Sunday, May 31, 2009

WCPC Day 1: T-storms threaten and lots of wind at Grant's Pass


Day 1 of the WCPC and the weather wasn’t looking that great. High cloud, and where it was blue, it was going off in a big way. It looked like it would be a light day unless it blue’d up, and then it would have to be a quick flight before the T-storms came in. The initial forest fire from yesterday's storm was almost out by this morning, and the other lightening strike on Burnt (we saw the flames last night, so there were 2 separate strikes that started fires) was on the way to being out too. So the task committee called a 45 km task towards Grant’s Pass to the Troon Winery LZ, via Rabies and Burnt.

When I launched I had to fight a bit to get high, but was able to get to about 5300’ at one point. But of course it was too early (the start hadn’t happened yet) and when the start came I was low again. When I eventually got high again I decided to cross to Rabies, even though I wasn’t as high as I wanted to be. It was a choice between leaving low-ish, but with a group to help me along on the other side, or staying around and getting higher, but being alone for the crossing and subsequent flying.

The crossing was OK but the wind at Rabies ridge was horrendous and I arrived too low to get to the upwind side of the ridge (I actually had about 20' to clear the trees), and the lee was nasty. After my glider started doing the funky chicken I decided a tree-landing was not what I wanted, so I turned tail and landed at the Hunter LZ. About 15 other pilots eventually landed with me, while the group that had gotten across with more height were able to get away, tag both Rabies and Burnt, and get to the high country to head to Grant’s Pass.

Of the group that made it to the high country, many landed short of Grant’s Pass due to the extreme winds and hard climbs. Others made Grant’s Pass but landed short of goal after the final glides were worse than expected (downwind at 6:1 wasn’t enough apparently). In the end, somewhere between 6-10 people made goal. I think due to the number of people landing in the Hunter LZ (within minimum distance) it won’t be a fully valid 1000 point day.

I think had we waited another 30 minutes it would have been easier. I watched later pilots make the crossing easier than I had, and the lift seemed more abundant and the winds less later on. And the OD didn’t come like yesterday; it stayed south around Shasta and Mt. Ashland and no T-storms either. The good thing about only making minimum distance today is that I have no place to go but up in the future!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Woodrat and the beginning of the WCPC

Yesterday's flight wasn't the greatest for me...I wasn't able to get high over launch, so opted to cross the valley to Rabies low (5100') just to see if I could get up on the other side from such a low starting altitude. Yes I was able to get to the other side, but no lift to be found at the antenna so I turned back and landed at the regular LZ. Alex had a better flight, getting almost all the way to Grant's Pass before returning and landing out near the Hunter's LZ.

Today was a much nicer day. More clouds and the development was closer than yesterday, but easier lift and more of it. Crossed to Rabies successfully and then did the run to just before Grant's Pass along with all the other comp pilots here for practice. Cloudbase was about 10,000' which is a nice altitude for around here. Tracklog is here.

When a bunch of us turned back for Woodrat the development to the south was getting big and anvils were starting to form, so we all decided to land at Longsword's vinyard (45 km OR). This LZ is nicer to land at in the middle of the day (more steady winds vs. the Hunter's which can be switchy winds), and the owners now have a policy of when you land there, you get a free glass of wine! So of course about 30 pilots landed there today, and I imagine we'll be having this LZ as a goal field some days of the comp.

Lightening as the anvils came overhead to round out the day (everyone was on the ground by then), and one of the lightening strikes hit Woodrat Mountain just below the north launch and started a forest fire. Last we saw before it got dark the local fire department was still fighting the fire so we hope it's out by tomorrow so we can fly :)

There are about 40 pilots registered for the WCPC (Veronica is the other Canuck registered) so it'll be a nice intimate comp, compared to the Worlds in Valle (my last comp), hopefully with nicer start gaggles too!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bridal May 27

A rather average looking day but still Bridal-able. Arrived in the LZ to see some visiting American pilots who knew they were in an LZ, but weren't sure about the way up.

