Sunday, June 10, 2007

Lady of the Rockies

Friday Karl, Josh and I headed for Butte to fly. We met up with pilots; Don and Greg and left for launch. This particular site in Butte is located 8,000' and directly next to a giant statue of the Virgin Mary. Recent cool temps had left a few inches of snow at launch and with a warm sun out, the place became messy. We did our best to set up in a confined area trying not to dirty our equipment too much.

Karl at the LZ.

The contoured terrain and switchy winds caused the ground handling to be difficult. Thankfully everyone launched without a problem. Once in the air, the flying was quit mellow. Consistently small thermals were rolling up the hill allowing us to easily stay about 500' above launch. After a short while I saw Josh and Karl heading south and gaining some altitude. It looked like fun so I followed. Before I could reach them, I found a thermal that had consistent lift and decided to hook into it. I climbed to 10,500' and noticed Josh and Karl heading my way. I figured they saw the good lift I was in and wanted to pimp my thermal.

The day's LZ.

I watched as Karl raced right by me. A second later he transmitted on his radio, "That cloud has a lot of suck." That all I needed to hear. I pulled full rope (I figured it would be a good first time to do so), and stuffed the control bar to my thighs. At this point I expected to be diving out of the sky, but I wasn't. I was cruising at 50mph ground speed and slightly climbing. Blue skies were just in front of me and quickly I began to loose altitude. We left the cloud suck and worked our way north. Thermals became nice and smooth. I consistently found 800'/minute up. Before I knew it, the valley below was coming to an end. With storm clouds all around us, Karl and I decided to land. Don was waiting with the truck and Josh landed just a short distance away. We ended our flight in the beautiful Elk Park valley, two hours later and ten miles from launch.

Elk Park and the retrieve.

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