Task: B17 4k Entry, B17 3k, A48 20k, B52 1k, A43 2k ESS, A43 Goal Line. Optimized Distance: 98km.
Although late out of camp, we got to the top of the hill in good time and quickly entered a task into our instruments. Down to launch for a very early launch window opening and off the hill by about 11:15 am. Here’s where things got slow. There was thick smoke and haze and a visible inversion, which happened to be at about 3,200m. It was slow going around the launch area. I had a fairly low save all alone over the buildings just below launch that got me back up to launch height, but getting much higher was a struggle, if not impossible.
As the race start time passed, nobody left. We all felt like we were too low to make the crossing. The actual start cylinder was still 8k away, so we were a good 30 minutes behind to begin with. Eventually people started to go for it low. Martin Orlik and I decided to go for a more southerly route down towards Hailey, then cross the valley towards some hills that looked great: into the wind, full sun on three sides, etc. The bulk of the field went straight across the valley to arrive more quickly and higher, but further to the north on these hills. It was either the power of the gaggle, pure luck, or absolute genius flying that allowed these pilots to climb out of the northwest end of these hills, while Martin and I (and a few others now) had nothing on the sunny, windward side. I ridge soared for half an hour or so at the top of this hill before trying to fly out over the valley to find something. I landed, and about an hour and a half later, Martin was still in the same spot on the hill, ridge soaring until something came through. I got picked up by a German maid and carried to headquarters. I hope Martin’s patience paid off.
Back at HQ, we watched the lead gaggle make their way through the course, usually under 3,000m. It looked like low, slow going, but they were ticking through the kilometers. Somewhere in there some dangerous wind came along and the task was stopped, but it will be scored. I think a couple of pilots had made goal before it was stopped. Each pilot will be scored according to where they were 10 minutes before the task was stopped, then given a 2:1 glide ratio for distance from that point. Sounds like Mark Watts flew well today, so he probably won the event.
Even if I had flown well today, it wasn’t the big, fast, beautiful type of day that this place is known for. With another stopped task, it feels like an anticlimactic end to an already below average week, but hey, that’s just me sitting at camp - maybe the guys in goal and close to goal will have different stories.
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Task: a 60km zig-zag along the King Mt., (Lost River) range near Moore, ID. Cancelled due to wind and rotor at launch.
After meeting at headquarters at 11am it was decided that the only possibility for a task was to head to a more windward launch. King Mountain was the best option logistically, so the PWC headed east for the day. Flags in the flatlands during the drive were showing at least 40kmh from the west. We arrived and congregated in the Moore park, added some new waypoints manually, set a task and headed up the hill in vans and trucks.
The wind was cranking into launch, which faces SW, and the windsock on a knoll to the NW of launch was showing NW wind consistently. It looked as though we’d be launching in rotor, but the hope was that the thermal cycles coming up the slope would make launching safe and easy. Reports of 39kmh (a paraglider’s trim speed) were reported at ridge level via weather soundings. We waited for a couple of hours for things to relax, but no significant change was observed, and I never heard anything about the ridge level wind decreasing. With no wind dummies willing to launch in these conditions, they opened the window early for any competition pilots willing to launch.
A few pilots got off of launch nicely, and had good climbs in front, getting quite high and reporting “Level 1” (good conditions). The lower King launch is huge, and a much more friendly slope for laying out and preparing your kit than Baldy, so everyone was laid out everywhere. For some reason, pilots weren’t moving down below other pilots prepping before launching, so there was a comical flow of pilots bringing up their wings in the middle of everyone, dancing, skipping and hopping over other people and equipment. For the most part this worked, but there were several instances where it didn’t. As Brett Zanglein was moving his rosetted glider to a suitable launching spot just above my wing (which was ready to launch), another pilot made the obstacle course run through the pack above us. He slammed into Brett who was looking at other things, like where to walk so as not to step on other people’s gear, etc. Brett was thrown into my glider and pushed across it as the pilot also landed on my glider and lines and draped his glider across several other pilots setting up. Interesting.