Up on launch it was pretty quiet but nice cycles. Over at Woodside we could hear Robin and Kevin flying at about 1100m, eventually flying over the back to Agassiz Mountain and then to Harvest as there was wind lines on Harrison Bay. Robin was flying his new Mantra M3 and Kevin was busy drooling over it; I think we'll have another M3 in the Valley soon :)

For a while I was the only one in the air...Alan was over at Woodside driving for Jim and a tandem-friend of his, so I flew to Elk by myself and found the best lift over there.

In the bowl east of Archibald I came across Alex again, who reported seeing a large bear in the scree meadow below him. Sure enough I saw a very large bear (not sure if it was a really large brown-colored black bear, or a grizzly, but it sure was huge) ambling it's way along the scree meadows.

Back to Gloria and it was definitely getting shady from the cirrus cloud moving in, so I returned to launch and top-landed in perfect conditions to drive Ian's truck down. Ian was doing a tandem with Leon (paramotor pilot) and they had a nice 40 minute flight or so before they got shut down by shade.

Alex and I are now off to Woodrat for the West Coast Paragliding Championships so will be (hopefully) blogging daily.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

104 km in Pemberton!



What an awesome day!

We arrived in Pemberton this morning after camping on the Duffy Lake road and it was a perfect blue sky day. XC Skies was reporting light winds and not much chance of Whistler Express so Alex and I talked about the 100km OR.

This flight needs several things to come together: light north winds, enough daylight, not too stable but not too unstable, and a low Lilloet River. This last one is especially important as past the 25 km mark (Hurley) you run out of regular LZ's and have to rely on either a) cutblocks on the side of the mountains, or b) sandbars on the river. Usually this time of year the Lilloet is rising and the sandbars disappear, but this year it's late and the river is still very low with tonnes of sandbars to land on.

Landing on a sandbar is one thing, but if you land anywhere past Hurley, you're gonna be walking for a bit since the road is not well-travelled. I imagine cell reception sucks there too. Good thing I have a SPOT!

Anyways, things were looking good for the attempt so Alex and I got our stuff ready just in case it looked good once we got to the Hurley Gap. Launched about 1:30pm and we were off.

Topped out at the antennas about 2700m and headed north for Hurley. Getting there was pretty easy, a slight headwind but nothing to worry about. There weren't any clouds so no worries about OD or getting sucked into a cloud!

At Hurley (the 25 km mark) we got our highest climb of the day, just above 3000m, and we looked at the gap. This is where the road to Goldbridge is, and it's pretty wide. And at the other side it's pretty low-angle, with a long glide to the riverbed sandbars. You don't want to do this glide starting low!

Mike Sadan was with us and we decided to go for it. Started across the gap and the north wind all of a sudden picked up. Progress across the gap was slow, and I thought about turning back as didn't look like it was gonna work. But Alex and Mike were still with me (and lower!) so I knew I was OK as long as I stayed higher than them!

Finally across the gap and it was fully windy; the thermals were all leaned over back into the gap so I had to find strong ones, circle a bit in them, and then push back upwind to find another one, and slowly make my way north of the gap. Initially I thought the strong wind was just the Hurley Gap "sucking" wind into it, and it would subside the further north we got, but nope it didn't happen!

Alex and I slowly made our way north of the gap and we were now in virgin (for us) territory. Mike Sadan had turned back so it was just the two of us now. For the next 2 bours, we battled the north wind (which turned into a west wind as we flew north and the valley turned more to the west). I made sure to stay high and take it slow; I didn't particulary relish the thought of landing out in this tiger country. Alex was lower than me for most of the flight and almost had to land a few times himself. But we were able to stick it out.

There was another large gap to cross at North Creek but we both managed to cross it, and then it was last bit until we got to Meager Creek. At the 50 km mark the valley splits into a Y (third photo), with the left part of the Y headed towards Squamish, and the right side of the Y headed for the Lilloet Icefields and the Lilloet Glacier. Mount Meager is at this junction too.

We stopped at the 50 km mark and marvelled at the views. To the north we could see one of the arms of the Lilloet Glacier spilling down into the valley (blocking it), and all around it was snowcapped mountains. No clouds anywhere except in the Interior around the Cariboo so we had perfect views. At the Y junction we also noticed a logging camp set up at the river (third photo, rectangular cutblock next to river). Good to know if you land out that far!

