The forecast was calling for some high clouds but the lapse rate looked good despite that, so went out to Woodside. Arrived to find Martin and Mia kiting in Bill Best's field in the north wind, but less wind closer to the mountain and a group of people had just arrived on launch and tossed off a student. The student sled-rided down so we figured it wasn't quite on and not a big rush.
Veronica and I waited at the bottom of the road up for a ride, while Alex started hiking up the direct way through the trees. We saw the occasional pilot headed out to Eagle Ranch or Riverside; some were getting above launch but it was still pretty light.
Eventually we got a ride up with Jim Reich and were able to get all the way to launch, after putting chains up just past lower launch, and almost going off the road next to the last parking lot before the spur road (if you look at the tracks in the snow you'll see how close we came to going over the edge...we jumped out at that point!).
Up on launch it was quite light, blowing all over the place lightly but not consistently. There were dark clouds coming from the Mount Baker direction so we were trying to get off before that came in and shut things down. Annette launched and was shortly above launch, which gave us the impetus to get our stuff ready sooner rather than later.
When I launched the dark clouds were almost at the sun and I wasn't too optimistic. Since I had parked the car at the Koffee Kettle, I had already decided to land in Riverside so there was no rush to head out as soon as I launched, so when I launched I headed south rather than north or out.
I saw a bunch of eagles playing to the SE of the south knob, around the corner to Harvest Market so I headed out that way. Lots of sink on the way and I was at some points too low to make Riverside, but there were lots of sandbars available so I was prepared to land on one of those if necessary. I reached the eagles and was rewarded with some nice 0.1's, which seemed like a good idea to stay in since everyone else was sinking out.
At this point the dark clouds dissipated into nice puffy cu's and it got sunny all of a sudden. The lift I was in got stronger (0.6!!) and I was now high enough to make Riverside. Veronica and Ralph joined me for a bit and then we all headed back to the cutblocks, where I was able to hang out and bop around between 400-500 m for the next hour.
Eventually a bunch of more people arrived on launch and lobbed off and appeared to be above launch. It looked easier to stay up if you could stay at launch height, but once below a certain altitude it was much harder to get back up. I was able to claw my way back up to 600 m at one point and thought I would be able to join the pilots above me, but it was not to be. The dark clouds finally materialized and started to shut things down, and people started sinking out.
Finally bit the bullet and landed in Riverside after 1h 13min airtime. I think my strongest lift was 1.1 m/s and much of the time was spent in 0.4-0.6. It was definitely rewarding to hang in there for so long and work on my patience and light lift skills (which I haven't had a chance to practice in a while).
After I landed another group of people went up and it was sled-rides only, so those two pulses of soaring in the afternoon were it for the day. All in all a rather satisfying day for me personally, although some people may have felt the day was a bit unspectacular.
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