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.