After this first wave of pilots launched and climbed, the second wave of us launched in a cycle and immediately realized that conditions were changing rapidly. We bobbled and swung as a large pack of about 20 or 30 gliders that had launched within 60 seconds of each other. It was apparent that the NW wind on the windsock was now the overpowering wind, and launch was completely in the rotor from the hill to the NW. Holding our gliders together was our first task, creeping around the hill to get into the cleaner NW flow was the next task. I had ground speeds as low as 3kmh rounding this bend, and only low teens once around the front side. After several reports of Level 2 and even some Level 3’s, the task was cancelled.
We landed at a nice and relatively new flight park near the base of King, had a lemonade or beer, and made our way back to Ketchum.
It’s a fine line between trying your hardest to get a task in and keeping it safe for everyone. We got lucky with only a couple of minor scuffs and bruises on launch, but the unsafe signs were there if we would have been willing to see them.
Today looks like it may be flyable at Baldy, so we are excited to give it one final try.
The shot above is of Emmanuel Guadarrama (MEX) and several other pilots flying out from King Mt in the background.
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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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Task: Baldy 2k Exit, Little Wood Reservoir 12km, Arco 10km, Diamond Peak 27km, Dubois 2k ESS, Dubois 400m Goal. Optimized distance: 193km.
Day 2 was a classic Sun Valley distance day, so they called a huge task. The goal was Dubois, ID, and other than a small jog south after the start, it was a straight shot to Dubois. The turn points were only there as control points to keep us on the same line and out of the potential overdevelopment to the north.
The race started at 12:45. There were cumulus clouds over launch which made for good, cohesive start gaggles on the edge of the cylinder. Most of us had an hour to kill between launching around 11:45 and the 12:45 start, so plenty of time to strategize and position on the correct edge of the cylinder. At cloudbase with a couple of minutes to go before the start, I relaxed for 30 seconds and was in about 100th position when the start time elapsed. These guys are good. On the bright side, I had 100 lift indicators in front of me on the way to the next turn point. We came in at ridge height on the other side of the Hailey valley, and battled a bit of wind here before finally grabbing a good one and getting out. Many pilots were flying south down the range here, but goal was to the east. I dove straight over the back into roadless territory and several pilots followed. The climbs over this low, hilly terrain weren’t great, but we made our way east. Many pilots had caught up from various directions now. The lead gaggle was in front and climbing over some of the last hills before the long valley crossing at the Arco turn point. Some random, disorganized lift was all we had here, so it took a while to get up, but eventually we tagged Arco and dove straight for Coyote and King Mt. launch. Up to cloudbase here over the always impressive King Mt. Cloudbase was around 4000m most of the day. After King, we flew across the valley to the Lemhi range to glance the large Diamond Peak cylinder. A little low coming into the hills, but good climbs once over the peaks. Up to base again and heading east. It was now around 6pm and the day was getting weak. We took whatever we could get over the flats, watching the glide ratio to goal (it was 18:1 over the Lemhi range at cloudbase) get worse and worse. The upper level winds were light all day, and backed off even more in the evening, so we didn’t have that fast, boaty final glide as we often get at the end of the day. A few final attempts at climbing for those extra few kilometers were futile, so it was time to glide to the ground.
The lead gaggle had had one nice final climb that our chase gaggle didn’t get, so many pilots were only about 15km short of goal. I landed about 25km short in the middle of a large group of pilots, right on the road. Nobody made goal, but what a day.
There were more pilots than seats in retrieve vehicles, so about 20 pilots were left waiting after dark by the side of the road for more vehicles to show up.
Now about 10:30 pm, the two loaded vans went to Pickle’s Place in Arco for food. I think we gave them half of their monthly income in about an hour. Another hour and a half of driving just to get back to HQ, and we were in by about midnight or a little later. This would have been great, but my glider, PWC tracking device, and instruments were in a trailer that was still in Arco. I slept in the parking lot in my truck until it got back around 2:30am, downloaded, turned in my tracker for charging and check-in, and drove to the campsite. In bed by 3am.
