Friday, August 20, 2010

Nate Scales flies 148.5 miles for new Idaho mark

Paragliding distance record on a pretty day


By JEFF CORDES
Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photo by Caroline Hoffman. Nate Scales greets 4-year-old Ripley after a recent Paragliding World Cup event at Chelan, Wash.

Nate Scales, 38, of Hailey thinks a little differently about the normal, average family trip to Boise for some summer fun.

In late June, Scales and his wife Lisa, took their two children Ripley, 4, and Daisy, 1, to Boise for a little water sports recreation. Nate enjoyed that, of course, but he also relished the prospect of flying home.

An enthusiastic and expert paraglider with 18 years of experience in the air, Scales flew from Boise to Shoshone, some 100 miles, over seven hours—an exhilarating finish to the normal, average trip to Boise.

Yet it was just a tune-up for Nate's record-setting flight from Baldy to Spencer near the Idaho-Montana border on an absolutely gorgeous Tuesday, Aug. 17. He started just before noon. He landed at 8:03 p.m.

"It was awesome," he said.

Scales flew 148.5 miles in a little over eight hours for a new Idaho distance record. Besides all the wonderful airborne things he experienced along the way, Nate was so proud and grateful to be accompanied by his father Nick Scales of San Francisco down on the ground.

"To spend all day in the air, there is nothing more fun," said Nate. "To have my father waiting for me when I landed, what more could you ask for?"

Nate added, "And a big thanks to Mike Pfau, because my father was driving Mike's pickup truck. I think he put 400 miles on it that day."

Scales started from Baldy and landed in a field northeast of Spencer, a tiny town 16 miles south of the Idaho-Montana border along I-15. The previous distance record of 139.5 miles, from Baldy to Spencer, was set by Nate's good friend and distance rival Honza Rejmánek on Aug. 4, 2008.

Last August, Scales flew a then personal-best 129 miles from Baldy to Montana's Lima Reservoir, 10 miles north of the Idaho-Montana border in eastern Idaho.

Four years ago, Scales had the distance record of 126 miles from Baldy to Dubois, south of Spencer. Scales and Rejmánek have leapfrogged with the Idaho distance record, back and forth, for nearly a decade. They have encouraged each other to go longer and farther.

Scales said, "We've traded the record back and forth. When I landed, I called Mike (Pfau). The first person he called was Honza, who is working on his Ph.D. down in Davis (Calif.). I must have eight or nine messages from Honza since."

For some perspective on how far they've come, it was only in 2001 when Rejmánek had a 57-mile, three-and-a-half hour flight from Baldy to Challis for the Idaho record. Scales upped it to 92, then atmospheric science doctoral candidate Rejmánek flew 117 in 2005.

This week, Cumulus Construction owner Scales was intending to fly on Monday, Aug. 16 but it was a day of thunderstorms. Tuesday was more promising. He lifted off from the 9,150-foot summit of Baldy shortly before noon.

Scales said he reached 11,000 feet over Proctor Mountain but would have preferred to be at 14,000. Still, you take what you can get leaving the Wood River Valley and Pioneer Mountains. He started to get some elevation at 12,000 feet at Summit Creek and rose to 14,000 feet over Wild Horse Lookout.

He had adventures in the Lost River Valley, starting when he came down to 800 feet near Mackay Reservoir and felt his flight might be done for the day. But Scales caught "a nice little thermal," and rose way back up in no time at all.

Scales was thrilled to circle with a couple of red-tailed hawks near a Big Lost peak. He noticed a sailplane several miles down a ridge and flew over to join the sailplane for about 10 wingtip-to-wingtip circles.

"The two of us got a good climb to about 15,000 feet over Big Lost," Scales said.

Flying with a head of steam, Scales started skipping across the spines of mountain ranges that make up eastern Idaho. He got up to 16,000 feet over the Lemhis, descended "super low" in the state Highway 28 valley leading up to Salmon, then got a climb to 17,000 feet over the Beaverheads.

Scales said, "I caught one thermal and climbed about 8,000 feet in 10 minutes. By that point it was about 5 p.m. and the flying was super smooth. I realized then I was about at 100 miles. Even then, though, I didn't realize the potential."

The Continental Divide essentially makes up the Idaho-Montana border, which flattens out in an east-west direction around Leadore. Scales flew along the Continental Divide for the remainder of his trip—heading toward Island Park and Yellowstone and then coming back toward I-15.

All the time, his father drove Pfau's pickup truck along the A2 east-west road between Spencer and Island Park.

Scales said, "I flew over buffalo down below, and there was a beautiful half moon, and the winds were just super smooth. Finally I glided right down to the road. My father said the landing was magnificent."

The Hailey paraglider said he is eagerly looking forward to the 2010 U.S. Paragliding Nationals and Pre-Paragliding World Cup competition Aug. 28-Sept. 5 in Sun Valley.

Chuck Smith of Fly Sun Valley said, "Nate is one of the favored pilots to reach the podium in the 2010 U.S. National Paragliding Championships."

Scales added, "I'm super excited to have the people I know come up here to experience some of the best flying anywhere in the world."

That may include Rejmánek, who has pledged to come up and see if he can exceed the new Scales record.




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