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.
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.
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. 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.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.