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!

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