Monday, December 29, 2008

Team Canada Jackets!


I received my Team Canada jacket today. Ryan Letchford who works for Arc’teryx was able to get us a smashing deal on some insulated Hercules Hoodies, and Vincene of Muller Windsports paid for the embroidery and lettering, which we had done at Kicking Horse Embroidery in Golden.

The jackets are fuzzy and warm and just right...they'll keep us warm at cloudbase, and also stylin' on the streets of Valle. The guys' jackets look exactly like mine except they're black (and no pink accents!).

Big thanks to Ryan for the jackets, Vincene for the embroidery, and Nigel Protter for the logo design. You guys rock!I

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Welcome to my new blog!

After several months of Alex getting after me to set up my own blog, I've finally gotten around to doing so. I'll be posting my new flying reports here, as well as other non-flying stuff as I feel like it.

For older flight-log posts, go to the West Coast Soaring Club link on the side and visit their Flight Log Forum. I've copied all my 2008, and part of my 2007, posts from there to my archives here, so go there if you are looking for anything previous to July 2007.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

FlyBC Christmas Party

Headed out to Eagle Ranch for their Christmas Party. I didn't bother bringing the glider as it was forecast to be windy from the wrong direction (NE). Boy was it ever! When I arrived the wind was picking up, and as the evening wore on it just got windier and windier.

As I was helping out in the house, the power went out, and we were trying to figure out how to finish cooking the food (using the BBQ outside, or the wood stove in the Barn, came up as options), but before we had to resort to desperate measures the power came back on (yay!). Meanwhile it was blowing about 80 kph outside, from the NE, trees coming down, and very cold (-10C I'm guessing).

Lots of people showed up despite the wind and cold, and the combined body heat of 50+ bodies in the lower Barn was enough to keep us toasty warm; that plus the wood stove roaring away. Kevin Ault and his band, Head over Heels, was set up upstairs and Jim had a portable heater blasting fire at them to keep warm. The rest of us managed to keep warm upstairs by dancing, dancing, and dancing some more. That was the only way to keep warm up there!

It had started to snow, but it was so windy it wasn't able to accumulate, so was difficult to realize how bad it was getting. It was only as I left, was driving back to Vancouver, and the wind dropped, that the snow started to accumulate and I got back just in time for snowstorm #1 of the season. Several inches of the white stuff had already fallen by the time I got back to the city, and the plows were nowhere to be seen (although it was 2:30am by now, and a Sunday morning).

But the party was a great success, lots of people, lots of music, and lots of catching up. Many people are headed south to various points over the winter, so the next I'll hear of many of them will be as a flight report I'm sure.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chelan

Well the day after the big party was the usual late-start...everyone hung over, sleeping in, and generally not inspired for the 9am sledride. But a few brave souls went up early and reported light to moderate north winds, which meant launching from the north side. This is the one launch on the entire Butte that is not perfect...the grass is a bit long and lots of lumps...you can tell it's not used much.

Anyways, it was light but launchable (and dammed cold, definitely not like yesterday!), but not really ridge soarable at first. There'd be the odd gust and people would get excited, and then it would die off. A few people lobbed off and on their way to the LZ, hit the last knob before you are over the river valley bottom, and it was lightly ridge soarable. People were able to soar for 20 or 25 minutes, even top-landing on this last knob and relaunching.

I launched and it was very light...you had to stick in close for it to work, and with all the people launching, it was considered nice to give your spot up after a few minutes so everyone could get a crack at it.

But the window was short-lived...it went light again and by this time most people had landed in the Chelan Falls LZ and were thinking of leaving, for the long drive back to Seattle or Vancouver. So it was nice to get in the air one last time in Chelan, and an early end to the Sunday so people could get back home.

Chelan and the big Party

Well woke up at the airport and after a nice breakfast at the Apple Cup off to the LZ. Lots of Seattlites and a big group of Canadians (as usual). We paid our registration (which pays for the party, rides up, prizes, the beer, and site maintenance) and picked up our beanbags. Up the mountain and it was lightly NW, which meant Lakeside launch over Lake Chelan, and landing in Lone Pine LZ.

Not many people wanted to bother with a sled ride into Lone Pine, but a few students went, and then it picked up all of a sudden and Gary Hatchey was ridge soaring the NW side! Everyone got excited, but then it died off suddenly and went back to light.

People started looking at the other launches, trying to see if it was launchable on any of them, as the sun was fully out and heating up. It wasn't cold at all. When we weren't looking, a HG launched off Ants (the east launch) and the next thing we knew, there was a HG above launch thermalling! We all scurried to Ants to see if there were cycles, but it was consistently blowing down. He musta gotten a lull...

Anyways, Alex set up on Ants and waited for something like an hour for it to stop cycling down. There'd be the odd cross cycle, but still too down for his liking, so he patiently waited. Finally it went dead calm and he launched, getting above launch easily.

All of a sudden it was lightly blowing up on both Ants and Between the Rocks, and there was plenty of cycles to take off in, vs. the absolute lack of cycles just a few minutes ago. Pilots started lobbing off all over the place and the sky soon filled with gliders. Chelan was on!

Meredyth was around with her Venus, and I was able to grab it for a test flight while she watched her dog. Launched Between the Rocks and was soon thermalling with everyone else in the east bowl. The lift was best in this bowl, over the ridge that heads to the Chelan Falls LZ, and it was a bit punchy but not too bad. Unlike other years, it was not cold at all, and I was comfortably warm and not having to resort to chemical heat warmers like in previous years.

After a few minutes I got a bit more comfortable on the glider and flew around for about 45 minutes, before top-landing on the Lakeside launch to return the glider so Meredyth could fly, and get back on my own. Relaunched and back in the air, doing the same thing.

After an hour or so I got bored and top-landed again to drive Jack's truck down. Since I had never actually flown over the LZ (kept top-landing) I never got a chance to throw my beanbag...I eventually gave it to Jack so he'd have twice the chances!

After landing and meeting up, Alex and I went over to Martina's hotel room to dress up and then off to the party! Once again most people went all out...guys dressed in drag, elaborate costumes, some XXX-rated stuff, and lots of drinking, food, and music.

Then it was time for the judging. Each year the Canadians dressed up according to a theme...this year it was anything to do with "Queen". I went as the Queen of Pop (Madonna), and Alex went as a Queen Bee, complete with tiara. There was the Queen of England (Gary Kinney), Queen of the Biker Fairies (Jim), Queen of the Undead (Colleen), Drama Queen (Nataliya), Dancing Queen, Queen of De-Nile (Gary Hatchey), Ice Queen (Martina), Rodeo Queen, Evil Queen, and of course a Drag Queen. With all that firepower, it was clear who was gonna win the annual Canucks vs. American show!

The party went on late into the night, when we finally left the music was still playing and a conga-line was snaking aorund the room...

