PWC Sun Valley Day 6
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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