The winds were very strong from the west here so we were able to ridge soar indefinitely at the junction. But it was 5pm and we still had 50 km to go with the day mellowing out. So after drinking in our fill of the view we turned around.

Getting back was much easier than the flight north, as we had a significant tailwind to push us back. While the flight there was over 3 hours (average groundspeed in the high teens), the return was only 2 (groundspeeds in the high 40's and low 50's).

Back at Hurley Gap I breathed a bit of sigh of relief that I was now within glide of regular fields and LZ's, and civilization in general! Crossing the gap was easy with the tailwind, and on the other side it was still north, which made the rest of the trip easy.

I was pretty tired by now which is probably why I had my collapse (after 5+ hours in rough air, I wasn't on top of my game). About 8 km from Pemberton I hit a thermal a bit off-side and wasn't on my brakes immediately, which resulted in a massive 60-70% assymetric. Of course it cravatted, and as it wound up into a spiral I leaned away and braked opposite, which caused it to drop back into a full stall. I let up and it surged forward (releasing the cravatte) and rotated about me but I was able to catch it, and after a bunch of controlling the surges and rotations I was back to straight and level flight.

Alex of course was behind me and saw the show. Fortunately I was at 2000m when it happened so I was plenty high, but had I not caught the wind-up-to-spiral when I did, I may have had to throw my reserve. I'd rather not do that in the wilds of Pemberton!

The final 8 km was uneventful and I rounded out my day by crossing the valley to Satellite hill, and to the Community Centre LZ by 7pm. The flight was about 5 1/2 hours so I was totally pooped. Alex landed just before me and promptly collapsed next to his glider, just as tired as me. Tracklog is here. Alex took some photos which are here.

The flight was 104-105 km (Alex pushed back to Pemberton on the way back to get the extra 1 km on me!) and was a first for both of us. We've always wanted to do that flight but there's always something wrong with the conditions. This time however it was perfect! Had the wind been a bit stronger north we probably wouldn't have been able to do the Hurley Gap crossing, and had the river been flooding we wouldn't have had any LZ's. And it was a blue day so no clouds to worry about!

The day was also rewarding since it wasn't a gimmee. We both had to work really hard for that flight. It was rough in places and some of the climbs weren't that great. There were lots of times when the glide out to a sandbar was suspect, and we would have had to rely on a sidehill landing in a nasty cutblock instead. Most times I was glad to be on my Magic 4 with it's better speed into-wind and glide; but there were times when it was full-on tiger-country flying and I wanted to be on Alex's glider! It was definitely a flight I'll remember!

Meanwhile many other people in Pemberton had excellent flying the same day. A bunch of people launched from Rainbow launch (in Whistler, Claude Fiset's launch) and flew to Pemberton, and one pilot possibly continued onwards to Lilloet. And a bunch of hang glider pilots showed up (Christine, Jon, Neil, and one other I can't remember) and I heard they had good flights too. Peter C. flew to Strawberry Point on Lilloet Lake where Ted has his boat-towing operation set up for the summer. I think today was a day where a person could have flown pretty much anywhere, the winds were so light aloft!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bridal May 22

After yesterday's flight to Hope I was in a mellow mood so opted for a short flight (after getting Ryan his first Bridal flight, and first soaring flight, about 1 hour on the soaring knob) to Elk and back. Uneventful flight there and back, and able to connect with the clouds at Elk at 1700m so I was able to push out to the antennas to the west and still make it back to Bridal. Total distance about 17 km.

Alex and I are now off to Pemberton via the Duffy Lake road for some flying up there!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bridal to Hope May 21

Arrived at Bridal around 3pm and got a ride up with Kevin Ault. People were already in the air and reporting light winds so we talked about a possible flight to Hope. (As Hope is usually windy in the afternoon, we don't usually fly to there, so a light wind day is a chance to do the flight.)

