Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hang Gliding at Tarkio

Sunday was a high pressure day, but several of us were itching to flying so we made plans to fly Tarkio. As expected, conditions looked good. The winds were blowing straight up launch with good cycles and good lulls. We set up quickly and I punched off first. The air was a bit turbulent right off launch, but the mass lift made it easy to climb out. Once I had ample clearance from the hill, I started trying to core lift. I quickly climbed out to 9,000ft and thought maybe this would be a cross country day. I couldn't break 9 grand and didn't know the character of the day yet, so I decided I would try to stair-step my way up.

Again I found my self climbing to 9,000ft and unable to break through. It appeared I barely had the ridge-line of Stark Mtn. on glide, but the thought of landing in the 9 mile valley seemed like a total was of time and inconvenience to the group. If I was to go for it, I needed to get high so I would have a good chance of making the jump over Squaw Peak. It just didn't seem like the right day for it.

I decided to bail and head for the town of Superior. I glided about a third of the way finding very little lift and made the decision to head back for launch. When I got back there, I found more good lift and climbed out to 10,200ft. This was the elevation I was hoping for. Unfortunately it was late in the day and my vario started to die. Shut down again.

With the intention of keeping the LZ within glide, I headed into the Bitterroots Mtns. The air was starting to get buoyant and my glide was great. I glided deeper and deeper into the mountains finding my self nearly at Quarts Peak a short distance from the Idaho boarder. I was alarmed to see how far I had let myself dive into the mountain through the confidence of having such a high performance glider. I turned around with hopes that I would make the valley and an appropriate place to land. As I glided out, it was obvious that not only would I make the valley, but I was going to make it back to the hill above launch.

Don and Bob launched for an evening glass-off flight and I chased them around the hill trying to take pictures. Eventually I was getting tired and decided to land. After about 3 hours of flying, I found myself back on the ground with a cold beer waiting for me.

Gliding into the Bitterroot Mountains

Looking back at the Tarkio valley and launch

Bob Garrety

Don Lang

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