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!