Saturday the windometer at Blue Mesa topped out in the 60+ mph range , same at the ski area to the north. Max wind forecasted for the day was 30 from the SW. Seemed like it would be a good day to do a kite tour of the lower slopes of Whiterock Mtn. My original plan was to ski up valley to Gothic and double the length of a route I had done last spring, Snodgrass trail head ( a kite site in itself on a small pass between the ski area and Snodgrass Mtn) to Brush Creek, along the East River Vallley, and play a bit on the slopes of Whiterock. But at noon, winds to 15 at the trailhead convinced me to just drop into the valley, in case winds increased later, and repeat the same tour as last year. Avalanche danger was 'considerable' but I knew a route to ski into the valley and stay on slopes less than 25 degrees (which don't usually slide). Skiing down to the valley bottom I saw that nearly all the steeper slopes had already avalanched. No prob, I chose to do the lower slopes of Whiterock because the steepness is around 20 degrees. Crossed the frozen river, set up the 11 meter and finally got enough of a gust to launch the kite. Had to constantly kite circle to get a slow lurching climb. Climbed to a little plateau and decided the wind was too weak to make it across a little creek gully. So cruised back down to the East River valley bottom, and got some turns and tiny glides, where I could easily cross the creek. Same deal on the next plateau, creek gully crossing spot, back to the valley bottom again for another slow lurching kite circling climb. All the while noticing the winds are increasingly peeling bigger clouds of snow off of Crested Butte, which is now upwind of me and blocking much of the flow. My previous climbs were up to or below the elevation of the Snodgrass saddle. So, my third climb started much like the others slow lurching, mandatory circling, barely keeping the kite up. Then, hey I am cruising, no need to circle it, in fact better pull some depower. Three seconds later fully depowered going uphill at thirty mph I'm launched, airborne for thirty yards and flung uphill onto my face. I pull my head out of the snow just as my kite powers up real hard again. Instantly the plastic spreader bar on my 25 year old wind surfing harness disintegrates and my kite flies out of sight uphill, downwind. Apparently my fifth line (safety flagout line) had released when I fell on it. And maybe I had hit the CL safety release, as it was open when I retrieved the kite I find my rx glasses, thrown clear, about forty yards away. And then, am able to spot the kite 200 yards uphill. It luckily caught on a bush. So I scrambled up to it (while the winds were alternately mostly howling uphill, light and variable and then blowing downhill <a turbulent rotor flow>), packed it up and skied out down valley to the next trailhead.
Lessons learned; should've anticipated the crazy winds when I got to about the elevation of the ridge upwind and switched to the 6 meter in my pack. Or just stayed in the valley bottom. And wear goggles or strap them specs on. And, only do that tour in strong winds when the flow parallels the valley (to avoid the wild turbulent rotor winds). And change that 5th line deal so it doesn't inadvertently release. I got lucky, no kite damage, no pain, and it sure was fun dragging uphill again.
Made a new strong, spiraling, sliding spreader bar and put it on the old harness. So Let's Ride, Tony