It was a lot stronger today compared to yesterday. Forecast was for ridge soarable winds and unstable so decided to head out earlier rather than later as I figured Woodside might blow out. Got to the bottom of the road up to launch at 1pm and started hiking since everyone was already up on launch; Martin H. was already soaring out front on his PG.
I got a ride right away with Shane in his car, so I knew we weren't going to make it all the way :) But we were able to get to the snowline, after passing Stefan who was also hiking, at which point we parked the car and started hiking ourselves.
Got 100 m up the road or so and then a truck came by and offered me a ride. Stefan was already in back so I joined him. However because the truck had stopped in the snow, it wasn't able to get going again so we had to back down to a section where the dirt was showing through the ruts. At this point Alex W. in his truck and another 2 trucks behind him joined us and all 4 vehicles started headed up again.
Of course once on the snow and up the road a bit we came across a truck that was coming down, and with the snow 2' deep in spots, there was no place to pass. Our truck tried to get off the road to let him pass but got stuck, and was blocking the road for the truck trying to get down, and also the 3 trucks behind us trying to get up. With people standing around and trying to figure out what to do, and getting ropes etc out to tow stuff out of the way, Stefan and I decided to make our escape and started hiking yet again.
We reached launch finally around 2pm and it was nice cycles, 15 km/h or so and Jon Orders on his new HG and Martin N. both above launch. Jim was about to launch a tandem so I got ready ASAP.
Stefan was set up ahead of me but wasn't quite ready, so I jumped in front with his blessing. Launched and went straight up into obviously ridge soaring conditions with lots of thermals mixed in. It was quite strong but smooth; definitely spring-like and not like yesterday.
My radio battery died so I wasn't able to talk to anybody about the in-flight conditions, but I noticed nobody launching after me. Apparently about 5 minutes after I launched it went from a nice 15 km/h to something like 35-40 kph. Up in the air it was still fine, a bit on the strong side wind-wise, but totally doable provided you could actually launch into it.
I flew around for a bit and played with the clouds out front; they were forming out over the river and then growing once over the mountain. I got to 1550 m and still nice and smooth, but I noticed the pilots lower down were landing looking parked, and cats-paws forming right next to Riverside. And I noticed my forward speed was slightly decreasing to high single digits, and the clouds were starting to get big all around, especially over at Bridal and Vedder with towering cu's. And as I was starting to get cold I opted to land. Riverside didn't look very inviting with Martin N. hoovering down into it with the cats-paws right offshore, and anywhere on the peninsula didn't look very nice either (I found out later on that it was quite entertaining to watch the landings at Eagle Ranch). So I turned tail for Harvest Market.
Downwind was 65 kph and I figured this was going to be an interesting landing. When I got near to Harvest I turned back into the wind and discovered it was still high single digits even though I was lower, and with the occasional gust I was actually going backwards for brief moments. Not very comforting when the Harvest field has a row of powerlines at the downwind end, and despite staying upwind of the field I was running out of usable field quite quickly. It looked like if I stayed in the same situation I might encounter the powerlines before I encountered the ground, or encounter the ground but then get dragged into the powerlines (both not good!), so I made the decision to turn downwind again at about 300' to cross the highway to the next field downwind of Harvest, and land there instead.
That field was powerline-free so I had no worries about using up the whole field to back myself into, and landed uneventfully in a rather muddy field. It was really gusty so I opted to land by hauling on my D's rather than use my brakes to flare, and killed the glider as soon as I landed and quickly unhooked from it (lesson learned from last time!). It was too windy to pack up, gusting to 40 kph on the ground, so I just stuffed the glider into the bag and hiked out to Harvest, where Martin N. picked me up.
Windy all over the peninsula and it stayed windy all the way back to Vancouver. Dark clouds east of Agassiz so it was probably raining in Hope and a good call for people to not stick around and try to fly later on, as it looked like the day was getting bigger rather than smaller as time went on. I probably should have left to land 10-15 minutes sooner than I did, and would have saved myself the stress of landing in strong gusty winds. Had my radio battery not died, I would have found out about conditions on the ground sooner as people were trying to let me know and not getting a response from me. Always make sure your battery is recharged!
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