In the air it was a bit rough but not too bad. The best lift was at Cheam and the Lakes, where we got to 1900m and discovered it was still light winds even up that high. So when we got to the Butterfly Kevin and I started chatting about continuing onwards to Hope.

At this point we met up with Martin Henry on his ATOS, who had just crossed the valley from Bear Mountain, and was on his way to Elk for his return to Woodside. He was also reporting light winds on the north side of the valley, which reinforced our decision to try something new.

Alex was game for a run to Hope so we topped up at Ludwig (still light winds, rare for Ludwig) and dove over the back to Laidlaw. We made sure to stay in the back of Laidlaw and headed for the mountains back there, to stay out of any valley wind that might manifest the further east we went.

I got there first and was able to find a nice thermal right away, and Kevin soon joined me. Alex was a bit lower and took a bit longer to get up to us, and then Alex and I went on glide for the east end of Laidlaw while Kevin topped up a bit more.

On the next mountain we arrived a bit low and had to grovel on some low cutblocks while Kevin was more comfortably high. A bit of valley wind was beginning to show up low down, so Alex and I had to slowly work our way back up to the still-not-windy upper altitudes and Kevin before we could continue.

The next glide had some definite downwind to it, and we knew it was more important to stay high for this one. This last glide before the final push to Hope is a bit LZ-deficient and we didn't want to be having to land on the highway median or the railway bridge at Hunter Creek (where I landed a few years back, going backwards). Fortunately Mount Devoy faces west and we were able to ridge soar our way up and eventually thermal away from it, where we could see the Hope airport (first photo) and the safety of large fields once again.

Alex suggested we continue to Hope Mountain (second photo) which is just east of the airport since we were still really high (1300m or so) so we headed downwind past the airport, and arrived at Hope Mountain at about 1000m. It was windy enough to ridge soar up the face of Hope Mountain and find the odd thermal, as it was getting late (6pm) and things were beginning to mellow out.

At this point Norm got on the radio (he was at work) so we decided to land in Hope rather than the airport (after about 45 minutes of ridge soaring Hope Mountain), for a change of scenery. Norm initially reported light winds in town so we headed for his school, but as we got lower we realized the winds were in fact much stronger (they had increased after Norm's report) so we changed our LZ to that of a larger school.

Alex was lowest and landed first, reporting strong winds and turbulence down low. Kevin was downwind of the LZ at this point and had to use speedbar to get back upwind; I had flown across the Fraser River to the bridge to the Fraser Canyon so was still upwind. We both landed after a bumpy and windy ride through the rotor of the small bump just upwind of Hope. Tracklog is here.

After a few phone calls to let people know where we were, Derek offered to come get us as he was just driving down from Bridal launch. Excellent retrieve and back at the car by 8pm, not bad for a 40km flight. Thanks for your help Derek!

I've flown to Hope several times, but never have flown Hope Mountain. Usually by the time I get to Hope I'm low and on final glide to the airport or wherever. So it was a real treat to arrive at Hope high enough to continue the flight and see into the Silver Valley and Mark Fraser's launch (Fraser's Guarantee) that we flew in the summer of 2006. It was also nice to look up the Fraser Canyon and the Coquihalla (third photo) from the vantage of a paraglider.

The flight wasn't easy...there were some hard moments and the lift wasn't always where you thought it was going to be. It was nice to fly with Kevin and Alex in a mini-gaggle and take turns leading out and finding the lift for the other 2. When you have to work at the flight a bit, it makes it that much sweeter!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fraser Valley May long weekend

After battling the long weekend traffic out of the city, Alex and I finally made it to Bridal for a late-day flight. People were already in the air by the time we arrived so we launched ASAP, and it was still sweet.

Headed to Gloria via Upper Bridal and picked up some other pilots (Alex, Darren, Danny) on the way. Passed Norm and Alan who were just on their way back from Elk. At Gloria I was able to get to 1300m and continue to Elk while the others elected to stick around at Gloria (they eventually got to 1600m or so). No lift at Elk, unlike when Norm and Alan were there, so I tagged it and then returned to Gloria where I was able to top back up.

