Thursday, July 9, 2015


July 9 Big Southern Butte  1:45 -  12,156 msl  34.7 straight; 37.1 holc

A truly great new site.  It’s an old volcanic cone sticking up two thousand feet out of the desert south of King Fucking Mountain.  Tip Rogers, Jeff Laughery and I bailed on the official meet to go flying.  Neither Tip nor I could stand the idea of waiting around for dithering group decision-making about when/where to fly.  So we went out into the desert to the  Butte where we hoped to avoid the predicted over-development at King.  After a long drive into the desert and then up to launch on a good, but steep dirt road we arrived at a beautifully rounded series of slope launches.  Tip started the day with an easy one-hop launch after which he sunk out quite far below launch before finally getting back up.  Jeff followed, with me going last.  I pretty quickly climbed out in somewhat trashy lift that abruptly shifted direction from SSE to SW at about 1,000 feet over launch.  At the start of the climb I was with Jeff but he missed the directional shift and I climbed out and left.  I would have been happy but for the fact that my damn harness’ zipper wouldn’t zip up and I was quite uncomfortable with the unzipped harness.

After that I never got low, in part due to the early reliability of the clouds, and in part due to my general conservatism. Flying cross-country from the Butte had two tactical difficulties: First, there really aren’t many roads out there.  One simply can’t afford to get low.  Second, the Idaho National Lab’s no-land-zone and Restricted airspace is just north of the Butte.  As we headed east we were confronted with bad retrieves, and the necessity of not allowing ourselves to be blown into the INL.   Adding to the difficulty was the fact that there was an airmass boundary that roughly paralleled the no-land zone to the south.  Staying clear of the INL meant that we were flying under bizarrely turbulent (and sometimes scarily so) shredded clouds beyond which it was blue.  In the INL airspace to the north the clouds were fat and normal, but one didn’t dare fly there to take advantage of them. 

In the end, Jeff landed at the Atomic City airstrip (12 miles) after having run out of roads and having had to head back to the airport and the nearby road.  Tipper landed on US 20 (18 miles) in the INL and was busted by the cops for having done so.  I was by then well in front of them and had finally gotten past the airspace and made it to the gap through the other tactical problem: the dangerous large lava flows in which one absolutely does not want to land.  But with Tip and Jeff on the ground and my with my damn harness’ stuck-open zipper I was happy to land.  Of course, Jeff and Tip had told me that they had experienced east winds upon landing, so that’s how I set up my landing…and had a light tailwind from the southwest, fortunately resulting in only a dropped basetube.  All in all it was an interesting day: a great new site, and a tactically challenging and rewarding flight. Had the friggin’ harness not screwed up I would have continued a bit farther, but as it was I was quite happy to land after a good flight. 

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