We’re talking about all of this and George says, “hey do you want to go skydiving?”. He had purchased a parachute on ebay this winter. It arrived in the mail packed and he got his buddy Jake to take him up to 10,000 feet in his plane and he jumped out and free fell 6,000 feet. He’d never done any skydiving before. It went well so he and his son packed it that night with the help of YouTube and he jumped again the next day. That also went well. Are you getting an idea of who George is?
My mom writes a Christmas letter every year and always asks my sister and I to write a paragraph of what we did. For the last 13 years mine has been a discourse on wherever the boat had gone that year. Caribbean, South Pacific, Melanesia, Australasia, Africa, etc. Needless to say, it hasn’t been very dull. As I started writing this years recap I fully expected a somewhat more toned-down account.
We got home to Sun Valley exhausted but in good spirits. Cool fall nights and shorter days had already set in, the Aspens were already going golden, the tourists had left town. In my opinion Sun Valley has the best big air flying on Earth. A number of recent distance records, including my own world mountain record this summer of 240 miles confirms this opinion, but what we don’t often get to do is fly here in the absence of fear. Flying in Sun Valley is usually a pretty full-on affair.
We were four pilots in total: Nick Greece, myself, Nate Scales and Matt Beechinor; each of whom have held the foot launch record in North America for some period over the last 13 months, all but Nick’s set from Bald Mountain, Sun Valley. The route chosen was once again an incredibly aesthetic line of about 500 miles, and we’d learn quite a bit more technical and difficult than what we did in the Sierras, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Gavin McClurg soars the bowls on Baldy as the fires break out
The Firest Commence
Panorama of the fires off the top of Baldy
Matt Beechinor. Mad Skills
Incredible night of flying
Flying the Apocalypse on the Niviuk F-Gravity
Nate gets out his brand new Peak 3
On the 8th of August a little lightning caused fire took off near Beaver Creek, sw of Hailey just a few miles; and just north of two much larger fires that had already torn through over 200,000 acres of scrub and pine forests. At that stage there were just over 100 crew on the Beaver Creek fire and the TFR (temporary flight restriction) was just inside our launch on Baldy, so we headed up the hill for what would end up being one of the last flying days of August. Of course the rest you all probably know- the Beaver Creek fire was upgraded to the nation’s top priority. It quickly grew into a fire nightmare, eventually nearly 2,000 fire fighters from around the country and dizzying number of aircraft descended on our little valley to try to save it. Jody and I and over 2500 others were evacuated on the 16th. Most people have been allowed to return home, but a few areas, including ours are still on mandatory evacuation, but the fire, now at over 110,000 acres is nearly 100% contained.
It was one of the most memorable soaring sessions I’ve ever had. Nate got to take his new Niviuk Peak 3 for a spin, I got to deepen my love affair for my new F-Gravity, and most of the flying crew in Sun Valley got to fly the bowls, something that happens very rarely. Many thanks to Chuck Smith for grabbing these shots!
Since the big day Sun Valley has been testing my patience. And the town has been winning. I’d been riding my mountain bike way, way too much. Throwing acro hucks in the morning and evenings. Both very fun activities. Yeah, the town is great too; not even that busy for a bitchin’ ski town. Luckily most of the yahoos prefer to engulf Jackson Hole (Tetons and Yellowstone) and leave us alone.
Gavin McClurg goes farther than anyone has off a mountain, breaking the world record in a wild 240 mile flight that takes 7 1/2 hours from Bald Mountain, Sun Valley deep into Montana near Helena, Montana. Here is the account on how it went down.
It’s kind of hard to write this log knowing what happens on the day after this flight went down (wait wait, don’t fast forward yet!), but it was a magnificent day and deserves it’s own place in the Mayhem blog. Things looked…ok, but not great for a big flight. The wind looked once again right on the edge and given it’s July I thought things would be a bit hairy up in the sky. I was up the hill first, knowing we’ve got a short launch window on Baldy and I feel like we’ve been leaving a lot of distance on the table launching too late.
After my last flight that ended up in a big OD (overdevelopment) Sun Valley has been flushed with serious wind. Beautiful for long mountain bike rides, swimming in the river, enjoying this insanely beautiful town, but totally shit for flying. The tandem boys have been jumping off the hill every morning and sneaking in some super nice evening flights, but going for distance in the daytime hasn’t been possible. I got to toss the new Niviuk F-Gravity around which was RAD, but this is XC season and I moved here first and foremost for the flying potential and going deep, so a little acro was nice- but I needed more.