Today is going to overdevelop and high winds are predicted. The day is cancelled. Good, most of us can use some rest!
Just checked the results - looks like I got 26th for the day. The shot above is over the Lemhi range - the last tall climb before gliding into the flats beyond.
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Task: Takeoff 2k Exit, Borah Peak 23 km, Twin Bridges 2k ESS, Twin Bridges Goal Line. Optimized distance: 61km.
The weather forecast today was calling for overdevelopment in the afternoon. A short, easy task was called down the Trail Creek valley. Flying down this valley has one critical move: get high over Sun Peak and Otto (about 4000m is high) before plunging into the restricted valley that leads to Twin Bridges and eventually out towards the Lost River range and Borah peak. We were getting nice and high over launch, around 4,800m, and there was quite a push from the west at this altitude. Most of us were up with plenty of time to waste before the start time elapsed, so several pushes back into wind (towards launch) were required to stay in the cylinder. The timing gets a little random when this happens, so a number of us weren’t at our highest when the race started. Oh well, on to Sun Peak to find a climb in the shade, then up the ridge towards Otto, where it’s important to get a good climb before continuing on. Plenty of lift now, with skies darkening and filling in. We were high, so we made a dash down the hills to the south of Trail Creek valley. As we were approaching what would be goal (before tagging the Borah cylinder), rain and graupel started to drop out to the north of the valley. There were now about 50 pilots in this area who were starting to get concerned, and with a few radio transmissions to the meet director about “Level 2” conditions and virga, the task was cancelled. We were now running away from the bad weather, but under a large dark cloud that had plenty of lift underneath it. Speedbar, tailwind and a few glances at compass headings just in case, we pushed into the friendlier sky to the east before the cloud could have its way with us. Many pilots, including myself, flew in light graupel while running for sun under this cloud.
At least 30 pilots down in a nice green alfalfa field, retrieve vans with beer, and back to HQ for O2 refills and check-in by 4:30pm.
The oxygen turned on just a few minutes into the flight (launch is at 2700m, O2 turns on at 3000m) and really never went off - we were high all day. I can only imagine how hard this week will be for pilots without this fabulous gas.
Tomorrow’s weather doesn’t look great, but there’s always a plethora of things to do in Sun Valley besides fly.
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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.
Awards: 1st Place: Denis Cortella. 2nd: Matt Senior. 3rd: Andy Macrae
With a very fun finish on the last task - flying with Denis Cortella most of the day, and gliding side by side across the valley to the ESS at Miller, I was able to bump Frederic Bourgault out of 3rd position.
Matt, Denis, Pal, Frederic, Haase and many others were flying really well all week. It was fun flying and learning with them. Overall a fabulous comp, and one I hope I’ll be part of again in the future.
Thanks Jim Orava, Corinne, Tonya, Fred, Nigel, Nicole and everyone else who helped make it happen!
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Task: Power House 5k Exit, Owl 400m, Miller 1k, Camel Hump 400m, Hand Car 2k, Owl 400m, Miller 1k ESS, Bruce 400m. Optimized distance: 78km.
A long task was set today, with great conditions in the forecast. Light winds and higher top of lift, so the task was set with several valley crossings and a waypoint to the NW that was further than we’ve flown before - into bear country. After the start, the crossing to Miller put us on the other side of the valley, into the higher peaks to the west. From here, we could continue north towards Camel over this high, remote terrain, or go back to the main ridge with known lift sources. The high country route would be faster if it worked.
My start was good today, and I crossed to Miller with the lead gaggle. We searched around a bit, but the lift wasn’t coming together like we thought it would. Senior, Cortella, Frederic, Pal and Orava were all there. Nobody was getting up, and some of them were getting desperately low over bad terrain. Cortella turned back to the main ridge and I followed.