FlyBC has some photos on Picasa here.

The tradition continues!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Off to Chelan

Well Alex and I are off to Chelan for the annual Halloween fly-in. We're leaving today since it's about 5 hours, not including the boarder wait time, and we want to be there early tomorrow morning for registration and rides up.

On the way down and over the Pass it got progressively windier, so when we arrived on the dry side of the mountains it wasn't surprising to hear that not many people (if any) had flown. We timed it well! Set up our tent at the Chelan Airport, staked it down nice and tight so the wind doesn't carry it away. The forecast is for it to die off overnight and be sunny and not windy for the weekend.

Lots of other people with the same idea of camping at the airport...although there are probably an equal number who have opted for a warm hotel room instead.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Elk Mountain and Woodside

We decided to hike Elk this morning for something to do while waiting for it to become soarable (?) at Woodside. Met up with Rob S. at Eddy's, and started hiking at 10:15am. I was just along for the hike, while Alex and Rob were bringing their gliders to fly down.

Arrived at the launch meadow at 11:50am, and I hung around for about 15 minutes before starting the hike down. Back down in 55 minutes and drove Rob's truck to Eddy's where Alex and Rob were packing up. They had launched just after I left, and scratched around for 25 minutes or so before landing.

It was around 1:30pm and the skies were blue, so off to Woodside. Got there and straight up to launch by 2:30pm, where a band of cloud was just shutting things down for the moment. We chilled on the nylex until the cloud band moved off and then I launched at 3:30pm. I had seen some eagles playing over on the north cliffs earlier so I decided to try over there, and was rewarded with a nice thermal right up to radio tower height (I wasn't flying with my instruments so I was guessing on my altitude and speed).

When I looked down at launch everyone else was rushing to get ready and lobbing off after me. Alex and Rob launched next and scratched around at launch height for a bit, and then got low and couldn't find the nice climb, and eventually ended up in Riverside.

The conditions were actually a bit turbulent and rough in spots (I had 2 40-50%-er's, but as they both happened while I was thermalling and kept going up despite them, I was a bit lax about fixing them :), and the higher I went the worse it got. At tower height it was quite windy from the south (there had been nice lenticulars capping Mt. Baker earlier, so I wasn't totally surprised by it), and as the afternoon went on, that windy layer got lower and lower.

Finally around 4:30pm or so the wind had sunk down to launch height, which coincided nicely with the demise of the thermic action for the day, to replace it with ridge soaring. A truckload of pilots showed up and lobbed a few people off in the strong cycles on launch, but the lift band was rather narrow and very south-oriented.

I was getting a bit tired by then (hiking up Elk and then back down) but didn't want to land early and squander the possibly last day of nice thermalling in the Fraser Valley. So when the thermals died and it went to ridge soaring conditions, I knew I could then fly out and land "guilt-free".

Norm, Klaus, Monica, and I eventually flew out to Eagle Ranch. Getting there was quite slow (as Alex remarked as I flew overhead...he and Rob were chilling in the Riverside LZ as we crept by) as the south winds had kicked in a lot.

Total airtime 1:30: initially thermalling for the first hour or so, followed by 30 minutes of ridgy-flying. Hopefully that wasn't the end of the thermal flying for the season!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Woodrat

Another late start for Woodrat, as the weather was calling for rather stable conditions (there is still a lot of smoke in the valley due to the nearby fire) and unfavorable wind direction earlier on in the day. Caught the 1pm shuttle to launch and then waited until around 3:30pm to launch into light cycles.

Similar conditions to yesterday except the lift was a bit higher, and the inversion was a bit easier to break through with less roughness. Alex had a good climb over the antennas behind launch so I joined him, and when we got to about 5100’ we went on glide for Rabies Ridge.

Over there I got a nice climb and waited for Alex to join me, since he had arrived lower on the glide over. Then faded back the ridge to the peak where I got my highest of the day at 6300’. Alex had already left for Burnt ridge, and when I finally glided over there I couldn’t see him anymore. No lift over Burnt (unlike yesterday, where there was plenty of lift), and I was getting pretty low with a long glide out, so I headed for the LZ in preparation for an oh-my-god-I-sunk-out-landing.

But the convergence was just setting up between Burnt and Woodrat (which happens on a pretty regular basis here) and I found plenty of lift right over the LZ. A bunch of other pilots joined me from the mountain, and we boated around at 5100’ over the valley for over an hour while the convergence lasted. Eventually I got tired of doing circles over the LZ and did some speed bar runs to keep me entertained, and then landed to find Alex in the LZ. Another great day at Woodrat, and still getting high despite the lateness of the season!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Woodrat

After passing through San Fransisco and seeing it fog in at the Dumps (when we arrived, some people had just flown, and had to land, since the vis was going down as the fog rolled in), we took the scenic route north to Oregon for some flying at Woodrat. We had heard that there was going to be a Club event at launch on Saturday night, and weekends there is a shuttle service, so we arranged to be there for the weekend.

Got there in the mid-afternoon and caught a ride up between shuttle rides (every hour between 10am-3pm) to meet a bunch of pilots on launch who said it was "just turning on", so we hadn't yet missed anything. Launched and went to the house thermal site to the NW of launch and up to 4400', when it got bumpy and ratty as we hit the inversion layer. Finally broke through at 4600' and could smell the smoke from the nearby Medford fire as we encountered the north winds up high (west down low).

Alex headed over to Rabies while I played around launch a bit more, and we passed each other as I headed over there and he headed back to launch, SATing his way down. Over at Rabies it was a bit windier from the west, but nicer thermals than the ones over at launch, and was able to get higher around 4800'. A couple of locals were over Rabies peak proper and joined me on the flanks, and then we crossed over to Burnt ridge.

Over there hit a mild convergence with the west Applegate wind and the north Medford wind and was able to get higher to 5400', and then flew back to Woodrat to complete the triangle. Alex had top-landed the mid-launch and relaunched, scratching around as the lift was dying, so I joined him to land at the LZ below.

The local Rogue Valley HG and PG Club had arranged a BBQ to take place at mid-launch (kind of a weekend event organized by one of the local pilots), so we joined in for some shish-kabobs, corn, and other goodies. Excellent idea as we could watch the sun set and the last of the pilots fly overhead. We ended up camping right there on launch under the stars.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Marina

Another great day at the dunes. Got a late start but it didn't turn on until 1pm or so, when it was still light-ish so we headed back to Lakecourt launch.

Initially it was the same as yesterday, light but stay-upable, so we both went south to Sand City. Jumping the gaps was a bit of a challenge in the light winds but so long as you topped up between crossings, you were OK. Coming back was easier since it was all downwind and it was going a bit more south as the afternoon went on. Local pilot Vicki joined us from the Marina State Beach ramp launch for the Sand City run.