Onwards to Ludwig and it wasn't very nice lift that way. The lift at the Lakes was a bit choppy and it wasn't much nicer at the Butterfly or Ludwig. But a bunch of us were able to tag Ludwig and get around the corner of Cheam and back into nicer air.

Top-landed to drive Nicolai's truck down. Danny flew to Harrison Hotsprings to visit with Luke Stanek, not realizing that Luke had arrived at Bridal and was in the air when I top-landed :)

Spent the night at Chehalis FSR campground, which was Redneck Central because of the long weekend. Note to self: don't camp there on long weekends!

The next day was grey and overcast, perfect student conditions. Alex's friend Ryan came out for some more training and we got him 3 more sled rides at Woodside before he elected to stop for the day. It never got really soarable at Woodside, except maybe for a 30 minute window in the mid-afternoon when the clouds thinned enough for the sun to poke through. But it never really got sunny, and in fact we saw rain over Sasquatch later in the afternoon.

Sunday was a much nicer day sun-wise, but windy. By 11am it was fairly strong ridge soaring at Woodside and predicted to blow out. So Alex, Alan, Trevor B, and Rob S decided to hike up Bridal, the straight-up way, while I drove their gear up to meet them up there.

2 hours later they were on launch, very sweaty from their all-fours climbing. It was flyable but predicted to get stronger, so a bunch of people decided to launch now and fly sooner rather than later. Early reports were of strong and punchy lift, not ultra-bad, but not very fun-sounding. I didn't really want to fly in that kind of stuff so I stayed on launch for most of the afternoon and played peanut gallery.

Later in the afternoon it calmed down but by that time I was not in the mood for flying. Alan and I opted to drive the 2 trucks left on launch back down (it hadn't been suitable top-landing conditions all day so there would have been a retrieve necessary otherwise), while a few late-day arrivals showed up and launched for uneventful flights. There was a few people who went to Elk (including Greg who top-landed at the launch meadows), but nobody went much past Cheam since it was too windy for that. Derek on his new Addict 2 flew to Green Hill to try to ridge soar it, but it wasn't windy enough lower down and he landed near his house in Agassiz.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fraser Valley weekend of May 9-10


The original plan for Saturday was for me to drive Rob S. and Alex up to Horsefly as far as the road would allow, and then they would hike the remainder. The road up has been maintained to the split in the road, at which point the culverts have been removed, allowing streambeds to flow across the original cross ditches and make the road undriveable.

I dropped them off at the split in the road and drove back down, only to find that they had encountered a LOT of snow shortly after hiking and decided to turn back. So I returned to pick them back up and then headed to Woodside.

Over at Woodside the reports were of strong but punchy lift, and people not getting very high despite the vertical development that was going on (while on the road up Horsefly we noticed anvils in the backranges and getting that way in the Fraser Valley). The launch was full of both PGs and HGs (I think it's the largest concentration of HGs I've seen at Woodside in a long time). Martin was already in the air on his ATOS but not getting very high, which wasn't very encouraging from an XC point of view.

After launching I found the lift very disorganized and not very smooth; we weren't able to get much than 1000m which isn't really enough for a PG to head either over the back to Bear, or across to Sasquatch. After about 1 hour of frustrating flying (you could stay up indefinitely, but not go anywhere) I opted to land as it wasn't super-fun and the sky conditions were getting bigger.

Anvils were starting to form closer to the Fraser Valley and a large one was over between Cheam and the Butterfly. But to the west it still looked better so a bunch of us headed over to Bridal. I was a bit leery of the sky conditions and trying to convince myself that it was still OK to fly, but when we got up to launch and I got a look of what was over the north side of the valley (2 large anvils, one over Bear, and one over Sasquatch), I decided to step down, not fly, and drive Rob's truck down instead.

