Sunday, August 21, 2016

2016 Can-Am fly-in Aug 20-21

Surprising as it may seem, I've actually never flown from Black Mountain in WA state.  Flown by it from BJ, but never launched from there!  With the fly-in this weekend and hot and sunny weather, I decided it was time to head down there.

Upper launch at Black Mountain with Silver Lake below.  Vedder and Sumas Mountains in the background.
~40 pilots had signed up for the event, but of the Canadians it was only Alex, myself, and Derek.  Where was everyone?  In any event, Saturday flying was quite nice with strong-but-launchable cycles and a choice of either the regular LZ, or the Silver Lake group camping LZ (which has been mowed for this event).  Having a lake directly below launch makes it easy to see the wind strength and direction so we were able to keep an eye on when the valley wind switched from the morning south flow to the afternoon north flow.  The earlier launchers got to 2000+ meters and later on it was more like 1700m, but I personally found it a big punchy and lots of holes in addition to the strong lift. 
Launch with a view!
A honkin-big BBQ with smoked ribs and chicken plus salads galore so everyone was groaning with full bellies as the sun set.  Then the telescope came out and we were looking at the various planets in the sky...a very red Mars and Saturn with its rings were easily visible.  We had a bit of a scare as, some time after we had lit the portable propane fires, a firetruck came into the campground with its lights flashing...we thought we were about to get fined or something (even though we had permission to have open flames for this event).  But nope, they were simply lost and asking for directions to another campground!

Mt. Baker is right there; the day before a pilot flew from Black to Baker and return.
Sunday morning we had a pancake breakfast and then it was time to decide to go flying or not...I had seen a few days ago that Sunday was likely to be blown out, and it was indeed as the wind picked up in the LZ, leaves were being torn off branches, windlines were starting up on the lake, and the spaceship lenticular clouds came out to play.  Alex and I decided it was time to swim in Silver Lake while (I believe) some pilots went to Blanchard in hopes of a soaring flight (although I think it would have been blown out there too).  As we drove back to Canada the area around Mt. Baker had completely OD'd and it looked like it could actually rain in the Cascades.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Willi Muller XC Challenge July 30

Andrew decides to get a quicky in before the storms arrive. Cell building in the background.

The cell is building!

Thunderstorms today, plus many pilots were tired after yesterday's epic flights, so only a few local flights before the storms shut things down. I chose to forgo flying but went up to enjoy the view.

Hailing in town as the storm just misses Nicholson and passes behind Mt 7.

Triple rainbow!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Willi Muller XC Challenge July 29

It was a really good XC day, not classic Golden, but close. However a bunch of us almost didn't get to enjoy it, because we almost launched too early!  A bunch of us spent a torturous 90 minutes scratching in the washing machine between launch and Willi's Knob, at 1600m or less, while the later launchers climbed out and started heading downrange.

Finally I got high and was able to get moving, catching up to folks around Parsons and Harrogate. Cloudbase was high...3600m, and getting higher the further south we went. Airspace was going to an issue!  It was almost due west wind, but starting to turn SW the closer we got to Invermere, with a significant headwind by Fairmont.

The view from 3600m at Harrogate.

I stopped my climb at 3700m at Windermere, cloudbase was somewhere around 4000m and in the restricted airspace, and decided to forgo the glide to Canal Flats due to the strong headwind plus the building cloud which was shading out Columbia Lake. It was the only cloud in the vicinity that was growing, but was parking itself over White Swan and starting to spit out rain and grow vertically.

Mt. Assiniboine in the distance from 3700m.
Landed at the north end of the lake for 144 km and was able to get a quick ride with Timmy et al who had landed in Canal Flats. Meanwhile a few pilots had gone over the back at Fairmont and were shot down in the back range and the strong SW wind. Al landed in a remote area short of Premier Lake and had to hike and Ford a river before Vincene found him; Simon had the pleasure of landing at a back woods gun range near a logging road.

In the end there was something like 45+ pilots south of Radium and a dozen personal bests. Best PG distance of the day (in the comp, Will may have done more but no track from him yet) went to Peter with 192 km... he did a mini OR in the middle of his flight to rack up more points ;). And Ross flew partway down Columbia Lake before returning to Invermere for something like 175 km.

Some clouds are starting to grow by Canal Flats!
Pilots were scattered all over the place and littering the road from Fairmont to Parsons, but everyone was picked up and accounted for and returned to HQ before midnight, thanks to the live tracking devices!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Willi Muller XC Challenge July 28

A smaller chance of thunderstorms today, and there were some cells around. While we were climbing out on Mt 7 a cell developed to the SW and became quite ominous, and it started to rain out of it. Ahead of the cell it had shaded out the lower part of the mountain so those pilots caught low were stuck in the shade with approaching rain, so many bailed.

Those of us higher up were able to run back to lookout launch and wait out the cell there. I didn't feel there was much danger since the cell was tracking SE and with the NW wind, it would continue to track away from us.

Once the cell had fizzled we were away, about an hour later than we had hoped.  The going was tough as the lift was broken and it was a bit windy down low, but we managed to keep going, our group changing leaders every few thermals.

Onwards it was touch and go at Spur Valley, as I was unable to get high enough for the crossing for the Edgewater cliffs. Finally I decided to go anyways, trusting that I would be able to climb out on the NW flanks and avoid an inconvenient FSR landing with a hot walk out.

The last cell before our way was clear.  It had fizzled by the time we got to Spilli.
The others had caught a climb at Spur Valley and gotten ahead of me, and I could see some high cirrus coming at Radium. The shade was shutting things down, and those ahead of me were reporting having to possibly land due to it. I was able to continue to Windermere at 122 km while those ahead of me landed a few kms further or at Fairmont.

Getting shaded out at Invermere.
Despite the big clouds at the northern part of the flight it was beautiful and sunny the further south we went. Apparently another cell came through Golden after we had left but our course line was clear once we got past Parsons/Harrogate. It was unfortunate that one cell at the beginning shut so many down, in the end there was only a handful of us that got downrange.

July 28 flight.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Willi Muller XC Challenge July 27

Mt 7, home to mountain bike races. 

The skies are building!
More thunderstorms forecast this afternoon, so short, non-XC flights for most. A handful of pilots chose to challenge the weather gods and ventured south, landing at Parsons when the skies for too big even for them.

Time to land!
The afternoon was spent checking gear and measuring lines!

Measuring lines is thirsty work!