Back at Lakecourt I played around the nice low dune just north of launch, playing with the terrain and seeing how low I could travel north and still make it back to the safety of the high dunes at Lakecourt. Eventually the winds went more and more south as the afternoon went on, and got stronger. So we were both able to play around on the low stuff a bit more in the stronger winds until around 6pm, when I top-landed to end my day's session. Had to avoid a flock of seagulls that a couple of joggers had disturbed on the beach and they all flew up in our faces (just like that scene in Indiana Jones, where Papa Jones scares the birds off the beach with his umbrella to fly into the enemy plane's engine, since they didn't have a gun to shoot the plane down).

Another local pilot showed up, after saying he saw us from the highway on his way home from work, and rushed home to get his glider. He flew for a few minutes and declared it "too light", but I think he meant "too cross", since it was indeed getting more and more south and harder to stay up on the WNW faces. Alex landed about 6:30pm and then off to the park to de-sand our gliders and harnesses.

Now we are off to San Francisco for some possible flying at the Dumps, winds permitting. 3 for 3 days at Marina and this place just keeps working!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Marina

Started the day off at Marina State Beach, where the HG ramp is, since it was SW. But it was too light to maintain and cross to the high dunes from there, so we packed up and went to the Lakecourt launch instead. Much nicer, but still light, but stay-upable.

Alex headed south towards Sand City, sinking out and kiting up the sides of dunes to make his way there and back, while I stayed local and practiced my low passes just south of launch. A HG eventually came by while Alex was just coming back, so he top-landed to let the HG top-up at Lakecourt before continuing back to the ramp (when it's light winds, we like to give HG's the right of way since if they sink out, it's a much bigger deal).

Stayed light all day, another 2-3 mph and it would have been nice and strong for going to the low stuff and doing wagas. But still 3 hours or so of flying and getting sand in everything :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sand City


Got to Monterey early in the afternoon, after stopping at the Pinnacles National Monument for a hike. Winds were light from the WNW so that meant launching at Sand City. Played around the Big Dune, swooping the kids on the beach and mixing it up with the flocks of pelicans, while Alex crossed the gap over to the high cliffs, sinking out and hiking back so he could relaunch. Got about 2 hours until it got dark.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lake Isabella


After the comp in Owen’s Valley, we were invited for some “bro’ towing” (his term, not mine!) with Brad Gunnuchio, since he had to set up his tow equipment for a clinic he was putting on. So off to Lake Isabella, at the south end of the Sierra Foothills, where they have their operation.

I wasn’t going to do any maneuvers since I still can’t do high-G stuff with my left arm, but Alex was ready to put his new glider through its paces. Towing is right from the beach where you can camp, and it’s plenty large to land at afterwards too. Alex had 2.5 tows; 2 of them he worked on his spins, stalls, and SATs. The last tow the operator couldn’t keep the tension up, and the line went slack, so Alex had to release early and low. He didn’t make the glide back to shore, and landed in the water about 100m from shore. I swam out to help him bring the glider back in, and spent the rest of the day drying things out as it blew out for towing anyways. At the end of the day everyone else went to look at the ridge soaring site on the banks of the lake while we went to repack his stuff. Off to Marina!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Owen's Valley

The final day of the comp and once again it was predicted to be windy…this time from the west. West here is supposedly the most dangerous direction, as if it gets windy, you end up pinned against the mountains and can’t get out, and end up blowing over the back (south or north winds you can usually slide off to the side if need be). With the winds already at 50 mph at White Mountain Peak and 70 mph at Mammoth, the call was eventually made to cancel this day as well for safety reasons.

Went hiking up towards Sabrina Lake, near Bishop Pass, for a few hours, and then back to Bishop for the party and awards ceremony. Many people had already left so the party was pretty small, and lots of food for those of us who remained! Results, after 2 comp days, are at http://www.2008usnationals.com/

I would have preferred at least 1 more day of comp flying, but I also respect the safety committee’s decisions to keep us safe. After flying here on the nice days, and seeing how strong and windy it can potentially get here, I’d rather play it safe (this place makes Golden look tiny by comparison!).

Friday, September 19, 2008

Owen's Valley

The weather forecast for today was looking pretty windy up high; reports from Mammoth and the White Mountain Research Station were reporting 20-30 mph in the morning, with it predicted to increase. So the call was made to cancel the day without even going up the mountain.

This meant we (Alex, Brett, and I) had time to go to the Bristlecone Pine Forest and check it out. You drive to 10,000’ (!) and then have a choice of either a 1 mile hike, or a 4 mile hike, around the Forest. We chose the 4 mile hike so we’d have a chance to see the oldest trees. Methuselah is pointed out on the way as being in “that grove over there”, but isn’t identified specifically, so as to protect it from vandals. It’s something like 4800 years old!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Owen's Valley


Back up to Gunter launch. Skies were nice looking with cu's but there was some wind in them. On launch the task committee decided on a short-ish task of 64 km, out-and-return, ending in Benton (at the California/Nevada border). The winds picked up just as the wind-techs launched and it was pretty clear it was windy, as they were pinned against the mountain and not penetrating to the valley, let alone get any thermals. One of them radioed back saying it was "sporty" and we saw lots of collapses so the day was cancelled (the wind-techs certainly earned their keep today!).

Stopped at the silica sand mines on the way back down the mountain, where you can land a paraglider on the white sand and avoid the sagebrush, if you don't get high enough to make the long glide out to the valley floor. Just like the beach, except no water! Pics are at http://mclearn.ca/gallery/ and click on CA 2008.

Back down in the valley it was blowing like stink so it was a good call. Honza decided to launch anyways, and the last we saw as we were driving down was him frisbee-ing downwind over the foothills. Knowing him he probably flew 100 km easy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Owen's Valley


Today we went up to Gunter and things were not too bad wind-wise. South winds again but manageable, and the task was 110 km to Mina, in Nevada. Launched early and had to scratch around for a long time as the lift was a bit spotty, but I would rather do that than be stuck on launch in a big lineup while the cycles were getting stronger and stronger.

While waiting for the start the call came over the radio about a pilot-less glider that was flying around over launch. The pilot had forgotten to buckle up his legstraps, and fell out after launching (buggering his ankle), while his glider flew away. It flew around for a while and then headed downwind in to the canyon nearby, where it snagged itself on a tree on a cliff. Alex went to retrieve it (he wasn’t flying today) with only a couple of holes in it.

Also we had 1 reserve deployment and 1 land-out at 12,000’, so the organization was pretty busy dealing with those.