After enjoying the sun and warmth and and watching the 2 large anvils merge together into 1 ginormous super-anvil, with lightening shooting out of it, and heading towards Bridal, I heard on the radio that Rob and Alex and Norm (who were at Elk at the time) were going to land west of Elk. So I headed down to pick them up at Prest Road, and on the way back the sky had turned BLACK and it was quite still, like the calm before the storm. We were very glad not to be in the sky at this time as it looked very dubious. In the Fraser Valley, let's say 8-9 times out of 10 when conditions get like that it's still OK to fly, but there's always that 1-2 times in 10 when it will go nuclear with a gust front etc. I've learned over the years it's not worth the flight to tempt fate like that; there'll be lots of other days to fly!

Just as quickly as the skies turned black, it all dissipated to blue skies by 8pm. No gust front, although it went north in the Fraser Valley which is an unusual wind direction. We dodged a bullet this time.

The next morning Alex and I had a student ready for his first high flights off Woodside. 3 sled rides in perfect student conditions and then Ryan called it quits for the day and headed back to Vancouver for Mother's Day. The day had stayed mellow all day and milked up, but was soarable in the afternoon every time a blue hole came by. At Bridal it sounded better. And then later on in the afternoon it got quite breezy and probably ridge soarable at Woodside, and possible blown-out, although nobody was up there by then.

Nataliya, Kelly, and I took Unimog lessons with Colleen at Eagle Ranch to become "Mog-certified", and able to now drive that Beast down from launch if necessary. All in all a productive day, although I didn't do any flying on Sunday.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Woodside May 3


The forecast was a bit iffy for today...some models were calling for it to be OK, while others said it was going to OD. But given the next few day's looking like rain we decided to head out to Woodside.

Arrived at Woodside about 1pm to see some gliders heading out and with lots of height, so we went up. Initially it looked a bit light but it turned on shortly after Alex launched, and he was able to get to 1600m and cloudbase over launch very quickly. Back on launch I was getting ready and between his launch and mine, it went from light to quite strong cycles...my launch wasn't the prettiest and I'm sure it wasn't inspiring to the students still on launch, as they shortly drove down to head to Bridal and calmer conditions.

The air was very sporty and given that it went from light to strong so quickly, Alex and I were not sure about heading east to Bear Mountain for the crossing to Bridal (which was in shade, but people were staying up over there). So instead we headed for Harvest Market to try to connect to the clouds forming there.

The climbs at Harvest weren't that great, but I was able to pimp off Alex and decided to make the glide over to Cheam and the cloverleaf exit, in the hopes I would get there with enough height to climb out and fly to Bridal. Alex wasn't high enough and elected to land at the base of Green Hill where Jim et al picked him on their way to Bridal.

Meanwhile I had drifted with my thermal back up to 850m to the downwind side of the bridge and went for Cheam. I could see I would make the cloverleaf LZ no problem, but I wasn't sure I had enough height to actually climb out from there. Reached the cloverleaf at about 250m, which isn't much, especially with the mountain in shade and some wind about. So I landed at the cloverleaf; Kevin Ault came and picked me up as he was just coming up to Bridal from Chilliwack.

Meanwhile Martin H. on his ATOS was at Upper Launch and reporting being snowed on so he was headed back to Woodside. It was ODing over Bridal and people were landing all over the place (the LZ and cars looked like a BFAR weekend!) so I'm not sure I would have stayed up on the Bridal side even if I had gotten to the cloverleaf with more height. I think had I left Hopyard Hill with maybe 100m more, I would have arrived at the cloverleaf with enough height to get up. Something to remember for future attempts!

Kevin and I drove back to Woodside and back up to launch, where it was still strongist-looking but some milk had come in to shade the sky, which I thought would be a good thing for today. Once again I launched and it was not great launching conditions...I dropped an A riser during my pullup (wearing mitts so hard to feel that I had dropped one until the last second!) which resulted in a cobra launch and a rather exciting skid across the carpet until I could get off launch.

In the air it was windy and mostly ridge soaring, with the odd thermal mixed in. Norm, Alex, and Kevin were with me and we were having a great time. Eventually we decided to head to Harvest Market and land there; there were lots of catspaws on Harrison Bay and the peninsula didn't look very inviting for landing.

Over at Harvest Market we were able to play on Cemetary Hill for a while in the light ridge/thermal lift, and then nice smooth landings in the LZ. Rob S. had driven down Kevin's truck and picked us up.

