PWC Sun Valley Practice Day
Today was a practice day, with a goal set near Wildcat, down the Trail Creek valley. Climbs were weak above launch, with some pilots not even making it above takeoff. Crossing the valley wasn’t too bad if you got up a bit over Baldy (launch), but when I got to Sun Peak, there was nothing going on. I tried to glide back to the main LZ, but landed a bit short and walked into town.
We are flying with a lot of extra equipment here: Oxygen, warm jackets, big winter gloves and a small kit of backcountry survival gear like water tablets, extra food, lighter, extra batteries for electronics, etc. This is big country with many technical mountain crossings and the potential for two-day hike-outs if one lands in a bad spot. The extra equipment makes for longer and more methodical launch preparation, and a bit of awkwardness during the actual launch process. It was great to get a test flight in to make sure that all of the extra equipment flew well and functioned properly. We will potentially be getting up to 18,000 ft (5,400 m), so oxygen is a must to be competitive. There is rumor of a ceiling extension to 22,000 ft, but we’ll know more about that in the morning. Not having oxygen and therefore being unable to climb higher than 14,000 ft would be a huge disadvantage in either case.
As shown in the photo above, the smoke here is very thick. This shot is taken just after leaving launch, looking towards Ketchum and Trail Creek. Normally one would see mountains far into the distance from this position. The lack of visibility could be a huge issue in route planning in the air for competitors, particularly for those who have never flown here.
The pilot list here is amazing, and I’ll be stoked to place in the top 30 by the end of the week amongst these world-class pilots.
We’re hoping for clear skies and great flying tomorrow, but it sounds like the smoke will stick with us for awhile.