I never got very high until Boundary Peak (so called since it’s at the state line between California and Nevada) and then beamed to cloudbase at 16,400’. After Boundary Peak there is a high pass to fly over to Mina (still 60 km away). A nice cloudstreet was forming over the Pass so I started across. Part-way over the cloudstreet started to drop virga out of it and the lift died, and the whole Pass was in shade. I sniffed around, still drifting to goal, but couldn’t find anything, so at 30 km away from goal I ended up landing on the highway after making sure it was clear of vehicles for the next little bit. Landing was a bit hard on the pavement with light winds and a downsloping hill, but I managed to put the glider down on the gravel shoulder and avoid the sagebrush. The whole valley was in shade at this point, and it looked like the lift was shutting down in that part for the rest of the day, although the Owen’s Valley part was still looking nice. 82 km flight and 4 hours flight time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Owen's Valley

The next day was cancelled as well…too much south winds and little lift. Once again I was in the air when things got cancelled, so landed where I had yesterday. Went climbing in the Owen’s gorge instead for the rest of the afternoon (you climb about 800’ down into a narrow gorge, and then obviously have to climb 800’ to get back out J . On the descent we got hit with the gust front/dust storm and we had to take refuge under a large boulder until it passed, and then climbing until dark. Then hotspringing to get the dust and chalk off.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Owen's Valley

The last 2 days we’ve had the task cancelled shortly after the launch window opened. The first day was due to too-strong winds on launch (Flynn’s) so most of the field couldn’t get off (I had just launched and it was getting strong, but still manageable). After about 10 minutes the call came over the radio that the task was cancelled (a 110 km task downwind) so we all headed out to land.

After packing up we went for a swim, and then explored a ridge soaring site on the Owen’s gorge rim. You can drive right to the launch, and faces south, for evening flights when it’s blown out during the middle of the day. I hadn’t brought my glider but the others flew around for a bit until it got dark and the winds died.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Owen's Valley

The first day of the comp and the organizers decided on Flynn’s for the launch site, due to the easier drive up. But we still had a vehicle get a flat tire on the shale, which slowed things down for the pilots behind that vehicle (and the road is too narrow to get around). And of course on launch it was stinking hot, with very little shade (Forestry rules forbid any structures to be staked into the ground, which means no big shade tents; also we’re not allowed to pull any weeds from the area, which means laying out a glider to clear the lines often results in the lines getting more fouled).

Eventually things got organized and a task was called: 110 km out and return, first to the north to Hamill, then south to Big Ears (the radio dishes), and finally to the Fish swimming hole. Winds were significantly south in the valley, and SE up high (as XC Skies predicted), so the second part of the task would be the hard one.

Launched fairly early after the window opened since the airspace in front is not huge, and I wanted to get up and away before it got too crowded. It didn’t really work as the lift was quite disorganized and I spent a long time groveling in front of launch before finally finding a boomer and getting away.

I was never really able to get super-high, only about 4800m, and all the lift was surrounded by huge sink, 4-5m/s down all over the place, and all the altitude you had just gained you ended up losing on the glide afterwards.

Some pilots chose to angle out to Hamill (which was out in the middle of the valley) while I decided to stick to the mountains until the last minute, and then cross-wind my way over there. Once tagging Hamill it was the upwind slog, 50 km to the Big Ear’s turnpoint. The wind was quite strong and I ended up ridge soaring the spines that come out from the main range, getting high enough to jump to the next spine, and repeating. However you end up running out of spines on the way south, where it gets flat for the next 10 km or so, so that strategy would only work for so long. I ended up gliding out to the valley and landing in between the Gunter and Flynn’s LZ’s, on the main road, and was picked up immediately by one of the retrieve drivers. 70 km OR out of a possible 110 km, 3hours, 40 minutes flight time.

Alex was free-flying as a wind tech, and flew upwind about 8km before returning to launch and landing at the LZ after the race started. There were a couple of people that decided not to fly after it got too rowdy on launch.

About 40 people made goal (Eric Reed was 1st), and several were just short after getting bad final glides. On launch it got quite windy and snarly later on, and pilots were getting plucked up and tossed around as the end of the launch window approached. Launching early seems to be the ticket here, both for wind-on-launch issues, and also for airspace-in-front-of-launch issues.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Owen's Valley

Today was the official practice day for the comp, and conditions were pretty epic. XC Skies called for light east winds and high climbs so we opted for an out and return to the north, to the end of the range, and back to Bishop.

Launch (Gunter) was crowded with all the comp pilots and wind dummies so there was a bit of a lineup to get off. Once in the air it was very strong, but do-able, with the occasional spicy stuff. Climbed out above launch to around 4200m and then headed north.

Pilots were taking all sorts of lines, some deep over the peaks, others over the spines, and still others over the flats. I was flying the spines mostly and was staying pretty high. Got my highest climb to that point over White Mountain, to 5000m, and was able to see over the back into the next valley over. Continuing north was super-easy once high, and I ended up staying between 4600-5000m for the next hour or so.

Turned around near the end of the range and headed south. I had a bit of a tailwind at this point so getting back to launch was even quicker, and I was again above 4600m for pretty much the whole run. I got my highest climb of the day over White Mountain again, 5116m (16,900’), and was starting to feel the hypoxia and cold a bit. So I decided to glide back to Bishop and land there to make the retrieve easy.

No lift over the middle of the valley but I was OK with that, and ended up landing at a ball diamond just behind the K-Mart. Alex had done a similar flight and landed on the main road just outside town and was back at the car already, so he came and got me. Total distance about 70 km out-and-return for both of us.

Everyone is rolling into town now, and tomorrow is the first comp day. Weather is looking pretty nice for the next 2 days, light winds, sunny, and hot. Flying here so far is like Golden on steroids, except for the lack of trees and barren rock all the way up from the valley floor.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Owen's Valley

XC Skies for Thursday was calling for more north winds, but lighter than yesterday. More pilots had showed up by today, so we had enough trucks to take everyone to a higher launch. We went to Gunter on the White’s side of the range, which is going to be the main launch for the comp. This launch is at 2500m, but is smaller than Flynn’s size-wise, with only room for 2-3 gliders at a time on the nice part of launch (you can actually lay out and launch anywhere and not just the gravel part, but there is sage elsewhere, which is highly inconvenient for comp lines).

I was feeling much better today so was raring to fly (good thing we showed up early, to give time to acclimate to the altitudes here). Initially the cycles were cross from the north, but they eventually straightening out as the afternoon went on. Launched and flew out towards the spines, as it is a long glide out, and with the north winds it looked like the flats were working just as well as the mountains.

I eventually got to 3400m and found myself with Cherie out front. We ended up flying together for most of the flight, flying out front and avoiding the mountains behind us. Got low a few times, but always managed to climb back out and avoid landing in an inconvenient spot.

Finally at Black Mountain, at the north side of Westguard Pass, we parted ways, as I opted to get high on Black, while Cherie stayed low. Went on glide for Big Pine via the Radio Observatory and was gliding over the highway for the last part of the flight, finding plenty of lift to continue on if I wanted to. Radioed that I was going to land in Big Pine, and chose a ball diamond at the south end of town to land in since it was nice green grass. But getting closer I could see that it was enclosed by a 12’ high fence, with all the gates closed, and I didn’t want to land inside and discover the gates were all locked! So I opted to land just outside the diamond, next to the highway in a sage field. 40km flight.

