A couple of weeks ago I went on an absolutely fantastic flying trip, a 5 day journey to the Colorado Rockies with the Flyout Group. Normally in little planes you avoid mountains, cross high and quick for safety. For this trip we sought the mountains out to enjoy the challenge of flying down in them.
The map above (KML) is from our most mountainous flying, a full day of playing around in the valleys and mountain passes of the Rockies. Some of the highlights include flying through Independence Pass (12,095') and landing at the highest airport in the US (9927'). The 182 we were flying isn't very happy flying over 12,000' and we were breathing supplemental oxygen, but that just made it all the more fun.
The main purpose of the trip was instructional: Ken and I had an instructor with us. We got a lot of practical experience with density altitude and performance, learning just what it really feels like taking off at 9000' on a 90° day. We got lucky with calm winds, only 10-15kts at the ridgetops, so we never had to deal with any significant turbulence or downdrafts. That let us fly safely down in the valleys but I'm a little sorry I didn't get more experience with more challenging conditions. Then again we got some very exciting flying with beautiful sights.
It's startling to look under your left wing and see mountains above you! But at a safe distance with good weather, it's fun. See my photo set for more pictures; on the fourth day we flew over Utah along the Colorado River and I got a lot of great overhead shots of Glen Canyon. I also landed and took off at Las Vegas International (very busy), landed in Death Valley (-210'), and took my first flight over the Sierras. A great week of flying, I'm ready for more!