Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Searching for Launch

Sunday morning without enough coffee on board, I packed up and headed South with a posse of hang glider pilots in search of excellent flying. Our plan was to fly Grant mtn then continue South to either King mtn or Big Southern Butte. After a 3 hour drive we were in sight of Grant and the sky was starting to look threatening. We continued up the steep road to launch and waited with hopes that the sky would open up. Cloud after cloud passed, occasionally raining down on us. It was time to move on and Peter had a place in mind.

Peter knew of a launch not too far from where we were and without any other options, we jumped in the rigs and sped away hoping to get a flight in that day. Before we knew it, we were 4 wheeling though alpine meadows at 8,000 ft. We were in search of a site that had probably only been flown once before, by Peter and Karl. I would call it more of a mountain that pointed in the correct direction than a site. After following barely distinguishable roads that most likely get traveled more by cattle, we reached the launch.

Josh waiting patiently at Grant

A classic Montana/Idaho road to launch

A perfect slope about 2,500 ft above the valley floor. We quickly set up, assessed the conditions, and began launching. A large shade cycle was moving across the valley making flying difficult. One after another, the guys launched and worked hard for every bit of lift.

I hung back helping the less experienced pilots with their launches. By the time I was ready, the valley was full of sun shine and thermals were rolling up the hill. I launched and quickly climbed out.
As soon as I had the necessary altitude, I headed North to a ridge-line I thought would be producing better lift. When I reached it, I found very punchy small thermals that were difficult to stay in. Eventually I managed to hang on long enough till the lift became more organized and easier to utilize.
I climbed out to 10,500 ft and tried touring around. The going was slow so I turned cross wind into the valley to look for other lift. Surprisingly not much was happening so I used the slightly buoyant air to glide across the valley as far as I could. Eventually I turned in the direction everyone else was, landed next to the guys, and was greeted with a nice cold beer.

We loaded up Karl's rig (9 people and 8 gliders) and headed back to launch with just enough time to find a suitable camping site. After plenty of beer and whiskey, we determined anywhere in the alpine meadow would do.


I woke early to watch the sun rise and see the sky filled with storm clouds. As the morning progressed, more clouds built to the point of raining. Eventually we accepted defeat and headed home. Every site along the drive back was plagued with dark storm clouds. By early afternoon we were back in Missoula and all pretty happy with previous days flights. We also learned that a tornado touch down in Dillon earlier that day confirming our smart decision not to fly.
Sunrise on the Lemhi mountains

No comments: