Friday, July 31, 2009

Golden scratchfest July 31

I wasn't too inspired by today's conditions, since they looked very similar to yesterday's, when we weren't really able to get high and go XC. But I decided to go up anyways to see what would happen. After yesterday's windstorm there were lots of trees down on the road up to launch, so we brought a chainsaw and Glenn Bitterman took care of the trees that we encountered. In the end it was convoy of trucks headed up as we all got backed up at the last tree which took a while to remove (photo 1).

Up on launch it still wasn't very inspiring, but I launched anyways (if I sunk out, so be it) and flew to the Pagliaro side of Mt. 7 to see what would happen. After the usual grovelfest at the toe of Mt. 7, I finally got a nice climb to 2500m and decided that was as good as it was gonna get, so I went for the Pagliaro crossing.

Downwind which was nice, but at the cliffs there was nothing, so I continued around the corner and it was the same thing. The first 2 spines behind the back of Pagliaro never work for me, while the 3rd one usually does, so I booted it to the 3rd one, skipping past some people who were sticking with the 1st and 2nd spines, and got another climb which got me within range of some convenient LZ's.

A tandem was in the area and we teamed up for the next 20 km or so, taking turns pushing out to look for lift, and then hop-skipping downrange at less than 2000m. The whole time we had a LZ within glide but there wasn't much space for scratching in the same spot and possibly getting even lower. So as soon as we got low (1800m or so), we'd leave and continue downrange looking for something nicer.

The tandem and I parted ways as he turned around at Parson while I continued downrange. The rest of the field was behind me and scratching like mad on Mt. 7 and Pagliaro, and reporting the same conditions I had encountered earlier. The lift wasn't that good anywhere until around Harrogate so I just kept moving in the hopes that something better would come up.

I continued in this fashion until Harrogate when a bunch of cloud shaded the sun, and I had to hang out at the forest fire ridge for about 10 minutes, ridge soaring in the NW winds, until the sun reappeared to light my way south. That must have triggered something, as I got my best climb of the day so far as I was headed out land, and beamed (relatively speaking) back to 2600m and was back in the game (photo 2).

With such low heights I was gonna take the front range for sure and I was just happy I was gonna make Brisco at this point. I didn't really aspire to anything further south until I noticed the clouds were getting closer (I was getting higher) and the lift was actually getting easier to find. With the range a bit narrower there it was easy to ridge soar my way up the NW sides of the ridges, fly downrange, and repeat at the next NW ridge I came to. I started to get excited about possibly making Spur Valley, or even (gasp!) Radium.

I came to the dreaded Spur Valley gap and decided I was gonna commit to the crossing and hope to ridge soar my way up the NW side of the Edgewater cliffs range, or else have to land on a logging road and do a bit of hiking out. The gamble paid off and I was off to the races on the Edgewater cliffs with Radium in sight. Edgewater to Radium was pretty easy as I was at peak height or just below now (2200m).

At Radium I was still high and could see Invermere (photo 3). Could I make it? The NW wind had died at Radium, to be replaced by a SW wind (lake breeze from Lake Windermere), and I was now bucking a headwind. And it was getting late in the day, about 7pm, and the thermals were dying. I decided to go for it and slowly pushed my way upwind towards Mt. Swansea and the 100km mark. As I watched the GPS pass 100km I did a little yippee and wondered just how much farther I could go. It was starting to glass off and there was light lift everywhere, but the headwind was making forward progress slow.

I made my way to 106km and then looked for a place to land. Saw a nice empty lot in the subdivision south of the airport, and came in for a nice landing across the road from some people BBQ'ing on their back porch. One of the ladies came over and introduced herself as a friend of Max and Penny's, and offered me a ride to Spur Valley. Yay! After a quick stop at the airport to say hi, we hit the road hoping to meet up with Robin who had landed just past the Spur Valley golf course.