We tanked up at Owl, then flew straight to Camel Hump. Weird air over Camel, and I had some mushy stuff going on. Climbed enough to get to Paulina as Cortella headed deeper towards Goat. Hazlett and I had a nice climb over Paulina. Hazlett left early to join Cortella, but I stayed and tanked up. As they both pushed on low towards Hand Car, I easily flew in above them to tag the turn point. Cortella kept pushing, and we were on our way back to Goat, Copper, and Barbor. We dropped Hazlett in there somewhere, so now it was just Denis and me. Tanking up over Barbor, we were on our way to Owl with the turn point on glide. We found a good climb over Owl to put us within reach of Miller, but we left early, knowing that the 1km radius would extend far down the hillside from the actual turn point. Gliding into the lee side of the mountain that was now in full shade, Cortella had a slight lead and we were both on half bar. With no chance of catching him with respect to overall points, I stayed on half bar rather than going to full - just to be sure I’d make it. It was a little tense counting down those last meters, looking at the upcoming hillside, watching the meters tick down. We clicked the cylinder just before reaching the hillside, and we turned around with a very easy glide to goal.
A lot of hours in the air today. The longest and most technical task that we’ve had, and another beautiful tour around the mountains of Pemberton.
Matt Senior came in in good time, but Frederic was way late after working himself out of some bad terrain near the first Miller turn point. He may have been just late enough for me to move up to 3rd overall. The last downloads are happening now. I’ll try to update with official results soon. Either way - what a week. Such a fun place to fly.
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Task: Individual Starts: Power House 7k Exit, Goat 3k, Camel Hump 2k, Owl Peak 2k, Goat 3k, Camel Hump 2k, Owl Peak 2k ESS, Bruce 400m Goal. Optimized distance: 50km
Today’s task was actually two identical triangles in the northwest end of the valley. The day was hazy with smoke and the conditions were light all day long. With individual start times, it generally pays to let the “rabbits” lead, then try to catch them by or before the ESS. I struggled to get high after launching, and got a little further behind than I was planning on. It’s hard to catch people when they’re so far ahead of you that you can’t see them.
I went low and slow all day long. I felt a bit uncoordinated and “off” most of the time, but continued to make my way around the course. Barbor was the place to tank up, and is where I took this shot of Alex Raymont on his Aspen 4.
After tagging Goat, the next turn point was an across-valley glide to Camel, then another across-valley glide towards either the ridge/Barbor area, or straight towards Owl. Many pilots chose the more conservative route to the Barbor area after Camel, but I felt like I needed to make up time, so I went straight towards Owl both times. I think it worked well, and at least made up for my otherwise slow flying. I also tagged the Owl 2k ESS around the front/goal side of the mountain rather than climbing on the far side as virtually all other pilots did. This shaved off another couple of minutes.
We’ll have to wait until all of the scores are in to see who won the day. I don’t think it was me, but hopefully my shortcuts keep me in the top 5.
Another fabulous day of flying here in Pemberton. It’s beautiful everywhere.
Leonardo tracks with map (click on “Task Name” and click on pilot for their track)
Task: Powerhouse 5k Exit, Tender 5k, Camel Hump 400m, Miller 1k, Van Loon 2k ESS, Van Loon 400m goal. Optimized distance: 77km.
My GoPro fogged up today, so this is actually a shot of the practice day since we went over some of the same terrain.
No music on launch, and the tone was already a little heavier with the weight of the accident still in the air. Today we needed a light wind, beautiful valley cruise with no accidents to get us back on track. The task committee set the perfect task, taking us down towards Goat, Tender and Paulina as usual, then over the high, snowy country in the shot above.
The day was virtually windless, and the flying was fabulous. With Senior and Denis Cortella (the guy who I thought was either Canadian or Russian, but he’s actually French, and the head designer of Kortell harnesses!) pushing out front all day, the rest of the lead gaggle had a small buffer as we followed. Tanking up at Goat, Wishnie and I had a better climb than the tree huggers below us, and we tanked up as high as we’d been all day. We pushed out to Tender, now in the lead. Without much height lost, we continued on to Camel Humps for the next turn point. We were just going to make it, with Wishnie slightly in the lead. We approached the hill at ridge height and had to fly into a slot in the rock face in order to tag the 400m cylinder. We were unable to cross over to the sunny, windward side from here, so Frederic, Wishnie and I cruised the burnt forested hillside until we had height to turn to the sunny side. Frederic caught something, and although I was close behind, he got the meat of it while I was left with light, disorganized lift. Wishnie had gone further down the spine, unwilling to commit to the more remote sunny side with us. Frederic got high and pushed into the slightly shadowed lee-side of the hills down the valley. I struggled with a few others including Orava, Pal and Senior until we got high enough to push deep into the mountains.
