Monday, June 11, 2018

Blanchard and BJ June 11

Forecast to be quite windy in the Fraser Valley, and possibly overdeveloped, so it was time to head to Blanchard!

It was pretty quiet on launch but Matty and Roger were already in the air and heading south...Matty was planning on flying to Tiger but we shortly afterwards heard him saying he had landed and was on his way back to Blanchard for another flight.

Despite the nice-looking clouds locally, it wasn't an easy climbout.  The good clouds were actually set quite far back, over Oyster Dome, and I decided to bail on my original plan to try to fly to the Skagit airport to the south, over the flats, which usually needs some clouds closer to the coast for that route to work.
Flying over Lake Whatcom.  Alex took the northern route; I took the southern route.  Photo by Alex Raymont.
Cloudbase was originally a bit on the low side, barely 1100m, but it was slowly going up and the overdevelopment inland was slowing drying up, so Alex suggested it may be a good time to fly to Big Johnson.  I have never flown over the back in that direction, in fact the only time I've flown over the back of Blanchard was to go to Sedro-Woolley to the SE, and everything I had seen of the first transition made me think it was not going to be a gimme.  As you go over the back over Lake Samish to Lookout Mountain there are not that many good LZ's if you sink out, and then the glide over Lake Whatcom is even more committing!

Alex and I took different lines over Lake Whatcom...Alex went north while I went south.  I chose the south route since it gets you to the steeper slopes on the other side, but with less fields to bail out into on the extreme south end of the lake, and I wasn't sure about the more shallow slopes to the northern end of the lake.  Alex's route to the north put him on the flatter slopes but there are more LZ's to choose from if you don't make it up.
Over BJ, looking back at the route from Blanchard.
Fortunately the clouds were drying up nicely and cloudbase had risen to to 1600m as I arrived on the east side of Lake Whatcom and was able to get high enough to see over the back, where I was greeted with the sight of large agricultural fields and a wide-open valley.  Phew!  At least now I was in the proper valley with BJ visible in the distance, and an easier retrieve now.

Toplanding in the cutblock above BJ launch.
One more jump across Comar to near Porter Mountain and then I was within glide of BJ, where I could see some pilots launching as the clouds were clearing above.  Alex had landed at the base of BJ after taking the northern route and missing a climb, and was on his way up to BJ for another flight.  I was feeling it was time to land, and after overflying BJ I realized the cutblock directly above launch was landable with a beautiful into-wind road to land on.  Drove down Tom's truck so he and Alex and Robert could get another flight in, while Matty had relaunched from Blanchard, flown to BJ, continued on to Black, and landed on his was back.

Meanwhile over in the Fraser Valley it was reportedly quite windy and raining and definitely not flyable, so I think it was a good choice to pick the coast for an earlier flight and stay away from the FV which can act as a firehose on strong wind days.

43 km flight from Blanchard to BJ.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Woodside June 2

Another beautiful day in the Fraser Valley, and since it was a Saturday, the crowds were out!

It didn't really turn on until closer to 1pm, but once in the air it was easy to get to cloudbase at the towers around 1600m.  Originally I had thought about going to Banjo, but Alex suggested the west wind would make getting back from there difficult so we crossed over to Sasquatch with Vlad.

The wind wasn't so bad at Sasquatch but it was definitely there and increasing the further west we flew.  Alex and Vlad were a thermal ahead of me after I missed a climb they had gotten earlier, and they were reporting quite windy and trashy conditions at Big Nic, and in fact had turned around on the way to Dewdney.  So I decided to turn around at Big Nic and return to Woodside, and once back there the west wind had disappeared, and I could just see it barely starting up on Harrison Bay.

Crossing back to Woodside from Sasquatch at 1800m.  High cloudbase!
Since there was still lots of daytime left and the car was now over at Bridal Falls Alex and I flew over to the Bridal side along with Peter Spear, who had already done a Woodside-Bridal-Woodside flight, and was on lap #2 (!).  The Fraser River was still quite high and no landings on the Bridal side except for the powerline triangle, but we arrived with plenty of height and the flying conditions were *much* nice on the Bridal side!