Luckily a pilot was driving by (coming in from Santa Barbara) and stopped to give me a ride back to my car at the Gunter LZ. Alex landed a few km’s south of me and was back in Bishop by the time I was back with the car. Met up with Brett Hazlett who had just rolled into town, and back to the Hot Springs for another dip in the pools.

There are something like 40 pilots in town already, and 90 are signed up for the comp. Jim Orava and Ryan Letchford are slated to show up sometime today or tomorrow, so there will be something like 8 Canadians either free-flying or in the actual comp.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Owen's Valley

We are in Bishop, California, in the Owen’s Valley, for the US Paragliding Nationals. Got here on Wednesday evening after watching some serious weather move through the area, to hear of some nice flying on Tuesday from Walt’s Point on the Sierra side of the valley.

Owen’s valley is bordered by 2 mountain ranges…the Sierra’s on the west side, and the White’s/Inyo’s on the east (with Westguard Pass separating the Whites and Inyo’s…this Pass leads to the Ancient BristleCone Pine forest just on the other side). There are multiple launches on both sides, depending on when you want to launch (Sierra’s are the morning side, and the White’s are the afternoon side), and how much distance you want available to you for XC.

Wednesday was north winds aloft, which is not very good for the Owen’s in general. Since there were lots of pilots and only Kari’s vehicle capable of getting to launch, we opted for Flynns on the White’s side of the valley, since it is a low launch and everyone could hike up (about 45 minutes), while Kari’s vehicle took the gliders up.

Flynn’s launch is at . Hiking up was relatively easy and everyone was up by 1pm, but I was feeling a touch of altitude sickness coming on after the hike up, and decided not to fly. Everyone else flew and was off launch by 2:30pm. Due to the north winds the lift was actually out front which meant you didn’t have to do a long glide out from way back (the White’s side of the range is rather low angle, and it is easy to get low back there, caught in a gully, and not able to make the valley floor, so you have to be careful not to get caught back there).

Most people flew to Big Pine, about 25 km south of Flynn’s, while others flew to Independence (the next big town south), and a couple to Lone Pine. After driving Kari’s vehicle down I went on chase retrieve after Alex and picked him up just south of Big Pine, after hiking out from the wrong side of the Owen’s River (30 km flight).

Stopped at Keough Hot Springs on the way back to Bishop and a nice soak in the pools, and then back to Bishop to meet up with everyone else.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pemberton

Greg and I arrived at the Pemberton LZ at 1pm, just in time for the 1:15pm loads up to launch (there were about 20 pilots hanging out). People had been launching and scratching for several hours already, but only now were starting to stay up.

Up on launch nice cycles, no Whistler Express, and winds up high were NE. The first bunch of launchers (2:30pm) opted to get up on the Dome, but when I launched it wasn't working, so I went for the tried-and-true rock faces to the southwest. Eventually made my way up to the antennas, and once at ridge height the full force of the NE winds hit, and it was going up everywhere (thermals on the SW side, and ridge lift on the NE side).

Greg had launched earlier and was already on his way to the gap (we had planned to do the milkrun, with a possible top-landing at Copper Mountain). So I got up quickly and then on my way to the gap too, all the thermals were pushing us back into the Pemberton Valley so you had lots of clearance when up high. Greg crossed the gap pretty high and connected to the clouds on the other side, I crossed a bit lower and had to scratch my way back up to cloudbase. Onwards to Copper and Greg top-landed at the old mine entrance while I got my highest of the day, 2700m and change.

I opted not to top-land so as to have 1 OR flight rather than 2xOD flights. Onwards to Hurley and then turned around to find a couple other pilots had joined us. By this time it was 4:30pm and the clouds were dissipating, so we boogied it back to launch and people were still playing around down there. Decided to add a few more km's to the flight by crossing the valley to Satellite Hill and played over there for a bit (too late to get up over the Glacier though). Back at the LZ at 6pm it was nil winds so people were landing every which way.

A perfect day: sunny and warm, nice Q's, beautiful scenery, and enough lift to make things easy once you were up high. Just love Pemberton! 3:07h airtime, 2712m max altitude.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Grouse Mountain

Looked good in the city and was thinking it might be a bit too OD'd for the Fraser Valley so headed to Grouse. Hiked up, arrived around 3:45pm and watched the towering cu's over Vancouver Island, and inland too. It was very cool to watch the cells moving over Georgia Straight and disappear up Howe Sound, with virga coming out of them. Some tandems in the air and a solo glider too, so after watching the weather a bit I launched around 4:30pm.

A bit strong and slow to get away from the mountain initially, but there was gobs of lift way out front so no issues staying high. The forecast had said 2C at 6000', so I had brought my winter flying clothes out and was toasty warm while others were having to land since they were cold.

Cloudbase was somewhere around 1600m I guess, I only went to 1500m since the drift of all the thermals was quite severe and I didn't want to be pushed back into the mountains. Once over the city the wind was quite strong and I had 5-10km/h ground speeds at trim from due west (a bit weird, usually at Grouse it manifests as more a south wind due to the Capilano Valley). Was able to maintain 1500m all the way to the LZ and it was hard to get down, and the slower gliders looked like they were going backwards at times. Probably the windiest I've ever flown Grouse; I heard it was similar windy conditions in the Fraser Valley.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bridal Falls

When we arrived at launch there were already some students in the air, and some staying up. I was flying Alex's Addict2 for a change of pace and launched pretty much right away. Up and away to the clouds above, just below Archibald.

We had decided on a "task" for the day: fly to Ludwig, then to Elk, then top-land Upper Bridal. So after getting to cloudbase I headed east. Dennis, Robin, Martin, and Rob were right behind me.

Stopped a couple times to top up but flew to Ludwig without a lot of faffing around. There was a helicopter doing pickups between the huts below the Butterfly and the hydro plant at the base of the mountain, but low around 4-500m or so, so I didn't worry too much about him (Rob, on the other hand, said they were in his way!).

Back to the Lakes and now only Dennis and myself, the others were still at the Butterfly. Topped up at lower launch (saw a glider in the bushes next to the stump, either an aborted launch or a botched top-landing, not sure which) and straight-lined it to Gloria, where I had to sniff around a bit for a thermal to get me high enough for the crossing and back in case I didn't get lift over at Elk.

The clouds were dissipating and it was starting to stable out. It got so stable that on the way back from Elk, couldn't get high enough to top-land Upper launch, despite me trying for about 30 minutes at the Saddle. At this point it was around 6pm and I could only get 1350m or so, not quite enough. So headed out to land after watching the hoopla at launch with all the top-landers duking it out with the late-launchers. Make sure to clear your turns, people!

40 km OR, 3:36 airtime, max altitude 1572m (at the Lakes).