We went right over the peaks in the shot above. It was beautiful, and as we now felt like we were several kilometers behind the leaders, we slowed down a bit, got patient and enjoyed the view. Such a delicate aircraft we fly, surrounded by remote, jagged, unforgiving terrain that would take days to hike out from. The juxtaposition is intense.
The leaders, who were now low in the shade, had to make a decision - keep pushing towards Miller low, or go to the other side of the valley (now near launch) to get high, then cross again. As our small group (Pal, Orava, Senior and I) stayed over the high, sunny terrain, we lost sight of the others. High at Miller, and although goal was back down the valley past Camel Humps (about 10k away), we had it on glide. Our patience had paid off, and we got the best view to boot. Senior was in the lead, and I was right behind. 10k of pulley-to-pulley and we were in goal. Thinking that the leaders had probably slipped in ahead of us, and seeing many gliders in the goal LZ, we thought we were slow. Upon landing however, we didn’t recognize the gliders and it turns out Matt and I were 1 and 2. What a pleasant surprise! The former leaders had crossed the valley to the launch ridge, tanked up to tag Miller, then crossed the valley AGAIN to tank up before gliding to goal.
Luck was on my side today. The scenery was amazing and the air was gentle and welcoming. A beautiful day.
It seems like 20 or so made goal, but that’s just a guess. Today’s results may shake up the standings a bit. Frederic, Cortella and Hazlett made it to goal, but late.
Weather day, no task.
Rained all night and cloudy in the morning, so we had a quick pilot meeting and went for a hike to the Joffre Lakes area. Three alpine lakes, with the one in the photo being the uppermost lake. The hanging glacier was beautiful and the hike was fun. Greg, Wishnie, Huntley Badger and I made up the group of hikers. It always amazes me how much water can constantly flow out of a glacier. For those of you who have never seen a Huntley Badger naked in the woods, I’ve included a shot of one below:
Free-flying day, no task.
Still unable to find our friend John Clifford (who was seen landing in the river by a non-flying witness) by 10am, we held a meeting. Landing in moving water is generally not survivable. We all knew there was little chance that John was alive. After a safety discussion and a vote whether or not to continue with the competition, some pilots went free-flying while others rested and did other things. We opted to go to Mosquito lake, near Jim Orava’s house. There was a a small dock that was perfect for flipping, as shown in the photo. This entertained us for several hours. The evening campfire food was great - salad and salmon for the non-vegetarians, and I had a veggie burger with a bit of salad.
Word came back that Search and Rescue (SAR) had found John’s body.
It rained all night, and this morning looks cloudy and wet still. We are having a meeting soon here at HQ, and we’re guessing that the day will be called during the meeting. We (Babush, Wishnie, Huntley and I) are hoping to hike to the Joffre Lakes area.
Task: Power House 5k Exit, Owl Peak 400m, Frazer 400m, Ryan Rd 1k, Copper 2k, Owl Peak 400m, Van Loon 2k ESS, Van Loon 400m goal. Optimized distance: 48km.
Today we woke up around 7am, packed up camp and headed to another campground - one that is out of the hot, swampy area near the golf course, and therefore much less infested with mosquitos. We ran some errands downtown, getting ice and a bit of food for the cooler, ran up to Jim’s to grab the food we put in his fridge the first night, dropped it all off at the new campground, then to HQ, all made possible by a much later meeting time of 10am. Nice.
Today the weather was forecast to overdevelop by 5pm or so, so a short task was called. There was also a good chance that the “Whistler Express” (a strong valley wind that comes up from the south) would show up and cause landing issues later in the day. The task committee designed a task that would keep us in the main valley, and away from the Pemberton junction of valleys - clear of the Whistler Express.
