Today I set off for my first experience with real mountain launches. I’m driving for Dunlap, TN to visit the Tennessee Tree Toppers home site. After driving seven hours and getting caught up on my Cloudbase Mayhem podcasts, I arrive hungry and ready to explore. A quick google search brought me to the nights fun! Burger at Buffalo D’s and Karaoke!
The next morning Marc made some South African Tea and we talked about our plan. The weather was crap and flying was pretty much out of the question.
We drove to meet Brian in Rising Fawn, GA that morning. He has an establishment of Tiny Houses southwest of Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding’s launch. Most of the day was spent just hanging out and contemplating the launch ability of his site. The winds were all wrong for the day so, again, no flying.
We woke to better conditions, and Marc was focused! Today was the day to launch this site for the very first time! He knew it. The winds were light and occasionally blowing in. Because the site was under construction, there really wasn’t a great place to lay out the wing. After much discussion we all agreed that the best spot was the back of the property. This meant that Marc needed to inflate in dead/ tail winds run between two tiny houses and continue another 35 yards to the run off.
On the first attempt…
Tripped up by a mound of tree shavings.
Attempt 2…Success!!! First launch of Brian’s Live a Little Launch!!!
The day seemed to improve, although not much.
I attempted an inflation, but got hung up in the debris. After parawaiting for 30-40min I packed it up, and went with the group to explore the cliff below launch.
Overnight snow covered the area, but the forecast looked like a winner. Marc and I packed it up and drove north the the Whitwell launch. We arrived about 9:20 and scoped out the place.
The winds were on the stronger side for me, and the gusts were strong and without warning. Marc reached out to the group for a detailed forecast, and Richard came through for us in a big way! Thank you Richard. The plan was to wait it out. More tea and rock hard biscuits…waiting, waiting, and then it was on!
Wind speed dropped and gusts were building much more predictably as well as lessening in strength.
Around 12:00 I brought out my gear and kited. I felt good about the conditions so I brought up my wing in a reverse configuration and set off! Whooo Hoooo! What a rush!
The thermals were very sharp and unconsolidated. I didn’t do the best job at staying in the lift band making for a very short 9:24 flight. The goal was to launch a mountain site, and I had done it. All smiles from me, regardless of air time.
A quick retrieve and we were back on top. Marc was up.
Marc had a great flight and made the air look amazing and effortless. Climbing way over launch, out into the valley, and all over the local sky, he decided to make a top landing approach. Thankfully he bailed on the top landing due to the turbulence encountered at the ridge.
Conditions were still on, so I stepped up again. This time I needed to execute a forward. After towing for 98% of my flights, I knew I could nail the forward.
I chose the cycle much better on this attempt, and was rewarded with a higher position off of launch. Thermals were now more consolidated and manageable for my skill level. I used the time to explore pushing further into the lift, sometimes only to find I had flown right through it. After 20min or so Marc launched to join me. We both flew around the site until the conditions started to become somewhat katabatic. I logged approximately 40min of free flight and although there were no clouds, I was on cloud 9!
I learned a lot from this trip. I met several new people and although there wasn’t much flying I had a great experience. Thank you Marc, and Brian for making this a memorable weekend!
We are a group of paragliding pilots based in the St. Louis area.