Meanwhile over at Bridal the OD had dissipated and people over there had great flights to the Butterfly etc. It looked like it became quite nice later in the afternoon over there while Woodside was still a bit on the strong side. It's hard on these types of days to decide which place is going to be the better one...

Both flights were just over 1 hour each, and my flight to the cloverleaf was around 17 km. It's kind of fun to try the Bridal crossing in different ways, rather than doing the Bear-Ludwig run. Next time we may try heading upwind of the Fraser river when getting to Harvest, as the thermals there today felt like they were originating from the Chilliwack side and we were running into them once they crossed over. By catching them earlier we may be able to ride them higher and get the necessary height for the next part of the crossing to the cloverleaf (or to the golf course). And of course there's always Green Hill to try too, if there are cu's forming over it. With the river rising and the sandbars disappearing now, there are less LZ options when crossing to Bridal so you have to pick your destination over there a bit more carefully.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bridal May 1


Another high cloudbase day in the Fraser Valley, the clouds we could see were about 12,000' or so. Today we had borrowed a 4 wheel drive vehicle and packed it with 4 pilots from Vancouver.

Up on launch it was very leeside but flyable, since Miguel, Wade, and Fedja had been on launch for a while already and Miguel had flown and top-landed. We were able to launch from the picnic table and fly around to the east of launch, to catch the leeside house thermal that we knew was there.

I found it a bit hard initially to climb out since the lift down low was very weak and the climbs weren't in the usual spots, but once established in a nice climb I was able to make my way to the Saddle. Alex had launched before me and was reporting strong SSE winds up high, so I was prepared for the push of wind that greeted me as I rose above the Saddle just to the west of Archibald. It was rather rough and not as nice as yesterday, and I found myself controlling the glider a lot more as it continually wanted to be in places other than over my head. Many pilots who normally don't have collapses reported having them, and keeping mine open was a full-time job at times. I think staying low was better as the lift wasn't as rough below mountain height.

As I approached Saddle height the climb I was in suddenly banked back over the Fraser Valley and increased in strength and smoothed out, and I was rocketing up past yesterday's altitude gains, all the way to 2665m (8800'...it's class E airspace until 9000'). But that doesn't mean there won't be airplanes around so you have to keep eyes and ears out! All the while I was thermalling over the highway and getting pushed north, with a very strong SSE wind up high. I had single digit groundspeeds for the most part. I'm sure the ride kept going up to 11-12,000' but I abandoned it to try to push back to the mountains and get to the windward side of Archibald, to see what more was in store back there.

The view was incredible with the snow-topped mountains going off in the distance to the south, and I was able to see Chilliwack Lake at the end of Chilliwack Valley. Mt. Baker was huge and seemed very close. It was mostly blue with a few scuds of cirrus and the odd cu in the backcountry.

Getting back to Archibald took a *long* time with the winds and the fact it wasn't the smoothest air to fly back into, with 7000' peaks upwind of me and throwing off nasty rotor. When I got to the windward side of Archibald I once again found the elevator to the moon, rode it up, and found myself again over the Fraser River. Had retrieve not been an issue (our vehicle was on top and we weren't sure of the top-landing in leeside) I could have crossed the valley and gone for Woodside. But I elected to stay local just in case the retrieve was going to be an issue.

Heading over to Cheam was not very fun with the rotor from the SSE so I abandoned that idea and decided to mess about between Archibald and Upper launch, playing with the way the thermals were leaning today. I saw several pilots fly to Ludwig and Gloria, but they were much lower than me, and not in the rotor of the wind up high, so they weren't having any issues making XC distances. It was only up high that you didn't want to be anywhere near the mountains (and in fact, was continually being pushed over the valley).

Eventually I decided to explore the possibility of top-landing but I didn't like the conditions, still decidedly east on launch and very lifty. So I elected to land in the LZ, which was reporting 0 wind. People were landing in every direction and nobody was having issues, so for fun I landed the opposite way I normally do, landing facing Hope after an approach over the highway and driving range.