Cloudbase was around 1900-2000m and pilots were all over the place at Cheam, the Lakes, Archibald, Upper Bridal, and Gloria.  There was practically no wind (the west wind hadn't yet arrived on the Bridal side) and at times my GPS actually said it was light east or north wind aloft!  It was quite the change from the Woodside side and it was nice to relax a bit and cruise the ridge at Bridal and not have to worry about recrossing back to Woodside.  I think many pilots did do the crossing, although I also heard some pilots landed at Seabird Island after getting too low to make the crossing to Bridal with any comfort.

Over on the Bridal side where the flying was much cruisier!
The west wind never really got to Woodside or Bridal and it would have probably been a good day to try flying to Hope and return!

68 km FAI triangle.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Woodside May 30

Yesterday was looking like an epic day with cu's all over the place, but it was way too windy for safe flying, so most pilots waited until today to fly the still-awesome skies.  It was a tossup between Mt. St. Benedict and Woodside, but given the amount of cloud to the north we opted for Woodside as it was in the clear and it looked like it could overdevelop in the Norrish Valley.

Up on launch it was quite busy with a bunch of hang glider pilots setting up and Dennis just top-landing after his early flight.  Vlad had tried to fly west with Igor already and got shot down on the crossing, so was back for flight #2.

On glide to Green Hill.
Cloudbase was already high (1600m over Woodside) and expected to go higher, and there were cu's in the middle of the valley, so Alex and I decided to fly to Bridal via Green Hill and the clouds that were forming over that mountain, and bypass Bear altogether.  This also allowed us to stay high as we approached the Fraser River, as it it super-high still and the only possible place to land in the Ludwig area, if you don't make the crossing, is the highway exit triangle.

We got a couple of nice climbs at Green Hill and then over to Ludwig, which was surprisingly "chunky" and a bit industrial.  But over at the Lakes it was a completely different was shady and hard to get up, I was stuck there for quite a while until I finally found something that got me to 1500m and enough to make it around the corner of Cheam and to the Bridal launch.

On glide to Green Hill.  Swollen Fraser River in the background!
There were a couple of pilots on launch but it was still shady there (there was a lot of overhanging cloud) and it was a slow climb out until cloudbase, which was slowly rising and was at 1800m by now.  But the day was getting better and better as the winds were still light and more sun was poking out on the Bridal side.  Gloria was ON as I got to 1900m and it was an easy run to Elk and back, by which point I was looking at my options for crossing back to Woodside.

Crossing back to Woodside from Archibald.
Alex had opted to run from Archibald and 2100m directly to Agassiz Mountain where he was able to climb out just outside the restricted airspace and get back to Woodside.  I had a worse glide...I wasn't feeling the love about reaching Agassiz Mountain legally (the Kent Prison CYR138 is below 1100') so I decided to land at Harvest Market with Mark Tulloch.

Meanwhile Al Thielman had flown from Woodside direct to Bridal and back, before flying to Lake Errock and back, and Igor had flown from Woodside to Elk before continuing down the Chilliwack Valley to land near William's Peak (I wonder how windy that was?).  Over at the Bridal side pilots were reporting getting above Cheam later in the day, so I wonder if I would have made the crossing back to Woodside easier if I had hung out at Bridal for an extra hour and left from 2200m instead of 2000m...

51.60 km FAI triangle.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Maritimes trip May 14-28

Alex and I just took a trip to the Maritimes to visit my parents plus do some paragliding in Parrsboro and PEI.  I grew up there, and learned to paraglide in Parrsboro, so going back is always a treat and it's nice to visit the old flying sites and reconnect with the pilots.

Joggins Fossil Cliffs

Lobster Boil on the beach!
We started off in Parrsboro for the annual Festival of Free Flight, while I was in HPAC meetings for a couple of days Alex and the free-flying pilots were out and about at Hidden Falls, Fox River, and Joggins, depending on the wind direction and tide levels.  I was able to join them and we had really nice flying at Fox River for a couple of days in the SW winds.  Lots of visiting pilots from Quebec, Ontario, and the rest of the Maritimes so a nice crowd!

Cape D'Or on a blown-out day.
Fox River during the Fly-in.  The tide is very low in this shot!
A lobster boil on the beach in front of Michael's house (which is also a flying site) to round off the flying in Parrsboro.  Many of the locals said it was the best fly-in they'd had in years with great weather and winds.

