lake Country.
Camp Road in Lake Country.
Image Credit: Submitted/Lake Country Museum and Archives

By 1966 the event had grown too large for that venue and the City of Kelowna agreed to run it on the newly-paved road up Knox Mountain, Gibbons wrote.

READ MORE: Why there’s no longer ice racing on Duck Lake in the Okanagan

Reid came on the scene as a spectator in the late 60s when thousands of people would crowd the hill.

“It was a big deal,” he said. “I thought there were 15,000 people on the hill. It was the only thing to do back then. The hill was just covered.”

Now they may get 2,000 fans on a good day, he said.

This year’s event marked the first time in more than a decade that a new record was set.

READ MORE: It’s not the thrill of speed alone that hooked this Kelowna teenager on race car driving

Aaron Cook raced up the 2.2 mile course in 1 minute, 34.903 seconds.

But that was only his best of seven runs. Two other of his runs also broke the 2007 record of 1:37:065 set by John Haftner and long thought to be untouchable.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.