Derek's vehicle was in the LZ and he generously drove up for retrieval. As we were waiting for the vehicles to be driven down we saw another glider pop over launch and stay up for about 30 minutes before landing in the LZ too. It was after 7:30pm by then and it was still probably flyable even then!

Total airtime about 2:15, FAI triangle 11 km (whoop whoop!), and high altitude gains like yesterday. I'm always excited when I see the forecast calling for NE winds in the valley, as long as they aren't too strong, as I find the best high-altitude flying at Bridal is in NE conditions. The thermals are stronger and go higher due to the drier air that is being pumped into the valley by the NE winds, and everything is opposite of what you normally fly. It's a nice change from the typical inflow conditions we get in summer! The only thing is sometimes the NE winds are too strong and it's too unsafe to launch or fly, but I've noticed in the past few years we've gotten used to flying Bridal in NE. It makes you wonder just how often is Bridal flyable?

The end of the flight wasn't the end of our day however...our borrowed vehicle broke down on the Port Mann bridge and we managed to coast it over the bridge to the Vancouver side, and had lots of company in the form of police, city maintenance, and BCAA, before we finally made it back home after midnight. A long day after a rough day of flying!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bridal April 30


XC Skies was calling for a fantastic day at Bridal today so I got out there a bit early on the off-chance an early ride up was available. Got there just in time to miss the first ride up so Martin N. and I hung out in the LZ enjoying the sun and warm temps, until Kevin, Nicolai, and Monica showed up to give us a ride up.

Allan, Al T., and Rob S. were in the air already and it was obvious it was on. There were huge cu's all over the place and the lift was abundant. A sailplane was also over Bridal for a bit (Ihor?), which you don't usually see unless the lift is consistent.

I launched and found the air was a bit ratty with lots of holes amongst the lift. Cloudbase was high enough that I was thinking of going for altitude vs. XC distance, and when I heard Martin N. asking about the CYA's ceiling (8000') and that he was at 7500', I boogied over to Cheam to take advantage of the nice cloud that was hanging out over the peak. Way in the backcountry it was starting to OD and snow/rain on the peaks, but out over the Fraser Valley it was still OK, but worth keeping an eye on.

Beeping up to 2375m (7800')I was able to get over Cheam peak and take in the view behind (1st photo). I wasn't cold at all and the view was spectacular, and looking down at Cheam peak (2nd photo) is not something you get to do every day. I overflew the peak several times and then continued onwards to the Lakes, the Butterfly, and partway to Ludwig, when I decided to turn around since the wind was picking up.

The wind was indeed stronger and it took a long time to get back to Cheam. I left the Butterfly at 1500m, and got around the foot of Cheam below launch height. It was either that, or fly into the middle of the valley and deal with the valley wind and have to land early, so I opted for the rotor-route and kept ready for the active air.

Back at launch a new group of pilots were waiting for the cycles lay down as it was quite strong, and I bypassed them and headed to Upper launch. Overflew Upper and no top-landers yet (the snow is still virgin) so I did a few passes over the take-off. I got to within 10' or so but I didn't want to actually touch down...I had visions of myself sinking into the snow up to my thighs and being unable to relaunch, so I flew onwards to Elk.

It was getting late now and the lift was smoothing out, so getting to Elk was uneventful and then back to launch where Ken was trying to launch. The cycles were quite weak by now so I top-landed to help out and drive Brad's truck down, and then Brad himself top-landed to help out as well. We got Ken off and then Brad relaunched while I drove the truck down.

Derek got high and was able to fly home to Agassiz, and Rob S. did top-land Upper launch after I opted not to. He reported that the snow is only ankle-deep on the front of the slope, after the initial sinking-in when top-landing further back. Over at Woodside it was apparently good early, and then a bunch of people landed to come over to Bridal as it was not as good lift over there, and all the cu's were actually over Sasquatch et al. and not Woodside itself.

Total airtime 3:15 or so, 40 km OR, and a perfect day. We had everything...lots of lift, lots of sink, wind, high cloudbase, smooth air later on, and no retrieves to deal with afterwards. It doesn't get much better than that!