Peter wrote quite many articles about flying and mount 7. Here is an article written in 1996. Contributed by Brenda Bowle-Evans
- "It looks awesome. Got the beer?"
- "Yup, and the ice and gas and the boys have been loading hang gliders and paragliders. Do we have a driver?"
- "Yes we do. All we have to do is pick him up at his house. He's all ready and waiting."
- "Great, lets not turn him on to flying like the last ones, we need drivers. See you in five."
It will be about 5 p.m. on an ordinary summer weekday. About an hour later the paragliders start peeling off, and the hang gliders a bit later. Hooting and hollering starts as wings start to soar over launch, before we fly off in different directions to play for the evening. 45 minutes to an hour and a half is typical for an evening flight - day after day when a high moves in. On the weekends, or when we can get out in the afternoons and join the visitors, it is XC time. The first hop South is about 20k, and it goes on with always a field to land in within range for, well, 200 miles is the record. On a regular basis, 100 km is more common, and you get to go swimming in Lake Windermere if you wish. I do not mean land in it - there is a nice LZ - but each to his or her own of course. On the way, the proverbial sky is the limit, including that parts of it are often travelling upwards at 1000 to 2000 fpm, while others close by can be travelling in the opposite direction at similar speeds. These are reasonably ultimate conditions. Please understand that my outlook as a HG pilot, which is what I am, are tempered by the fact that my son and most of my friends fly PGs. Things typically settle down in the evening, as heat is given off from the trees, and many a pilot has spent many happy hours soaring the skies of Mt 7 at these times. Glass-offs do also happen, and then you just have to realise that those little stars that come out down in the valley after you have been up there for two or three hours are lights, and that it is time to start working your way down before it is dark on the ground.
The massif of Mount 7 rises almost 6000 feet above the valley bottom, immediately adjacent to the town of Golden, and towers over the community of Nicholson where the 40 acre field LZ lies at a 4:1 glide from launch. The main launch site is a 10 km drive up a gravel bush road. The name of "7" comes from a pattern in the snow that appears each spring. Mt 7 lies at the head of Beaverfoot range. On a larger scale this is the Westernmost range of the chain known worldwide as the "Rocky Mountains". They are aptly so named, for they present bare, rocky faces extending for many miles. Geographically this is the Columbia valley, bordered by the Beaverfoot on the East and the Purcells to the West and runs South-East to North-West. So the Beaverfoot range absorbs the maximum amount of heat from the sun in the hottest part of the day, the afternoons. The valley floor is at 2600 feet ASL, the Lookout launch is 6370, the high PG launch which is reached by a pleasant hour's walk from another 4 km up the access road is at 7600, and the peak is at 8300, and is the highest peak on the range. The Columbia valley is freeway straight for several hundred miles, so when you get up there, route finding is simply not a problem. The airport, which is uncontrolled, is on the far side of town from 7, and there are no low level airspace restrictions in the immediate vicinity. There are airways several miles to the North and South running East-West.
Mt 7 is generally known in Canada as our premier flying site, for both hang gliders and paragliders. A great deal of work has been done to enhance the launch sites on the mountain over the past recent years. There is now launching over almost 180° at the Lookout, the road is good 4-WD above the Lookout to the upper parking area, and there is an easy to follow trail from there to the high PG launch, which is an open scree slope just at the upper limit of the tree line. There is also a lower launch that provides some early spring flights before the Lookout is accessible. It has some limitations, but some of our very best flights have in fact been made from this launch. Construction of the remainder of the new access road has been planned and if all goes well should be built this fall.
As I say, we hope to see the balance of the new road soon. Mt 7 Paragliding and one or two others from time to time ferry pilots up, and the local pilots will always help when they can. Otherwise, you do need 4-wheel drive, brakes that really work, and keep your load within the limits of the vehicle. Some 2-wheel drives do make it up sometimes, but it is risky, must be dry, depends on the driver's familiarity with this sort of thing, and is definitely best attempted with rental vehicles! It is possible to have an adventure on this road.
