Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Golden: Canadian PG Nationals

The weather forecast was saying light and variable winds aloft, trending to the south as the day went on, so we called a 109 km task to Swansea LZ goal. Launch conditions were a bit cross but doable from the NW, although I had a bad launch and twisted up my ankle a bit. But once in the air I was able to forget about it and concentrate on the flying.

Initially it was difficult to get high and we all had to scratch our way across Mt. 7 and across to Pagliaro. The cliffs weren’t working very well but I was able to get high enough to continue on and stay with the lead gaggle. I was able to stick with them for about 30 km until I got low, and by the time I got myself out of there the lead gaggle had gone on without me so I was flying by myself for the next little bit (since I was still ahead of the second gaggle, and didn’t want to wait for them to catch up to me).

Further down the range I was able to finally get high and join Bill Belcourt where the range splits at 45 km. Then it was off down the front range. The lift was getting a bit easier in that there was more of it, but the thermals were still a bit ratty and hard to center.

At the Spur Valley gap Bill and I topped up for the crossing and crossed to the Edgewater Cliffs…crossing was a bit low but I’ve done it before and know you can almost always ridge soar up the SW face, and there are LZ’s just around the corner even though you can’t see them. As predicted, the SW corner was working fine and we got up to 3000m over the cliffs. At this point we could see Mt. Assiniboine in the back ranges and also the goal field about 20 km away. Bill and I were yahooing to each other as we watched the incredible view over towards Banff and Canmore as we flew past.

Even though the goal was pretty close it was still a 10:1 glide away and there wasn’t much valley wind to help us along, so we topped up a few more times over Radium hot springs and then it was the final glide to Mt. Swansea (where there were lots of sailplanes flying around). Bill Hughes had joined Bill Belcourt and myself and we were all on final glide when I saw Hughes have a full-bar blowout. It frontalled and started to spin to one direction, and then to the other direction. It would spin a few times in one direction, and then switch directions and go the other way, with Bill getting massive riser twists in the meantime. Finally after about 20 seconds of trying to fix it, he chucked his reserve and started the ride down. I watched him land in the field just 4 km short of goal under reserve. He was OK and was retrieved quickly by the goal team, and his reserved packed up that evening.

I made goal and tried to make as soft a landing as possible, but it was kinda difficult since the Swansea LZ is only mowed in a small part (which was by now covered in gliders being packed up) and the rest was high grass that you couldn’t see the ground under. Hopefully the ankle will be well enough for flying tomorrow!

Zack landed in a tree about 12 km south of launch when he had a frontal close to the trees, recovered, and then wasn’t able to make the glide out to an LZ and ended up just landing softly in the trees. Other than that and Bill’s reserve ride, no epics. And we had about 25 people make goal (many of them PB’s too). Lots of happy people!

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