Yep, they do everything bigger in the States, including PWC tasks. This one was a monster, with the promise of grizzlies, coyotes and wolves below if you went down. Craig Morgan grabbed it by the scruff of its neck…
Day 2 Task 2.
193km Race to Goal.
You heard it right. That’s a one – niner – three-er kilo-meter.
That’s further than I’ve ever flown in my whole life or as one smart ass American said – probably the whole length of the UK! Either way, Nate Scales had excelled himself this time and BIG was the order of the day.
I chuckled – in the briefing they warned us of deep back country landing possibilities, bears!, no telecoms signal, underground nuclear test facilities where NO ONE is welcome, don’t stray from the roads, Wolves, Coyotes, Rattlers, men with guns (and probably chicks too) and finally don’t use the term ‘Redneck’! You know – all the usual pre task para ramble!
The toilets were busy prior to our monstrous task and launching at 11.30am we all eased to base at 13,000 feet (4,000m). A long wait ensued up there dodging in and out of the wispies then come 12.45pm we were off.
A steady transition lead to a squeaky low save flip-side of the valley and the breaks in the gaggles started immediately. I pushed on lower and had one sunny option left before an ignominious bail out. Whoosh! A text book reasoning yielded a ripper of a 6-up and all of a sudden I was everyone’s best friend.
From there we overflew some more serious terrain and various gaggles leap-frogged each other whilst one Icepeak in particular always pushed on low and hard. Very brave flying indeed in this environment. I had a feeling it may have been Dean Stratton. Big respect whoever you were. However, at one stage I found myself with him scratching our bootlaces over a Bute in the middle of nowhere tightening up all our orifices and hoping.
The climb came but as usual it took four gliders to really zero in on the core and most low saves from this elevation started with intense surges, wing collapses and full sensory commitment. Unfortunately the lead Niviuk got left at this point and hopefully made it out on the next cycle.
Mountainous terrain turned to big flat valley floors dotted with huge green circular Alfalfa plantations, yellow corn fields and smooth climbs. Memorable moments indeed. Time to breath properly, relax, do some Go-Pro-ing and munch a Snickers. At this stage the locals were using the radio frequency and we were treated to reports of revs being increased to five thousand, speeds of one point five miles per hour and heavy gear boxes being strained. I guessed at the irrigation machinery or dozers maybe. Either way, I had multi tasking going on in my head for the first time in my life so I also pondered the possibility of becoming a woman…
Now we were aiming at our old friend King Mountain. And boy did the range look impressive in these clearer conditions. Ruski lead me directly to the mountain spurning a final flatland boomer and we took our own column of boisterous hot air up to base. Here I made a costly error following the clouds to the North along the ridge top and avoiding the blue hole over the flats. The turnpoint cylinder was 23k though which put the efficient tangent line much further to the South and when I turned round I saw literally all the gaggle forking off from my track some 5 kilometres away. Bugger – there’s safety in numbers especially when you are still 100km out.
In my favour though was a manageable looking valley crossing, some clouds and some time to calm down from my panic. Half way over the valley a lovely little 2-up gave me a moment to top up and to my joy three other gliders joined me way below. I waited for them to catch up and off we went like four brave hearts to the next ridge.
Sinking valley air changed to rising and another low save put us over some epic peaks. Textbook thermalling ensued where one of us held the core whilst others searched in vicinity. It worked beautifully as the thermals moved dramatically and multi cores always bested each other. Another valley crossing. We’d been airborne now for five hours! And here our luck ran out. With 50 odd k to go the range shaded out as the sun was dropping and we came up empty handed whilst desperately scratching along the slopes and cliffs. Fortunately there was an active road beneath us but I managed to land the wrong side of a beautiful creek and after packing up I had a comical wade through with my heavy pack on.
The four of us gathered at a rallying point and a huge bear of a rancher man gave us a lift. Andy and his son Heath drove us for 20 miles to a crossroads and en route I enquired about many things. The name Idaho, he thought, had its derivations in Indian parlance and possibly means bright or yellow morning colours. His family were amongst the first settlers in that valley which gave him first-come first-water-extraction-rights from the creek and he pumped 1800 gallons per minute to irrigate. It also held Rainbow trout up to 5lbs and I dreamed of returning one day to fish it. The town of Arco was the first town in the world to be powered by the Nuclear test facility we were passing. An ominous looking bunker facility situated in the middle of a desolate prairie. They’d worked on nuclear-powered planes and subs there beneath ground in the cold war days and if anyone strayed passed the yellow marker signs 50 yards from the road they would quickly be challenged by men with guns. We WERE being watched!!
Andy told us of Coyotes and Grizzlys that had spread down from Yellowstone Park. This year he’d lost six head of Beef to them and boy do they make a mess. They’re quick too and as top predators on the food chain they will happily ambush yard horses and chase them down. But the most worrying development in recent years were the Wolves. I’d been in Jackson Hole in ’95 as it happened and remember reading about the rumpus kicked up by conservationists and the subsequent release of 50 breeding pairs to re-introduce the species that had been hunted to extinction. Now there were an estimated 600 breeding couples and they’d spread far and wide from Yellowstone. This year Andy had lost 6 calves to them and at a thousand dollars a head he was pissed!
All the time I marvelled at the scenery around and offered up that I was gutted ‘we’ as a Nation had given up on our Colonisation project some years ago and handed the place back. I really could’ve lived in an awesome place like this. Possibly as a swinging dick six gun shooter for hire. Or summing like that. Old Oliver Cromwell or King Arthur or whoever it was who gave it back has got a lot to answer for in my book!!
Andy dropped us off at a crossroads and we bade a fond farewell. Another classic hitch hike where new friends are made and fascinating stories are told. The crossroad was barren but on track for our retrieve which duly turned up some hour or two later in which time we got to appreciate the ringing silence a desert has to offer, punctuated of course by the regular massive trucks rumbling past.
We got back at midnight but some people were still ‘out there’. Mark Watts (GB) was rumoured to have won doing a brilliant 175k and no one making goal. I heard Ruski [Russell Ogden, GB] had a big blow out but putting on a show for the adoring gaggle crowd he’d held it, full stalled out and calmed his ride down. He’s so cool that guy – what a ‘ledge’.
And now I’m back. 1.30am I’m blogging for you lot and I hope you appreciate it cos we’re off early again tomorrow morn on a greatly improved forecast to God knows where over God knows what.
Idaho – they said it would be extreme …..
Argh no !!! Stop press. It’s 7.30 in the morning. As a final kick in the moosh I hear I got dsq’d for infringing airspace along with 20 odd other pilots. Damn!!
Live Tracking throughout the comp: www.livetrack24.com
Info: PWC Sun Valley
Craig Morgan: Craig Morgan’s blog posts
Results and info: www.paraglidingworldcup.org
Discussion: PGforum thread
Flying map of the area
View Fly Far in Idaho’s Event Map in a larger map
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