Maps, VFR charts and other relevant information are available and on display. As things are still developing, this location changes from year to year, but is advertised on a bulletin board at the Nicholson LZ, the Tourist Information Centres in town and at the municipal campground office. The temporary out-of-country HPAC membership and insurance required, which is still just $15 for 3 months, is available at this location. In quiet conditions - evenings and the fall - it is all straight forward. In spring or hot July afternoons, it can be as strong as anywhere. Talk to the locals or someone familiar with the site. If the conditions are good, there will be some around. If there are no other pilots to be found, this alone is an indication that perhaps now is not a good time. Realise that someone who has been flying the site for years may be comfortable launching in conditions that they would not have done several years and several hundred launches ago. Judge conditions for yourself accordingly. We like it if you buy our T-shirts, which generate funds, and of course are the most awesome to found anywhere. Otherwise, fly safely, and that is it.
Our conditions are best when the air flow is out of the North. This coincides nicely with the fact that XC landing out fields extend indefinitely to the South, while they end abruptly 15 miles to the North at Donald. The flying can be delightful to the North, and there are possibilities for exploration in this direction.
Major weather systems generally come up from the South, and conditions are always more challenging when the upper air flow is from the south. Fronts and squalls can also come from other directions at times. The locals can fill you in, but know that at times it can appear that a total change has happened almost instantly. It has not - you just have not noticed or realised that it was coming.
I will mention radios here. Many pilots have them, many of them use them, many of them work! There is an uncontrolled airport in town, used primarily by helicopters, private fixed wings, and sailplanes. They, of course, are all using the aircraft band, and personally I like being able to talk to them, particularly the sailplanes which use the same frequency as we do, 123.40. A good group of the regular Calgary pilots and a number of others also use the aircraft band. Many others use the FM 2 meter band system. Correctly set-up and licensed, both systems work well, and there are generally both in the air any day. The site has recently acquired a fairly powerful aircraft base station, and plans to add a similar FM base. As far as weather goes, the point is that you can get reports from pilots up and down the range during your flight. [webmaster note: FM radios are not legally used in flight, so no station of the kind can be put to use. See mt 7 website for updates and details.]
Cellular phone coverage is in place along a corridor following the Trans-Canada Highway all across the country, and Golden being on this route benefits from this. Cell coverage is being extended down the valley as time goes by.
A number of World records have been flown from this site, including a World open distance hang gliding record of almost 200 miles in 1986, a record that stood for many years, and the 200 km out & return. The World PG records include the Open Distance, Flight to a Declared Goal, Open Distance via a Single Turnpoint and the 25k triangle. Almost every Canadian record for both hang gliding and paragliding has been flown from Mt 7. Some of these records have currently been bettered elsewhere, but the opportunity definitely exists for exceeding them again from 7.
Three competitive meets are held at Mt 7 each year - two hang gliding and one paragliding. The Golden Classic is a week long hang gliding meet, held in July. It is also often the Canadian National Hang Gliding Championships, typically every second year. The Canadian National Paragliding Championships is a three day event held over the first weekend in August. It is the newest and best attended meet at over 100 competitors. The Western Canadian Hang Gliding Championships is also a three day meet held on the same weekend. The PG use the high launch, the HG the Lookout, so everyone is accommodated easily. Not only that, but this is also presently the weekend of the annual Golden rodeo, so it is a lively weekend in town. Cowboys and pilots view each other as equally nuts, so everyone gets along just fine!
Beside competitive meets, the site is also used by hang gliding and paragliding schools for weekend and week long training camps, including introductions to high mountain flights, cross country flying and thermalling clinics for both HG & PG, and advanced manoeuvres clinics for PG's.
Golden is 3 hours West of Calgary, a city that supports an international airport, on the Trans-Canada Highway. Highway 95 runs South, past Invermere to Cranbrook 250 km to the South. Cranbrook is close to the U.S. border, with Kalispell being the closest town across the border in Montana. To the East on the Trans-Canada, the village and major ski area of Lake Louise is an hour away, and Banff is another 40 minutes. To the West is the Rogers Pass, with the small town of Revelstoke 90 miles away on the West side of the pass.
There are Greyhound buses on the highways, but the rail lines that parallel them do not run passenger traffic.
The season is governed above all by the road. This is country that has winter, and our ski area, "Whitetooth", abounds with snow, at very affordable prices. It is typically the end of May when the road is passable to the Lookout. The upper launch takes longer. At the other end, snow and ice preclude wheeled vehicle access by mid-October. There is a certain amount of snow machine access for paragliders in between these times, and there is the availability of a snow-cat for both PG & HG. Anyone seriously considering this should make contact with us before setting out.
