I had high hopes for today as the forecast was looking good. Got to Woodside early, 11am, only to find out that Derek and Martina were up on launch with it blowing down and not able to launch. Oh well no rush then so we didn't get up to launch until 1pm or so.
A large cloud had parked itself over launch, keeping it in the shade and down cycles so it was difficult to get off launch. My original plan had been for an OR to Mt. St. Benedict and back, but to the west over Sasquatch it was OD'ing and snowing continuously, so it wasn't the best option to fly into. My backup plan was to head over the back and cross to Bridal, and possibly try the crossing back if daylight and conditions allowed.
Launched and beamed up to cloudbase which was around 1800m or so, and was thinking of heading over the back when the cloud started to get really sucky and dark. So I had to detour all around it to the north etc to stay out of it, and had to wait for it to dissipate and the next cloud to form for me to head over the back, another 30 minutes or so waiting around in the freezing cold. Fortunately I had hand warmers on the go so I was toasty warm all over (thank you pod harness!).
The next cloud over launch cycled and I decided it was time to go. Left at about 1900m and arrived at Agassiz Mountain where I had to wait for a cycle to come through for the crossing to Bear. At this point about 4-5 gliders were chasing after me and Robin was able to get up to me, while Greg, Rob. S, Nicolai, and Stein weren't.
Crossed over to Bear with Robin and got the nicest climb of the day over the peak, smooth lift to 2050m and then I decided it was time to hang a right to Ludwig. The crossing was the nicest one I've done in a while despite getting snowed on and it accumulating in my lap...I arrived at Ludwig at 1300m or so and was able to climb back to 1600m by the time I reached the Butterfly.
There was tonnes of snow in the trees and lots of snow slide runouts on the steep sections. I've never been at the Butterfly this early in the season and it was very beautiful. I took my camera out to take pictures but it was so cold the batteries had frozen up and died, so I wasn't able to get the awesome pics of frozen waterfalls and meters of snow all over the place.
Now usually when we're at the Butterfly at 1600m, it's not an issue of whether you can make it back to Bridal or not. It's so lifty that you can just boat along. Not this time. All of us were super-high at the Butterfly and still we plummeted to Earth in continuous sink once we left, despite the nice cu's all along the ridge. Amazingly, we all landed out at various places at the base of Cheam and nobody made it to the Bridal LZ, much less Elk and high enough to cross back to Woodside.
On the other hand, Jim on a tandem, got to 1700m over Riverside and headed to the Bridal LZ direct (not bothering with the loop the rest of us were doing), and made it! Greg broke from the rest of us at Bear and continued east to Hope, landing at the airport. And Kevin launched from Bridal and was able to glide to Harvest Market. Everyone else at Bridal sunk out about the same time we were coming over from Woodside so at least it wasn't just us!
Thanks for Martin N. for coming to pick me up and saving me a hitch-hike back to Woodside. Colleen came over too to pick up Jim et al, and there was a vehicle swap going on between Kevin and Rob. S. since they had both crossed the valley and landed on the opposite side from their respective vehicles.
All in all it was a great day, except for the mass-flushing at that one point. It was super north wind and the trees on the Bridal side were fully loaded with snow down to 400m, so I don't think there was much thermic action going on the mountain. It may have been better to fly west from Ludwig over the highway and get a better glide to the Bridal LZ. Total distance was about 30 km and 2 hours flight time. Tracklog is here.