We launched earlier, although conditions were weaker, with light cirrus and a bit of cumulus shading the terrain. Everyone was much lower than yesterday for the start at Powerhouse, but we tagged the turn point and started the ridge-running. Strong, low pressure, thunderstorm type conditions and sky, with plenty of “chunky” bits and wind. On the way to Frazer after Owl, it got quite spicy as that Whistler Express started to push into the area. Reports of 15-25kph winds in the Pemberton LZ were reported by this time. Wishnie called a “2”, I called a “2”, Pal called a “2”. We watched as the clouds grew on the other side of the valley. Nothing was scary enough to call a “3”, so we pressed on. Across the valley to Ryan Rd, no climb here, so we dove back to the main ridge towards Barbor Peak. I was with Frederic Bourgault and Matt Senior. The three of us were in the lead, and looking for a climb in the middle of a large forested area above the river. Cool visuals as we dove into the green hillside. The climb started to come together and we tanked up here. On to Copper, and back down the ridge towards Owl, now downwind. Matt was in the lead, along with Stephen Haase now, but lower, as Fred and I had a deeper and more lifty line following the higher terrain. Fred got a good chunk and boosted before crossing to Owl, and I was just behind him. Matt and Stephen pressed on low and in front of both of us. Fred tagged Owl with handful of meters to spare, while Stephen had to backtrack to look for a lower climb to get up to peak-height. Senior also had to ridge soar a bit to tag the top of the mountain. I followed Frederic, finding just enough lift to tag the top without much turning, but by now several minutes behind him. Watching the final glide screen, it was full bar across the valley again to get to goal. Somewhere in there Denis Cortella (a French PWC pilot) slipped in and we raced into goal together behind Frederic. I’m not sure who got in first, as we were on slightly different lines.
Many pilots came into goal behind us - at least 20. The sky to the east and south (over Whistler and Lake Lilooet) was starting to darken as we drove to HQ. Several pilots were still in the air. Rain, wind, lightning and thunder as we approached Pemberton. The task was eventually stopped, but word on the street is that one pilot went down in the river. Not good. We are hoping for the best for him, and eager to hear good news.
A great day of racing, and the task committee nailed it by keeping it short and out of the valley junction. Hoping for another great day tomorrow, but it has been raining all evening now. I’ve heard that after Tuesday the weather looks good again.
Task: Powerhouse 5k Exit, Paulina 400m, Barbor 1k, Camel Humps 1k, Upper Launch 2k, Bruce 1k ESS, Bruce Goal 400m. Optimized distance: 70km.
Today’s task took us north and west to Paulin, then back towards launch and Pemberton - similar to the practice day. The air was active and big, but not unmanageable. I launched early and got nice and high right off the bat. This was random luck as far as I can tell, as the later launchers got stuck down on the launch ridge. The group of us that got lucky and high (around 3,000m) consisted of Jeff Wishnie, Matt Senior and another guy on a Boom X. He was either from Canada or Russia. We were 600m or so over the rest of the field, and we were just floating around at exactly the same height in perfectly smooth air, no turning needed, just slow meandering around the sky waiting for the “Speed to Start” numbers to look good. It was an unusual phenomenon for me - floating around for 20 or 30 minutes, almost on a blanket of rising air, far above the chaos of the gaggle below.
Anyway, back to the race: tagged the start, went north towards Paulina, got good climbs near Barbor and Goat, tagged Paulina, back to Barbor to climb strong again, then across the valley to Camel Humps. No climb here like we had yesterday, so we turned and ran back across the valley towards Owl and the launch ridge. Nice evening climbs here, and down towards Upper launch then full speed into wind to goal. Super fun.
Matt Senior, after the magic carpet ride start, had virtually gone straight down the whole course line without turning. Not really, but almost. He was way out in front the whole day. At the end though, he had plugged in the wrong turn point for goal and lost the lead to the Candian/Russian guy on the Boom X while fiddling with his GPS. Matty came in low and just tagged the goal cylinder by about 100m. Pretty close, but not as close as Pal Takat’s 10m tag before landing. Smiles in the LZ and at least 20 pilots made it in.