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

King Eddy

Spent part of yesterday in Mansfield with Martin and Mia, as Mia was trying for the 100 km OR record. Then north to Vernon to test-fly a harness.

Very hot and stable...initially there were a few clouds but they dried up as the afternoon went on. Finally went up Baldy mountain (above King Eddy) for a late afternoon flight.

Glenn had a tandem so I launched first to test the air and see if it was stay-up-able. Very light thermals but not much. Stayed in the one I found to 2000m, and then headed towards Lumby for a little XC.

A couple of thermals later it was getting late, the sun was setting, so glided out towards Lumby and landed near Satellite hill. 21 km open distance. Certainly not Chelan distances, but nice to land in the middle of civilization for once and not be worried about eventually getting picked up.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Chelan

Well the comp is over, but about 40 pilots stayed around to free-fly today. Skies were looking epic again and the winds were light (from the north this time).

Up on launch it was actually leeside on Between the Rocks, but get-offable. Big dust-devils ripped through on a regular basis; I can't remember a day when we've had to jump on our gliders so many times when a big one came through. Across the flats were big ones too...I took a photo of a monster one that went up to cloudbase, just past the rim, and we could see this from the Butte. Not the kind of day when you want to be low!

While I was in the launch lineup a pilot threw her reserve at cloudbase after getting a cravatte that was beyond her skill level to fix. Cloudbase at the time was about 3000m, so she had a long ride down, enough time to completely disable her glider, ball it in her lap, and a bunch of people to run down to greet her as she came in on the slope between Ants and Between the Rocks. She was unhurt.

Launched after that hoopla was taken care of and beamed to cloudbase too. Prior to launching I had this grand plan to do some big XC task, but once in the air I realized I'd rather do a small one, not too strenuous, that got me back to the LZ, since I was still tired and sore from yesterday's flight. I think many other people had the same idea as I saw many stick around "locally" (a relative term when flying Chelan).

Crossed over to the rim and got my low save just past the powerlines (maybe 300') and then up to cloudbase. Stayed pretty much there as I few SE to half-way between Douglas and Farmer, turned north and then angled my way back to the rim under a nice cloudstreet. Chris Amonson was with me for most of the flight. Back to the rim and crossed back to the Butte where I got up again, then back over to the rim to do a leisurely fly around the canyons until finally landing in the LZ. 52 km flat triangle and practically no wind, so today was definitely a triangle day.

Tracklog is at http://www.xcontest.org/world/en/pilots/detail:nicolemclearn

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Chelan


The final day of the comp and the weather was looking epic: sunny, light winds, and cloudbase predicted around 10,000’. So the task committee came up with an ambitious route: a 121 km triangle from the Butte, to Farmer in the SE, North to Leahy, and back west to goal in the Chelan Falls Park LZ.

A nice cloud was already forming above the Butte and the wind dummies were all under it so I launched right away. However the start wasn’t for another hour or so, so we all had to wait for the 12:40pm entry start at the LZ, hanging out at cloudbase and getting cold. Of course the cloud fizzled before the start so we were all lower than possible when the start came. Not really an issue as we crossed over to the rim no problem and then started hunting for thermals past the powerlines.

Stayed in a small gaggle of 4-5 gliders for most of the flight, changing pilots as some dropped out, and others joined in. Once I got established under the clouds I vowed to stay there and avoid all the hassles of getting low. Cloudbase started at 2700m over the Butte, and by the end of the day had risen to 3400m (11,000’, higher than predicted).

I did get low a couple of times: just before tagging Leahy there was a blue hole over it, and I didn’t want to attempt the tagging without getting super-high first since the return to the safety of the clouds was going to be pushing upwind. Finally went for it, tagged it, and back to the clouds, where the convergence was setting up (the west wind off Lake Chelan meeting the south winds up the Columbia River). Here I got my highest climb to 3461m (11,400’) and flew under the convergence all the way to the edge of the Rim.

My glide calculator was saying I had goal on a 5:1 glide, but the instrument doesn’t take into account the fact that there is an obstacle in the way (the rim). Many pilots, seeing they had goal on glide, went for it, and ended up landing on the rim since they couldn’t get over the last piece of vertical elevation. I managed to squeak around the last corner at about 30’ off the ground at McNeil Canyon, and then was slaloming between trees on the other side, until I got around the corner fully and then had free air all around me to reach the LZ and goal after 6:30 hours of flying.

According to xContest it is a 104 km FAI triangle, and a possible world record(s) for the women’s class (since the current triangle distance record is 93 km, and there is no speed record set yet for the 100 km triangle). Will have to check into the rules about claiming it since it was during an FAI-sanctioned comp. (I think during a comp, the meet director can act as an FAI observer and sign off the paperwork.)

About 45 pilots made goal despite it being such a huge-distance task. There were also a couple of pilots who made goal, but hadn’t gotten a previous TP, so didn’t get credit for their flight. Lots of happy pilots in the LZ, personal bests, and stories to tell of low saves.

Martin and Mia were out towing that day, I’m sure Martin will post here about Mia’s epic flight. Another HG pilot flew to Reardon/Spokane area (160 km), and a PG wind dummy decided to fly open distance to Davenport after the comp’s start opened (135 km).

With this flight I managed to claw my way back to 3rd spot in the women’s category, enough for the podium. Awards were ipods! I should mention a big thank-you to Cherie Silvera, who had already won an ipod (for being 3rd in the serial class) and gave me her 2nd place ipod in the women’s class, since there was no award for 3rd place. Cherie, you’re awesome!

Final results can be found at http://www.chelanxcopen.com/
Pics are at http://mclearn.ca/gallery/
My tracklog is at http://www.xcontest.org/world/en/flights/daily-score-pg/?filter%5Bdate%5D=2008-08-02

Congrats to Keith for being the top Canadian pilot there, coming in 10th overall! I think we all had a great time flying here, and some of us are staying around to free fly, since the epic weather is predicted to continue for a couple days yet.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chelan

Sunny and light winds at the beginning of the day, with the winds predicted to strengthen quite a bit as the afternoon went on (to 15-20 mph on the ground). Task today was race to Okanagan (about 70 km) with no turnpoints in between. When we heard the task there was lots of discussion amongst pilots about which route to take: you could stay on the Chelan side of the river (the mountainous side) until closer to goal, or you could cross over to the Flats right away and fly on that side (the east side) all the way north.

Initially I had planned to stick to the west (mountainous) side, but once in the air I realized it was quite strong south winds aloft, and I didn’t want to be anyplace where being in the lee was a probability. So I decided to fly the Flats since there usually is no lee.

When the start came at 1pm, the gaggle split roughly 60/40: 60% went for the west/mountainous route, and 40% of us went for the east/Flats route. Crossing was a bit slow, and once on the other side at McNeil canyon all the thermals were actually pushing us back over the river. So we’d start at the rim, thermal up, end up over the river, and have to push back to the rim again for the next thermal.

