What did we learn from the pioneer's edition last year? The race wasn't long enough and was lacking in mountains. Luckily, the States will have us back so we've moved East to Montana, Idaho, Utah, and finishing in Nevada.
Here's the Racecourse for the Icarus Trophy Second Edition:
Our route begins in a small town near the Canadian border called Polson, Montana. At 3500' MSL it's one of the lower spots along the race course, and the ideal place for pilots to stage and get ready for the toughest air race in the world.
To begin, pilots will race down the Mission mountain range towards Missoula. Best known for its jagged peaks, tall trees, and for having one of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears in the continental US. If they survive that, they'll have to circumnavigate Missoula, to continue down the Interstate 90 corridor towards the delightfully named Butte, MT.
As pilots continue south over Monida pass, the mountains open up into high desert plains as they cross into the state of Idaho. They'll hit warmer temps, and possibly stronger thermals as they cross the plains west of Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons passing by Idaho Falls.
As soon as they approach the Great Salt Lake the route takes a quick turn southeast into Logan and Cache Valley. Pilots will be met with their first major pass crossings going into the Ogden valley and into Park City. Those are just a hop compared to what's next.
At a sweet little town called Midway (that's actually well past the midway point of the route) our Adventure and Race divisions part ways.
The Adventure route will undertake an epic crossing going back over the Wasatch mountain range to the west. Pilots will have to depart Heber City (5400’) and get as much altitude as they can. It’s a short crossing, but it takes the perfect weather to be able to climb to 9000’ pushing forward over Provo Canyon to get to the west side of the Wasatch.
A spot of tricky navigation to follow the mountain foothills to the south whilst avoiding the built up areas, meanwhile below them the landscape will transition into the red cliffs that southern Utah is known for before they cross into Arizona.
Pilots will have to decide whether to go high over the Paiute and Beaver Dam wilderness areas (2000’ above ground) or risk flying through the Virgin river gorge down low - weather will be the determining factor.
After the last gauntlet in the gorge, it's only a 10 mile sprint to cross the gates and finish at the Mesquite Municipal airport - where they will be showered with libations and praise for completing the world’s toughest air race. Route mileage is approximately 800nm in total.
Meanwhile, as the race division depart from Midway - they’ll have to decide how to get to the mandatory checkpoint in Monument Valley. That's about 216 bonus miles of flying for the second trophy. Fuel stops will be sparse on any of the possible routes. Race pilots, who fly unsupported, will need to think strategically about refuel options.
The most expeditious route will cross over to Strawberry Ridge and go directly south to Soldier summit. Alternatively they could point their compass west of Canyonlands towards Moab, Monticello, Blanding and Mexican Hat. All real places.
After ticking off the Monument Valley checkpoint, the rest of the route will reward them with glorious views of Southern Utah that most people will never enjoy. They'll take in the easternmost point of the Grand Canyon and fly just north of the Vermillion Cliffs wilderness area.
Racing along the north rim of the Grand Canyon, pilots will find fuel stops galore as they criss-cross back and forth over the state border heading towards St. George.
From St. George, the Race Division pilots re-join the Adventure Division route to fly the Virgin River (gorge) all the way to Mesquite, NV. Route mileage will be about 1000nm.