As we were racing through the skies, there was excitement along the course line: 4 or 5 reserve tosses/tree landings, including the safety guy. Most of them have made it down now, either on their own accord or via helicopter rescue. Having a helicopter in the vicinity stopped the task around 6:30, which cut a few people off from making goal.
Huntley, after flying in the most amazing place he’s ever flown yesterday, had the longest (over 4 hours) flight of his life, as well as the longest in distance. He made it 62km or so - he was one of the ones that got cut off when the helicopter came in.
An awesome and exciting day. Hopefully tomorrow brings more of the same. I will link to results when I know the URL. The photo above shows some of the crazy and remote terrain we are flying above.
We had a fun practice day, getting up to launch around noon and waiting until about 3pm to launch. The practice task was down to Paulin, then Camel Humps, then back to Pemberton. The scenery around here is just amazing. The photo above was one of hundreds of beautiful shots I had to choose from. The mountains are huge and snow-covered, no roads anywhere except the main valleys, alpine lakes - it’s amazing. I topped out around 3,000m, and the valley floors are at 200m. Ample height to work with.
From launch, one can see large glaciated mountains to the west across the valley that are totally covered in snow. I knew I had to get there at some point this week. After crossing the valley to Camel Humps, I opted to take the alternative route back, going into these high peaks. Amazing mountains and a fun cruise back to Pemberton. I went with the photo above (not of the snow-covered peaks) because of the greenery, alpine lake, thermal bank angle, etc.
Anyway, the mosquitos were again insane at the campground (now we’re at the golf course with pretty much everyone else), and we’re devising plans, techniques and tricks to deal with them. For tonight, I’m thinking “head net.”
Today looks like it should be good. If it’s anything like yesterday, it will be amazing.
I snuck into my former bedroom at 4:30am to kiss both of my girls while they were sleeping before I drove to the airport: Canada bound.
Huntley and I landed in Vancouver, and since he was in first, he made a long journey to the rental car agency and drove back to get me a few hours later. We made the long drive up a beautiful inlet that I’ll call the “Squamish Inlet,” as the town of Squamish was at the northern end. Large granite cliffs and mountains rising up from sea level to above tree-line, with snowfields and glaciers on the tallest peaks. Lush evergreen forests blanketed everything else. Beautiful. As we approached Whistler/Blackcomb, we saw several paragliders in the air over the resort area. It’s funny how the rush of excitement still comes when driving to a new site and seeing gliders in the air.
We continued on to Pemberton, randomly found Jim and Raoul Carvalho putting Red Bull tables on top of Jim’s van, and followed them around town running a few errands: Buying cheap beer for $10 per six-pack, groceries that were at least twice as expensive as in the US, tinkering with an on-demand water heater for the camping at the golf course at a friend’s beautiful hippy-style shop and house, then following the van to Jim’s place - a secluded array of handcrafted dwellings in the woods. Comfy and cozy, we sat on the porch, ate veggie burgers and chatted with Jorge Atramiz, Raoul, Jim, and several other pilots that had flown during the day. Oh, and we made sure to enjoy every sip of our expensive cheap beer.
We camped in the garden, along with approximately 3 million mosquitos. With jackets, hats and pants on to cover all skin, we quickly set up the tents and threw stuff in the doors before the mosquitos could enter. So far so good. Huntley had gone with the “air lock” or double-doored entry system to thwart the swarm, where I opted for a bit more physical entry style - running to one end of the garden, waving my arms wildly and spinning around as I ran. I had no rainfly door to open while the mosquitos caught up to me, so I quickly dashed for the tent, opened the bottom of the door, slid in, and closed the zipper again. No mosquitos in my tent. Huntley wasn’t so lucky. Let’s just say he didn’t sleep so well.
Babush and Wishnie are in town and looking to fly, so we’re hoping to get up to the hill today and get a feel for the area from the air. First task is Sunday.