It was quite windy up high and all our thermals were giant ovals rather than circles. It was hard to stay with the thermals since they were very bullet-like with strong edges and I heard lots of canopies flapping as pilots were having collapses. Eventually after a few km’s of flying north, I couldn’t catch the next good thermal (I was headed for a field with dust devils in it but didn’t get there in time to ride any back up) and ended up landing in a field next to the only paved road in the area.

I could see lots of dust-devils around (there was one in the same field I landed in but at the other end) so I unhooked from my glider ASAP as I’ve been taught when flying the Flats in Chelan (“Never stay connected to your glider when on the ground on the Flats”…thanks Martin!). Packed up and then the long walk back to civilization. No cell coverage and nobody on the retrieve frequency meant walking to a house and using their landline instead. Spent the time talking with the lady about combines and the secrets of wheat-farming :)

Back in Chelan and turning in the GPS met lots of pilots who did the west/mountainous route, and got varying distances on that side before landing. A bunch of pilots landed at the airport after getting flushed behind ridges in the strong winds, and more landings up in the various canyons and having to walk back out to the main road. Cherie won the day, and most of the Canadian contingent made goal too. I guess it just wasn’t my day to be among them!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chelan

Tuesday was cloudy and blown out, day was cancelled. Reports of heavy rains in Seattle and on the coast in general, stayed dry on this side of the mountains!

Today (Wednesday) was sunny and post frontal, but the winds were still too strong for a task, so after sitting up on the Butte for an hour or so, the day was cancelled.

A few pilots decided to stay on launch in case the winds died down later on. The rest of us went back down and did various things. I showed some pilots the airport ridge flying site and it was blowing in straight. However you could see the gusts coming off the river, when they hit it gusted to 35 kph. A bit too strong for launching there, especially when you consider the row of power lines right behind launch (no dragging allowed!).

About 6:30pm the gusts on launch were more reasonable so 4 of us launched...Mark, Deryk, Brett, and myself. It had actually lulled on launch so much that it was almost forward-able, but once in the air it was still plenty lifty. Flew around for about 30 minutes and then turned downwind to land next to our tents at the airport. Very sweet to launch, fly, and be back to your own vehicle, all in one hour!

I'm not sure if anyone else flew today...it was windy and gusty enough at the airport ridge that I imagine it was way too strong to launch from the Butte. But Martin et al were towing at Mansfield so it was probably good on the Flats today.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chelan

Forecast for today was sunny and light winds from the south. But no cu’s, and some high cirrus came though occasionally. A 62.2 km task was set: Butte to Sims Corner, then goal at Leahe.

The launch order today was decided by your FAI ranking. However, the first 20 minutes was allocated to whomever wanted to launch, without having a higher-ranked pilot butt in front of you. After the first 20 minutes a higher-ranked pilot could butt in front of you. Subsequent days will be determined by your comp ranking from the day before.

The launch window opened at 11:45am, but it had been soarable for at least 30 minutes prior to that (and probably even earlier) as the wind-dummies were showing. However the pilot’s meeting ended about 11:40am, which didn’t give anyone enough time to get their stuff on in time for the window to open and take advantage of the first 20 minutes. By the time any of us had gotten our stuff on, the 20 minute window had passed and it was time for people to start butting in.

Fortunately there were continuous cycles up Ants, Between the Rocks, and Green Monster, for everyone to get off. The air was punchy and a bit rough, smoothed out as you got higher. Not much drift but slightly to the north.

Since the start cylinder was a 3 km exit cylinder, and the 3 km mark is pretty much the middle of the river, you had to stay on the Butte until the race started, and then head over en-masse. Reached the other side and found a nice thermal with some other pilots, enough to get us past the power lines, and onto the flats where the lift was abundant.

The winds were quite southerly, so it was actually a bit of a headwind to Sims Corner (about 50 km away), and the thermals were drifting the wrong way. It got worse the further south we flew, especially lower down. Finally at Mansfield I made the mistake of getting low and caught in the winds, and ended up landing at Mansfield, in Martin and Mia’s HG LZ next to their house.

Packed up on their lawn and met Ivan and Luc, then Mia gave me a ride part-way back towards the Butte since she was chasing after Martin in that direction already. Nice cool grass and shade to pack up in is much better than doing so in the moon dust in the hot sun in the middle of nowhere!

About 30 pilots made goal…if you could tag Sims, you were golden since Leahe was downwind of Sims and only 10 km further. The trick was staying high all the way to Sims, and being patient with the thermals tracking the wrong way and driving forward after topping out.

Brian Webb had a rather “fast” landing…he was headed downwind into goal about 70 km/h, got the goal cylinder about 20’ off the ground, no time to turn around and land into the wind…he landed downwind skidding on his harness on the only patch of green grass in a sea of sagebrush! Josh Cohn missed the Sims TP due to his thermal taking him the wrong way, ended up at Leahe, and then drove back upwind to tag Sims before turning around for Leahe and goal for the 2nd time. Good going!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chelan


I’m in Chelan for the next week or so, for the Chelan XC Open/Pre-PWC/Canadian Nationals. Got here yesterday, mid-day, in time to see a gaggle of pilots finally get high on the Butte (apparently they had been scratching since it had been overcast until now) and make the crossing to the flats. After getting up on the flats they flew NE, aided by the SW winds. Pilots were scattered all the way from Mansfield to Grand Coulee.

As the afternoon went on it got windier and windier, so no more flying except for that early gaggle. The forecast was for it to remain windy into Sunday, and get light on Monday (the first day of the comp).

Sunday was indeed windy, much more so than Saturday, and only 3 brave souls dared launch into it, all of them landing in the Chelan Falls LZ. It didn’t look very fun. The rest of the day was spent lounging in the LZ or the beach.

Vital Statistics for the comp:

Minimum distance: 5 km
Nominal distance: 40 km
Nominal time: 1.5 hours
Nominal in goal: 30%

Task Committee:
Bell Belcourt
Josh Cohn
Keith McCullough
Brian Webb

Safety Committee:
Jack Brown
Tom Moock
Will Gadd
Brad Gunnuscio

Protest Committee:
Doug Stroop
Bernard Winkelmann
Matt Beechinor

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Grouse Mountain

By the time I got my day's chores finished it was too late to drive to the Valley so I opted for Grouse Mountain. Arrived at the gondola at 4pm and met up with Yaro, Todd, Gavin, and Herminio (the First Flight tandem pilots). They launched first with their tandems and I went afterwards.

Nice straight-in cycles and into the air. Smooth all the way out to the rocks and then huge lift, and equally huge sink. I wasn't flying with any instruments but it sure felt strong. Fedja who was flying too said later on he felt the same strong lift.