Mt 7 Paragliding is right in Golden and handles primarily Apco and Sup-Air. Rocky Mountain Paragliding is in Canmore, 2 hours drive East, and handles Edel. Muller Hang Gliding & Paragliding is 3 hours drive East at Cochrane, which is just outside Calgary. Willy Muller has been in the business for as long as it has existed. He handles Wills Wing, Apco, and Aircotec, and over the years has handled several other lines. Between Willy, Vincene and Chris they can help you with just about anything in paragliding and hang gliding. They maintain a large stock of equipment and spares, and if you call one afternoon what you need can be in Golden on the bus by the next morning.
You can be as economical or as luxurious with yourself as you want in Golden. There is certainly something of a tradition of camping in the municipal campground, which is within walking distance of everything, including the bottom of the Mt 7 road. You can tent it or RV it in this campground. Then there is everything from very basic motels to home style bed & breakfasts to a couple of 4-star hotels.
Restaurants abound. Everyone has their favourite, and again the choice is yours. From tasteful vegetarian to gimme-that-hunk-of-steak, several serving on outdoor verandas in summer now, and for those of you who like the sort of supper that has only desert, there are some of those delicious things too. Mind you, I am skinny and have a sweet tooth, and have keep up my launch weight somehow. With a phone call, a number of these places will happily stay open later for a group returning to town late from an XC retrieval. I can often be found, or avoided as you wish, by frequenting, or not, the Chocolate Moose, La Cabina, Sisters & Beans, Katrina's, the Mad Trapper pub, or Packer's Place. What you cannot get between these establishments is not worth consuming - they have it all.
For other things, there is much more here than may appear at first sight. Apart from domestic basics, you can get your body massaged, your radio antennas fixed, a certain amount of radio or electronics repairs made, your harness sewn if it is reasonably straight forward, your vehicle repaired, your silicon chip wizardry downloaded, and access to the net. There is a hospital, and if they can not repair your body there the routine is to send it to Foothills Hospital in Calgary which is as good as you can get anywhere. If you are a total pain in the arse there is a jail, and one of my friends is some sort of a counsellor there, so be warned! More pertinently, when the need arises, there is an emergency rescue team. You access it by calling the RCMP, who co-ordinate everything, including the helicopters.
There is actually much more to do in Golden than fly, and these things are worth mentioning, especially for the non-flying friends and families who often accompany visiting pilots. Whitewater sports are a big item. The Kicking Horse river is the main attraction, which has sections ranging from mildly exciting to severely extreme, or what as a pilot I call highly dangerous. To each his own. There are about six or more rafting outfits that give daily trips. If you have your own boat, kayak or whatever, the whitewater is there. Just be sure to talk to some local river runners first, as there are some no-nos, and people who ignore or are unaware of them tend to drown. Hunting and fishing abound in their seasons, as do snow-machining, all forms of skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking, every aspect of mountain activity and horseback riding. On the less adventurous side there is an excellent 18 hole golf course, a swimming pool, and canoeing in the Columbia river and associated sloughs is like a trip back in time with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn amid the waterfowl and all kinds of wildlife. There is a movie theatre, and there are bars that have loud rock bands and other entertainments that go with these sort of places. After watching the movie "Pulp Fiction" the other day - you can gauge something of my personality if you wish from the fact that I enjoyed it - the name of one such performance caught my attention: Pulp Friction. Alas, I did not go.
|Mt 7 Paragliding (Eric Oddy)||(250)-344-5653|
|Chamber of Commerce Tourist|
Living in Golden as a pilot is a situation where you never go anywhere else. We see visiting pilots from all over the World, and we just listen to what they have to say. Basically it is all in superlatives. By far the majority of us are not going to be winning competitions or flying records. We are just going out to fly. We compete, if we think of it this way, with ourselves. If you are an ordinary mortal and have not already flown 5000 miles on some sort of wave for several days and nights, there is a good chance that when you come to Mt 7 you may exceed your personal best, whatever that may be. Time and time again we hear the exultant visitor exclaiming over the time, the height, the rate of ascent, the distance, the view - the sheer quality of the flying. From Scandinavia to South Africa, Australia, Japan, Korea and many others, this is typical. As someone who really has never flown anywhere but 7, I simply have to take their word for it that there is no need to - we are already here. For me, heaven on earth is in the air over the Columbia ranges. Viewed from the air over Golden, the mountains to the West gleam magnificently from an enormous expanse of glaciers and snowfields that stretch beyond the horizon. To the East rocky peaks protrude from snow covered ranges. To the South the lakes of Windermere and Columbia beckon you to fly a little further. To the North is the rocky spine that you have already flown over. Immediately below you are is the craggy spine, interspersed with alpine meadows that beckon the PG to drop into and stop for a while. The Columbia's wetlands glisten in the valley below, and settling down into then on a fine summer evening is descending into bliss if it is anything.
