PWC Sun Valley Day 4

Task: Baldy 8k Exit, Borah LZ 4k, Challis 1k ESS, Challis Goal Line. Optimized distance: 105km

Today’s weather was looking pretty marginal due to upper level winds from the west. The main Baldy launch faces SE, which creates a rotor / leeside situation. Normally light west wind will be overpowered by thermals, since the sun has been hitting the slope for hours before pilots launch there, but if the wind is strong enough from the west, it’s ugly and dangerous on takeoff.

A quick pilot meeting and a fairly hefty task was set to Challis. If launch stayed safe for all pilots to get a fair shot at getting in the air, this task would be very possible and pretty fast.

The launch window opened early, at 11am. Many pilots weren’t able to have their gear ready for this early start, but many of us were. Thermals were coming up the slope, creating short launchable cycles between downslope breezes. Several pilots had spicy launches and launch attempts before me, and mine was no different. Bringing the wing up in a nice cycle, I caught a chunk of energy that popped me off of my feet as the wing shot forward. The safest thing was to shut it down before it got worse, so I yanked brakes. I landed fairly softly, but on one knee, which ended up tearing my new pants on the rocky slope. Anyway, cleaned lines and reset for another try. Got off clean this time, but the air in front of launch was particularly spicy. I wanted ground clearance, so went straight out over the Ketchum valley and found nicer, lifty air. Up to around 4,000m here. Meanwhile there was more drama on launch, with some pilots doing inadvertent SIV maneuvers over the area as they attempted to climb next to the hill like they would normally do, and many exciting launches.

Every time I looked back toward the launch area I could see gliders lurching and pitching aggressively.

Launch conditions continued to deteriorate. Eventually it was too dangerous to go on, so the task was cancelled.

Many of us were high in nice air now, with the choice of either landing in strong valley winds and rotor, or continuing on towards the east. A small group had organized to attempt to fly to Jackson, WY. This would potentially break the new foot launch record of about 205 miles set only a few weeks ago by Nick Greece, a week or so before that by Nate Scales at 198 miles, and a week before that by Matt Beechinor at 188 miles. What a summer it has been! With a week of this type of open distance flying approaching, not wanting to tax the already taxed PWC organization, and the visuals being sub-par due to smoke (as shown above), I opted to land in the windy valley with the majority of the field. Frederic Bourgault and Matt Henzi are still in the air and have flown further than 200 kilometers as of about 5pm. Go guys go!

There is a party at Lefty’s tonight. The next two days look even windier, so tonight might get a little crazy. Did I mention free beer?

I’m really hoping for a change for the better regarding the weather so this can be a valid PWC event, and so these pilots from around the world get what they came for.

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