One of the biggest events of the year for rock crawling is the King of the Hammers race out in Lucerne Valley, CA. This year it was a 140 mile loop with a mixture of desert racing and challenging rock trails thrown into the mix. Its a great event that every year keeps growing into a huge week long event.

Driving through the pits this year when I first arrived was a good sign that the event was a success. If you were looking for your friend, you’d need GPS coordinates to find him in the huge mass of 5th Wheels and RV’s. If they told you “look for my RV, its white and parked in main pit”, you’d be looking around for hours.

I was at KOH shooting for Pirate4x4.com, THE website for anything related rock crawling. I got there Thursday morning to check out contingency, but more importantly check out the course for spots I wanted to shoot during the race on Friday. My goal was to try and get everyone off the start, then begin following the lead pack around until somewhere towards the end and shoot till it got dark. I also wanted to find a nice balance of shooting desert and rock crawling since the race makes up both.

The first spot I would shoot on race day would end up being right at race mile 1.

I stayed there until all the race vehicles went by, then headed over to race mile 34 to catch them one more time. The good thing about the KOH race is that because of the rock obstacles throughout the course the average speed is a lot lower then a desert race. This would give me more time to spend at each spot to catch more people coming by.

Race mile 34 was a long downhill sand hill, into a right hand turn. I got there with about 15 minutes to spare before the leader came through, and I was pretty surprised at how some of the spectators were handling themselves at this spot. I think spectators at desert races get a bad wrap, especially the whole “flatbiller” sterotype, but the spectators at KOH can be pretty clueless. In the photo below you can see one of the leaders coming down the sandhill.

No only a few minutes before that you had spectators driving BACKWARDS up the course to get to the top of the hill to spectate. What makes matters worse is that most of them probably didn’t have a radio so they had no idea they were a few minutes from dying. If the race course is hot stay off it! Here is a shot of Shannon Campbell at the bottom of the hill where it makes a right hand turn.

I next headed over to race mile 35 to a nice sharp turn. I scouted the spot out the day before and thought it would be a good place to catch some desert action, and hopefully get some dirt getting thrown into the air.

I stayed at race mile 35 as long as I could before I had to head to the next spot. While I was there friend and fellow photographer Chad Jock, came by and convinced me that we could beat the leaders to a rock section called Elvis. It was a deviation from my game plan but it sounded like a good idea so off we went. I was lucky enough to borrow a Yamaha Rhino from Lance @ Pirate4x4, so I must apologize to him for the beating the rhino took :). We had to hurry to make sure we caught them so the rhino suspension was put to the test. Like last year, I think I had more fun driving the rhino around then actually shooting the race.

We were lucky enough to catch the first two leaders to the spot, but because I wanted to get to another rock section further on the course I only stayed there for them. There was also a celebrity sighting at Elvis.


On the way to the next spot, we would stop along the course as vehicles went by to grab a few more photos, and I actually got one of my favorite shots from the race. I like it because it tells the desert side of the story, and also has a nice background with the snow covered mountains.

Up next was Sledgehammer, and the final spot I would be shooting from for the race. The reason I wanted to shoot here was because this spot gets the largest crowd of all the rock sections, and also last year there was some great action. In this photo you can see the large crowd within the canyon.


City of Coors Light

The great thing about the KOH race is that the spectators can be right up on the action. The bad thing about the KOH race is that the spectators can be right up on the action. One stuck throttle and you’re one incident away from a race closure.

I planned on staying at Sledgehammer the rest of the day, but another friend and photographer Nolan, who was also shooting for Pirate4x4 showed up so I decided to leave so that we wouldn’t have the same shots for the site. The day before scouting for spots I came across a decent desert section in the last few miles of the course so I headed over there.

Here is another nice overview shot in the desert.

Overall I had a great time at the race and its good to see the sport grow every year. I think next year they will need to police some of the more popular spectator areas, but in all reality as long as the course is open to all it will be next to impossible to do. Dumb spectators always out number volunteers.