We also checked out the flying sites near Lawrencetown Beach.  Several S and SW sites but the most obvious one is the MacDonald Tea House right next to the kiteboarding and surfing spots. We learned that if the kiteboarders were out, it was probably too windy for us, and vice-versa, and the surfers prefer little or no wind, so it's rare for all 3 groups to be out at the same time.

Halliday Bank on the south shore of PEI, takes a north wind.
While in Parrsboro we had met some fantastic pilots from PEI who invited us to visit their sites, so we decided to head up for a 3-day mini road trip.  We discovered that PEI has pretty much flying sites all over the southern coast, and a significant chunk of the northern coast!  Just driving along the southern coast we could see red sand banks all over the place, and it was just a matter of driving out to ones with the proper wind direction and pulling out the glider.  We must have found a dozen flying sites, taking a wind direction anywhere from SE to W.  The great thing about this side of the Island is that the farmer's fields behind all the sand banks are great places to lay out and top-land at (no trees, just flat ground) and they actually don't plow and seed the last little bit before the actual coastline, so you get a buffer zone of around 100' between the sand banks and the actual field that's perfect for prepping for flying.
Thermalling out over Halliday Bank and the golf course.

Ross' Ridge, another site on the south shore, takes a west wind.
After 2 days of flying on the south shore the wind switched to north, so we headed to the north shore of PEI to fly the sand dunes there.  There are fantastic sand dunes at PEI National Park, but since we don't yet have permission from that specific park to fly them, we headed to just outside the park boundaries and found some other dunes (not inside the park) that a local pilot had recommended we check out.  Once again another flying sites, this time for NW to NE!  The dunes are all shapes and sizes so you can play around depending on the wind strength and direction, and they are gently sloping on the backside so if you get blown back it's not sharp rotor or hard trees to get hung up in, just gentle grass.

Hampton Beach on a west wind day.

Natural wind direction indicator!
I think PEI has fantastic potential for visiting pilots.  There is pretty much a site for every wind direction and so long as you have a car, you can access pretty much all of them.  PEI is so small that driving times are tiny compared to most of the rest of Canada (you can cross from the south side of PEI to the north side in around 1 hour), so if the wind changes, you can jump in the car and hit up another site easily.  And the meteorology of the place is pretty easy to understand as one of the local PG pilots put it, there is no micrometerology on PEI.  It's so small and so flat, that the wind at one end of the Island is likely to be similar all over the rest of the Island, so with the airport readings, the marine forecast, and observations, you can read what's going on and choose the right site.
Sand dune action on the north shore of PEI!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mt. St. Benedict May 11

Mt. St. Benedict is a great mountain to fly from, but the upper launch is too high for early-season flights as the road is usually still snowed-in until mid-July.  So a few years ago Al Thielman initiated a project to create a lower launch in one of the recently-created clearcuts on the same road up.  At that point we had a "burn party" where we burned the stumps and cleared the old brush from the spot he had selected, and then the area sat fallow while other projects came up.
This spring Al had the opportunity to finish the new lower launch and today was "opening day" for a few pilots to test-fly the launch and suggest improvements!

The new launch sits at around 600m and overlooks the powerline valley, and the dike LZ is an easy glide away.  It also sits at a known house thermal as we have often climbed out from this area while on other flights from the upper launch or elsewhere, and there are always birds thermalling there too.

Looking out from the new lower launch.  The dike and LZ is visible to the left of launch.
After setting up some temporary carpeting we got ready and then it was time to fly!  We had suggested that Al go first to christen the site, but he was sans glider, so Alex had the honours of going first.  I went 2nd and by the time I was over the road I was already climbing out with the birds!

It was north wind up high, but it was less rough than we were expecting and cloudbase was around 1400m.  Easy cruising around the peak of Benedict and over the powerline valley and then it was time to land in the dike LZ as we had another engagement.

Looking out over Stave Lake.
The new parking for the dike LZ is NOT the pullout on the side of the road, but rather at Cascade Falls Regional Park, which has a nice waterfall, washrooms, and picnic tables to hang out at while waiting.  To get there from the LZ, you simply walk along the same dike, but back towards Mt. St. Benedict instead (so the opposite direction from the old parking).  Danny Virtue has asked all pilots to park there instead, the walk back to your car is ~10 minutes, but well worth it to keep things amicable with the landowner.

The new parking situation at the dike LZ.