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XC to Liukuei

This is a simplified flight plan for the xc route. All altitudes are given amsl.

Liukuei is in a valley which runs far up into the Central Mountain Range, getting deeper and steeper as it goes. As at many other sites like it, there is typically a valley wind which sets up in the afternoons on sunny days. A valley wind starts at the top of the valley, not the bottom. That means there will be a valley wind starting in Liukuei long before it reaches Saichia. What that means is that the wind in the valley will likely be light and northerly in the morning, but the valley wind will progress down the valley as the afternoon wears on until the southerly wind has reached Saichia and even beyond.
Optimum departure time for a one-way is 12 to 1pm. This is not to say it hasn’t been done earlier or later in the day. It’s often easiest later in the afternoon, surfing that south wave that comes through. Many have flown to Liukuei in the late afternoon as it’s usually easier going with the valley wind. The only proviso to this is that if there is cloud cover the day may shut down before you reach goal.

If you want to try to make an out and back, you better be out on course as early as 11 or 11:30am. Out and back is tough because you’ll be flying into the prevailing north wind on the way out, and then fighting that valley wind all the way home.

Optimum conditions are: Humidity under 70%. Light northerly winds. Day to night temperature 9 or 10°C. Temperature differences under 8°C will not give enough of a climb rate for good progress. 11°C and over will be very sinky so that glides from altitude are poor, not to mention the turbulence.

Simple flight route: Saichia > Koshr mtn > Haisengong valley > Dajin mtn > Liukuei wei > Liukuei town.
Distance as the crow flies: 26km. Flight time: Anywhere from 45mins to 4 hours.

Cross to Koshr

Cross to Koshr

Step 1. Crossing to Koshr peak. This is usually the hardest part of the trip. Koshr peak is about 900m amsl and it is very rare to find thermals or any lift below about 600m, only turbulence and sink. If you cross without plenty of height, you will sink out. Best bet is go with about 1000m if you are above the launch or the ‘mian bao shan’. If you’re up at the back peak, above the radio antennas, you’ll want to have 1,300m on the clock before putting your foot to the bar and going. As it’s a long crossing, it’s tempting to fly too fast if there are gliders going up on the other side, but the lift they are climbing in may be gone when you get there. Better to stay at best glide and arrive at the mountain with all the height you can muster.

Step 2. Stay up at Koshr peak, which is not as easy as it sounds. This area is fed by many small rocky spines and is usually as rough as a dog’s arse with a hat on. Look for the rock faces that face the south west as they offer the most reliable climbs. Hang around in that area, grit your teeth and you’ll climb out, but it can get nasty. You will likely be in leeside from the prevailing wind and you’ll have to watch your drift up the valley while thermalling. The river valley that splits Saichia and Koshr usually has a pretty good breeze up it so be aware of that.
If you drop below 600m and no-one is climbing up under you, run back to the ‘mian bao shan’ (the smaller hill just to the north of the launch) and top up your height. It often takes running back and forth a few times before you get over there. Very often there will be thermals drifting from the fields north of the LZ that you will intercept.
Some pilots skip the peak altogether and scoot around to the ridge face on the north. I’ve never had luck doing that, but YMMV.

Up the ridge to the next crossing

Up the ridge to the next crossing

Step 3. North to Haisengong valley. If you can get up over Koshr peak then you probably have good height to skip over the two or three little peaks that lead you to the next valley on the other side. This is the one the Hong Kong pilots have (rather morbidly) dubbed “The Valley of Death”. Fly up the ridge to the big rocky outcropping and maybe the antenna on the north side of it. The back (lee) side of the ridge is shallow here and gets good sun early in the day, since it faces southeast, so expect leeside thermals from there and don’t be shy to use them. It’s often quite light on the ridge here, so it may take some patience and scratching to wait for something good enough to get you high enough to cross. It’s a tough choice here if you lose the ridge height, run for the ridge north of town and grovel on the other side, or turn back south and try to get back up along the flanks of Koshr mtn.
Adding to the drama here is the shortage of good landing spots, so you have to decide to go north or south, or scratch over town while looking for a landing spot. This is the area where Kerry went down and was badly injured, so don’t stick your neck out. If you are wondering if it’s time to run for a safe landing, it probably is.
Instead, try to get good and high somewhere up on that ridge and head for as far up the front ridge on the other side of the bowl as you can. There is often some good lift over the bowl coming from the leeside of the front ridge, but use your best judgement as to whether or not you have enough height to make a safe landing if it’s not there. Either way, with a little height you can head for the north side of the town where the ridge starts back up, climb there and work the ridge north to the flank of Dajin mtn. You might spend a lot of time pissing about over Haisengong but then it’s usually possible to make good time up the ridge.

Cross to Tajin mtn

Cross to Tajin mtn

Step 4. Tajin mtn. The peak is about 1200m, and there are lots of spines feeding it, so expect to be turned into popcorn 😉 It’s not usually necessary to fly over the peak to attain this altitude as the flanks are usually very active too.
There’s an easy landing in the river bed if the cooker isn’t working. You want to have about 1400m (more on beginner gliders) to cross the gorge between Dajin mtn and Liukuei Wei and have time to look for lift on the other side. It can be done with less but unless you have a nice cloud to jump to, be patient to climb high over Dajin. The crossing is deep, narrow and the wind will be howling up there. Cross at best glide or faster. If you are going to bomb out, do it out away from the mouth of the gorge, to the west of the road bridge.

Step 5. Liukuei Wei. On the other side is the bottom of the ridge to Liukuei, with the big river out to the left and a smaller tributary off to the right, which leads up to Maolin. The river beds all around and the wind that’s usually blowing south by the time you get here will usually make some good thermals. You can often see the trees blowing like crazy even from half way across the valley as the thermals go ripping up the hill. It’s usually easy to find something to climb back to altitude and just as easy to work your way north up the ridge.

Cross to Liukuei Wei

Cross to Liukuei Wei

On the way there’s a large house almost on top of the ridge. Just before the house is a (don’t laugh) house thermal. If that one isn’t working, there’s another just past it, in front of the peak there. Right after that peak there’s a deep gully (called the Butterfly Valley) which you want to cross with some height, so top up near the house if you’re low. There is usually something at the spine just before the Butterfly Valley as it’s steep and faces south. All the way up this ridge it’s an easy glide to the river and an easy landing/ride out.

Goal. Liukuei. After the Butterfly Valley, or above it, you can see the town of Liukuei laid out before you. You can either carry on up the ridge to Liukuei peak for the best view, or glide straight out over the town. There are some clear fields between downtown and the foot of the mountain, near the small temple there is usually good. Or, you can land in the river bed as there are some good smooth spots to land there, though there aren’t so many wind indicators. I usually land on the north side of town as the road is right there and there’s cold beer on sale.

Retrieve. Get on the phone and call your friends to come and look for a guy in Liukuei who’s ten feet tall, covered in hair, has a shit-eating grin on his face, and is drinking beer. Failing this you might find a taxi for about NT$800 to 1000. Failing this you may find a local willing to run you back for about that price. You might also be able to hitchhike.

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Resources:

Route

Tracklog (.igc)

Tracklog (.kml)

Reaching Liukuei, by J.F. Tremblay