Scouting Race Mountain

[ Cool Mood: Cool ]
Weather here in New England hasn’t been very conducive to flying lately, so Randy B. came up with the idea of going for a little snowshoe jaunt to check out a site that had rumors of people flying it in the distant past: Race Mountain. Not to be confused with the nearby Brace Mountain, they have some similarities and some differences. Both are in the South Taconic Range, where Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York meet, both have long hikes to get from the nearest parking area to launch, and the parking for launch is a long drive around from the LZ. However, Race faces east rather than west, and is a cliff launch instead of a flat-slope slot. Brace is flown regularly by paragliders and occasionally by hang gliders, while Race is flown rarely if ever these days. It’s possible that PG pilots make the hike once in a while, but the info that Randy got about Race came from a pilot who last flew there about 20 years ago, and it’s not clear whether anybody has dragged a HG up there since.

We parked at the YMCA camp, suited up, and started the hike. We didn’t have specific directions as to how to get to launch, but I had brought a very good topographical map. We had a couple of false starts trying to figure out how to get from the lake up to the ridge, but finally took what looked like a small trail southward far enough to find a place where we could climb without getting stuck in mountain laurel. Once on the ridge, it was easier going, because the Appalachian Trail runs along there, and someone had been through on snowshoes before the last storm — at least it was packed down a bit. The hike to the low end of the cliff took about 25 minutes. Moving on a bit further took us to some prime launch spots: level and clear of obstructions.

I’ve found photos on Google Earth that indicate that under the two feet or so of snow, the surface is bare granite. There’s enough room up there to set up a bunch of gliders without getting in each others’ way, and it’s possible that there’s enough AT foot traffic that the last pilot to launch would be able to get some wire assistance from passing hikers.

The ridge is close to 1500 feet high as measured at launch, varying in height as you move north or south. Rte. 41 runs parallel to the ridge out front, with farms fields along it providing potential LZs.

(Click for larger view. Note that distortion caused by the photo stitching software makes it look like this is a bowl, but it’s actually a very straight ridge.)

Eyeballing the map, I see what looks like about 11 miles of flyable ridge, with possibilities of course opening up if thermal conditions are present. Unlike Brace, which has some scary territory to cross if you were to go over the back, the XC potential of Race looks better; once you get past the Taconic Range, the Hudson Valley out toward the Catskills looks pretty friendly.

I’ve been told that the site is ENE, though the map looks to me more like ESE. So why doesn’t it get flown? Well, the primary reason is probably the effort that would be required. I’m thinking that it would be a good idea to allow two hours to hike HG gear in to launch (one trip with the harness, another with the glider), though I’m not yet sure what I think is the best route for doing that. When the wind is from the east, most pilots are going to choose to fly Greylock instead, which is a couple of hours north (not counting the time to drive up the mountain) because there you can park a short stroll from the plush setup area. Nevertheless, I can imagine giving Race a try. The next mountain north is Mount Everett. It also faces east, and has the advantage of a road that leads almost to the summit. Unfortunately, although I’ve also heard rumors that people used to fly there, I can’t see any place in Google Earth that looks like a suitable launch site.

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About cleversky

Hang glider pilot in New England since 2004. Also an avid orienteer, and an embedded systems firmware engineer. And some other outdoor stuff.
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