Well, you could say that the competition last week did not give me the flight I was looking for. Twice I was stopped just short of Lone Peak, which has been my goal all summer in the quest to land at the park in front of the house. So when the weather was looking good a few days later, I was hoping for that great flight of the summer. And I got it. Takeoff looked good early after I hiked up to launch from the valley. Luckily someone drove my gear up for me, it was hot enough hiking with no backpack!
Becky Brim launched early and was able to climb out from launch. She had been flying against me in the comp and we hadn't had a good day to fly together. So I launched, got up and we both caught a good thermal to take us high. No one else was around so I radio'd over to her that we should fly north. She agreed and we crossed Provo Canyon, getting pretty low and making a sweet save over the foothills on the other side.
I was flying a borrowed Nova Mentor 3, and was happy with the fact that I stayed ahead of Becky over the canyon. From there, she stayed put getting high in a thermal, while I pushed on to the north, wanting to get ahead of a developing cloud to the south. A few other people were climbing above launch by that point but no one else was with me so I just went. I figured if there was lift here there would be lift further on.
Sure enough, I was able to climb pretty steadily while flying north, eventually getting to American Fork canyon where twice the rain had put me on the ground during the comp. This time the peaks were looking sunny and clear, so I reached my maximum altitude of about 12,200 feet over Box Elder peak. I wasn't sure how fast the north wind was pushing in from the salt lake, so I made sure to climb up high on the side of Lone Peak. And soon, I was flying right over the peak! And I do mean right over...I cleared the spires by about 50 feet. And then found some really rowdy air. The valley north of the Point of the Mountain had a lot more wind, so there were different conditions to deal with. Pilots launching on the foothills below me were flying in the north winds from the lake, while up high at 10,000 feet it was still from the SW. I tried to stay above the mixing air, and looked at the house and park far below me.
Nah, I'm not going to go land there. I'm gonna keep heading north and see how far I can get. The hills and valley kept going, somehow I stayed pretty high, sometimes sailing along at 40 mph! The cloud behind me kept growing, putting the pilots flying behind me on the ground, but I stayed ahead of it, and saw I-80 passing far beneath my feet. I remembered that there was a TRAX station east of SLC at the University of Utah, so I decided to see if I could make it there. By the end it was a slow push into wind, but I was able to land in a grassy park just across the street from the TRAX station. That made it an easy cruise home on public transportation, a full circle of adventure which I always enjoy.
So I had the longest flight of the day in the area...that felt pretty cool. I flew about 55 km which I think is as far as I've ever gone. At least that I've measured. But wow...amazing high flight, such great views over the valley...I could see from the Oquirrh mountains all the way to Park City!
Some Cool Paragliding Links
I am posting my flights to XContest, a worldwide collection of flight logs. Here you can compare your airtime to others, and see maps of your flights, even join a contest!.
Dawn's XContest Flights
Track me LIVE in the air: David Wheeler has created a site to gather everyone's SPOT URLS so we can see where everyone is flying on a given day in our area.
Want to know if it's going to be a good XC day for paragliding? XC Skies is a weather website run by Chris Galli, a successful XC pilot based in Utah. In depth weather charts of anywhere in the world. Customize your own page with favorite maps, routes and point forecasts. Subscription required, $4.95 a month. Try it free for a month. Well worth the cost for serious XC pilots.
Curious to see if you really did top out the lift on your highest climb of the day? Compare the tracklog of your flight to the predicted weather for the day along your route. Do this by uploading the .igc file of the your flight. Created by Chris Galli as part of XC Skies.
Weather/Flight Validation Uploader
See my flight on the weather validation tool. Notice that my flight showed I could have gotten much, much higher. This is rather misleading because along the Wasatch front, the Great Salt Lake tends to dampen the maximum height you can reach in lift, which isn't reflected in the weather forecast.
For something a bit more interesting, check out the validation of Gavin McClurg's record 240 mile flight on Aug 6 from Idaho into Montana.
Want to fly somewhere new? This worldwide Paragliding Map gives you flying sites, local info, and weather combined into one site.