Mt 7, Golden, B.C., Canada
17 June 1996
One of the clauses of the Hard Core Pilot's Definitions states that HG pilots do a double take every time they see a vehicle with a ladder on top. Now then, all HG you boys and girls, can any of you honestly say you have not fallen prey to this one? I know I have, and that was before I read it in the hard core list. While I am about it, I would like to add another item to the list: "You are a hard core pilot when you realise so many of these things are so close to the truth for you that it would prudent not to let your better half read the list." That's what I felt, particularly the one about, 'Which do you love most, me or HG?, and there is a pause before you answer.' As I recall, I have been confronted with this one, and as I further recollect, there WAS a pause!
So back to the ladders. In a small town there are only so many, and you pretty soon get to recognise these trucks, so that it soon becomes, 'here comes Joe the builder with his ladder today', and you remain on an even keel. (No hidden meaning) But now consider the plight of the country bumpkin HG pilot going to the big city, be it Calgary or wherever. You KNOW that there hundreds of them, and furthermore that you are personally going to be confronted with dozens of these. All right, you know this is going to happen, so you prepare yourself. Don't be silly now, there are going to ladders on top all over the place, and that is ALL they are going to be. If you really have it together, you will run this through your mind as you approach the outskirts. Keep relaxed, and pay attention to where you are going. There is plenty to do. Where your home town has its one and only set of traffic lights, where you usually pause to sip tea from your go cup or other wise space out, here there are hundreds, and traffic is furiously streaming across the intersections in some direction or other without cessation, and everyone but you knows where they are going. What-was-that? Come on now, don't clench the steering wheel, don't hunch over it, stop stretching your neck around to check - it's just a ladder. Approach speed when everyone is doing 40 miles an hour is, of course, 80 miles an hour, so its hardly surprising that it is difficult to tell the difference in on-coming on-top objects. This-one-can't-be-a-ladder; but it is. Wait a minute now, that one over there; yes! It has to be! What else comes zipped up in a bag and is 17 feet long? (My wife has some suggestions) A surge of adrenalin courses through you as the answers become apparent and you hang your head in shame: you imagined the zipper, and carpets and vinyl flooring can be wrapped - who would want a dirty new carpet? But that other one, it's a bit skinny, but HG's are filling your mind now, until you pull-up behind a plumber's truck loaded with pipe. In fact it is antagonisingly amazing just how many other things are 17 feet long and carried on roof racks. Pipes, conduits, lumber, rebar, carpets, poles, posts, columns, to mention a few beside the recalcitrant ladders. Not long ago I saw twenty HG's coming up behind me - well, maybe ten. They were piled high in a precise stack, obviously serious HG's. I slowed down in awe of seeing so many at once, letting them catch up to me as my gaze was glued to my rear view mirror. I pulled over to let them by so I could get a proper look. Then I would zoom up behind, get a real good look, and then roar by in front, wave madly, get them to pull over, talk HG for hours, care less about being late for wherever I am going, and sell twenty Mt 7 T-shirts!
The sweat on the palms of my hands grew cold as big white lettering emblazoned on bright scarlet went by, proclaiming "Mike's Miracle Pizza" on a fully assembled awning.
Just to make life really confusing, there are other things that can happen in the big city. While law abidingly being a co-operative part of some 5 mile long, bumper-to-bumper block of traffic travelling at 60 miles an hour from traffic light to traffic light, you are doing your best to ignore this crazy imbecile who seems to be doing figure eights around you in the midst of it all, and definitely has absolutely nothing on top. "I don't even know anybody who would behave like that", you are saying. Isn't it funny though - among all those seemingly random thousands of 'people you don't know', this one turns out to be - a HG you flew with nearly every weekend all summer long - lo and behold, you bet, you DO know people who behave like that - quite a few, in fact!! You follow him to some watering or eating spot, and for once in the day never blink at the ladders-on-top you park between: they are real HG's, because of course your HG friend was going there to meet them all the time!!!
P.B-E. 17 July 1996
Texts © belong to each respective author. Quotation of text is conditional to showing appropriate credit accompanied by link back to the source page. Codes © Serge Web Service