El Norte 2: Updraft Thursday
Packy penned this post of the great day of kiting Thursday, enjoy!
Winter is finally making an appearance in Southwest Montana, and when the National Weather Service (NWS) forecast the north wind or “El Norte” for the “Montaho” region, it didn’t slip by the local kite crew. Appointments were dropped and new plans were made, this was not a day to be missed. The northwest wind showed up right on time, the clouds broke, the sun came out and we were on it. Wendensday’s warmth had put a crust on the snow, and luckily the snowmobilers hadn’t rutted it up, so it was smooth and fast.
The prevailing winds in the area are south or southwest forming a series of large cornices on the many alluvial benches that meander thru the Island Park valley. On the rare occasions that the northwest wind blows it is just a notch off of straight up the cornices, creating a unique kite experience and plenty of opportunities for lofty airs and drifty cornice launching.
The first challenge is to get from below the cornice to the top; it helps to find a spot with a bit of a ramp, as some of the spots were overhanging.
The most stylish way to the top of the cornice is to ride right up under the lip, with as much power as possible, and then send the kite back out and away, and take an elevator ride, provided by the kite, right up and over the top, landing gently with a grin. This soft landing would set me up to turn around and launch right back off the top of the cornice for a glide along the lip. Kiting on days like these make me feel like I have super powers, or at least the kite has super powers.
The action didn’t let up all afternoon, as the wind built into the high 20’s everyone got their groove going and Mel and Joe Irons pumped up smaller kites. After a late lunch and water break Frouny traded his snowboard for his telemark skis. The higher wind and Frouny’s obvious athletic ability inspired him to not just cross his tips for the camera but also his legs!
Joe would hover on the updraft, created by the wind blowing up the cornice for so long; we could carry on a conversation as he sailed overhead while I stood shooting photos. Todd was rocking the glide to re-entry idea, and then honed in on a horseshoe shaped spot further west, where he would just hang in the updraft, it was insane. Hans threw the biggest air I’ve ever seen him throw, and was landing them smooth.
Mel even got in on the airtime fun until she got the overpowered award, she was lapping the cornice lit on the 10 m North Evo, wow, and that thing pulls! At one point Mel hit the deck in the starfish position after getting ripped off her feet by a “pultergust” in hopes of not getting launched into the next county. I think she ate a whole box of cookies on the way home in hopes of becoming a better anchor.
High-fives all the way around for a killer day, there’s more where this came from, enjoy the photos and get after it!