After about 1 hour I decided I'd had enough and went out to land. Usual landing conditions in the landing zone, with the windsock flipping all over the place and pilots landing every which direction. Bill Nikolai was there too for flight #2. All in all a nice day, albeit a bit rough and strong, but much more convenient than Bridal when leaving the city late in the day!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Malahat and Dallas Road

Alex and I were on the Island this weekend to attend a wedding, so no Lumby for us. But we brought the gliders in case the flying was good in Victoria. Met up with Bruce McGuigan who drove us to Malahat this morning.

Picked up the key to the gate and up the mountain we went. You park and then it's about a 15 minute walk to the launch. It is essentially east-facing so you want to be there early...today you also had to be there early since the LZ is a beach on Saanich Inlet that disappears with high tide (which was scheduled for 2:30pm). Launch is about 1800', and you have to call up the Victoria airport tower to open the airspace up (you are looking right at the Victoria Airport from across the Inlet and can see planes landing and taking off from launch.)

Launch itself is a hang gliding ramp on the edge of a cliff...paragliders lay out on the rocks behind the ramp and launch off the ramp, no mis-steps are allowed! Oh yeah, there's power lines behind the ramp too, leading up the radio tower at the peak (where the best lift is, incidentally).

It was blowing in quite nicely so we all got ready. Alex launched first and went straight up, then it was my turn. A few duffs while I got the kinks out (my first time flying since my shoulder injury) and then I was in the air too.

There's actually not a lot of places to go at Malahat, if you want to stay legal. Due to the proximity of the Victoria Airport, you aren't allowed more than 2500' ASL (even after opening up the airspace), and the mountain is rather isolated so you have to leave the obvious lift if you want to stray. After playing around the launch for a bit I got high enough to stray south, but didn't really find anything worth my while. So after a couple of hours I got to my highest of around 2500' and then headed out to land.

Bruce and Alex and some local hang gliders (Les Sainsbury et al) had already landed and the beach was getting smaller by the minute. About 1 hour after we landed the beach was totally gone under water.

Back to Victoria and to Dallas Road, where Jayson Biggins was there with a bunch of students kiting. The wind was just coming on so we timed it right! Down low it was a bit rough and windy, but the higher you got the smoother it got.

After a while of doing passes back and forth, got high enough to skip over Findlayson Park. This section has no LZ's at the bottom besides the ocean, so you only would want to be there if the wind is obviously strong and consistent. At the far end are some apartment buildings and a pond that mark the end of the mostly-usable lift at Holland Park, and that's where we were all turning around.

Back at launch, Bruce had landed to go get pizza for the rest of us; he was in downtown Victoria doing this and said he could see us flying from the downtown core (he's never seen that before, apparently).

Landed and Bruce was there with pizza to eat on the launch while watching the other pilots fly, land, goof around, etc etc. It was very cool to be flying over apartments and looking at the Parliament buildings from the air, looking down and overtaking cars on the roads, and watching the waves crash on the rocks below. It was pretty special, compared to the mountain flying I usually do.

When we left about 8pm, it was still flyable and Ian Mitchell had just shown up to fly. Must be nice to have a flying site so close to home!

Back to the mainland tomorrow morning and hopefully fly the Fraser Valley in the afternoon.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mount Woodside

Woodside looked like it was going to work as soon as the sun came out, although in the morning it didn't look very promising according to the locals...rain, no blue skies, and low cloudbase. But just around noon it started clearing in the city so I figured it would soon follow in the FV, so collected Alex and headed out.

Got a ride up with Martina and Derek and you can drive part way up the spur road before the snow gets too deep and you have to hike up the last hill. On launch was Jim and a couple of students, and one already in the air. It looked strong-ish according to the student hanging motionless in the air, but not super-so on launch, so I got ready and took off in a nice cycle. Straight up but I had 15-20 km/ ground speed so I radioed that it was fine, and the rest soon followed after.

Initially it was a combo of ridge/thermal flying, quite light, but lift all over the place. Then the clouds started forming above and behind launch (just after 3pm), and we started playing around with those. The ones on the south knob were especially nice to play around the edges of, and Norm got high under one and headed over towards Harvest Market, and then returned to the south knob later on. I got high under another one, and used it to get to another series of clouds forming over the north side. Around this time it started to get shady and the lift was dying lower down, so I milked things for a bit until the sun came back out.

By this time (around 4pm) the clouds were forming all over the place behind launch and you could ridge-soar the front sides of them. I used the first series of clouds to bench up to the next series of clouds higher up, and so on, until I was at 1350m halfway back to Agassiz Mountain, still going up. The clouds were giving lift all over the place, but they weren't towering and were very "fluffy", so the lift was pretty gentle. It was very cool to pretend the clouds were solid objects and try to slalom around them...seeing a portion of cloud form and then curl under like a wave and try to fly under the curl before the wave broke, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't Smile Other times pretending to scrape my wing against the solid side of the cloud just to see how close I could contour my way around the edge of the cloud. Almost like dune soaring in California, minus the actual hard ground in case you got too close with your glider.

Eventually I decided I was far enough back behind Woodside that I pushed back forward to rejoin Alex who was still in the air (everyone else had landed by now). It was around 5:15pm and we were contemplating top-landing to retrieve the vehicles still up there when we were told a retrieve convoy was already on the way back up, so not necessary. So we were able to milk the last of the clouds before they dissipated as the sun got low in the sky, landing about 5:30. Total airtime 2:05, and very cool to be flying around, over, under, and behind all those clouds, seeing your glory-reflection every time you looked around.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mount Woodside

Sunny with cu's popping in the FV, although the winds were a bit north. Got a ride up to past lower launch with Jim R., and then via snowmobile with Derek to launch (there's still lots of snow, although word is that the road will be plowed by Monday). Up on launch Kevin was already in the air so I set up and joined him. Initially the best lift was over to the SE side of the mountain, and you had to head over there as soon as you launched or else you found yourself below launch scratching and sinking out.

It was definitely leeside, and when you got to 1000 m it got really rough and strong from the North. In fact the lift was better lower down and away from the mountain. Eventually I headed out to the last ridge before the old HG LZ, where Alex and Kevin were thermalling out, and found the lift there was better than anywhere else on the mountain. So I stayed there for the next bit, exploring the new logging slashes in the area. The winds there were quite strong from the North and pushing north to Harrison Bay was slow going (every thermal was drifting us towards the new subdivision above Bert Duncan's house).

Eventually I drifted back to launch to see the next wave of people arriving and launching...the lift was getting lighter and more spotty so we weren't getting so high. Eventually back to the north ridge above the HG LZ and played around there a bit more, then headed out to Eagle Ranch LZ. Landed in kite-able NW winds after 2h27min flight time. Highest was 1200 m.

Spring is here! But wear your clothes...I used hand-warmers and was glad to have them! And the pod harness definitely keeps the body heat in much more effectively than an open harness :)