Of course he had gotten a ride by then, but I found another ride in the form of a couple from France, visiting Canada, who were actually from Annecy and knew what the PG bag on the side of the road meant! They were on their way to Kelowna so gave me a ride all the way back to Nicholson which saved me from having to get somebody from the LZ to come get me, as it was party time and they were all drinking already anyways :)

Back at the LZ to find Karen and Doug's 30th wedding anniversary in full swing, and got there in time for the champagne and the leftover bratwurst from earlier in the evening, courtesy of Vincene Muller.

Other notable flights were Robin (77.7km), Louise (Harrogate), and an unknown PG I saw landing at Spillimacheen as I was getting my ride back (the car was full at this point so we didn't have room for you, sorry!). The day was really light and scratchy, and I think this was my hardest Invermere flight yet. It took 5 hours to get the 112km (106km straight line from launch), and most of it was spent below peak height and always thinking of having to land. But very satisfying to accomplish the mission on such a shitty conditions day!

Tracklog is here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Golden July 30

Lots of wind predicted for today so most people weren't too inspired to fly. No issue with ODage or T-storms, just too much wind up high from the NW. Weirdly enough, it was strong south down lower and on launch we were all launching off the shale south side.

It also looked pretty stable down low and people weren't staying up very high, so we waited until later in the hopes it would get better. It didn't.

Finally I launched and it was indeed stable and bumpy at the same time. Yay! After a couple of hours of flying in the vicinity of Mt. 7, not getting very high (8000' maybe) and being subjected to bumpy lift (especially at the interface between the S and NW winds), I decided to head out to land. It just wasn't worth the effort to cross to Pagliaro and fly into the lee when it's stable. Robin's statement was the best of the day "It's leeside everywhere!", as he joined me to land at Nicholson LZ.

Most other people also landed at Nicholson rather than go XC. Lots of smiling faces in the LZ once again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Golden July 29

Today was looking like a good day so the plan was to go downrange as far as possible. But there was a lot of cloud around (it took me a while to get high, and in fact I had to fly to the Pagliaro cliffs and hang out there for a bit before Keith showed me the way) which was going to make this difficult.

Downrange we were able to fly about 35-40 km, just past Parson, and from then onwards it was a solid wall of overcast and no sun anywhere. No big cu-nims...just too much cloud to realisticly continue onwards. Robin, Al, and Fedja got really high at 35 km and decided to go for it, while I decided to turn back and try for an out and return. (I had watched a couple of gliders venture into the shade and eventually land due to no lift so I wasn't optimistic about their chances).

Turning around it was much nicer to the north so I flew back to launch, getting low only once at Pagliaro, and then topped up to 12,000' over Mt. 7. To the north was very yummy so I continued north into the headwind to Moberly. I had a cloudstreet the whole way there so I was able to stay high for the crossing over the Trans-Canada highway and skip over Sugarloaf.

At Moberly I wanted to venture into the Blaeberry valley but it was nuking NE winds there (and the whole time downrange the prevaling winds were NE). At one point my GPS said. 0.0 kph groundspeed, and when I turned around it went briefly to 93.6 kph (although I think that was partially due to the steep banked turn I was in at the time). But my downwind speed out of there was 75+ kph so I knew there was no going into the Blaeberry today. Too bad...I've always wanted to fly up to the glacier there.

Back towards Mt. 7 and a nice tailwind into the LZ. Robin, Al, and Norm were already there from their open distance flights ~45-55 km downrange (Harrogate to Brisco area). Al had a bit of an epic as he had a collapse in rotor between Kapristo and Willi's knob, right up against the cliffs, and had to stall it out next to the rock faces. Fedja managed to get 70 km OD in, landing just short of Spur Valley, flying in the shade. Rob Clarkson flew to Invermere and made it as far back as Spillimacheen, for about a 140 km flight. Andrew and Evelyn did their first XC flights, landing in Parson for about 25 km. Raul landed out and met a bear on his hike out, prompting a cell phone call to 911. He hiked out OK but forgot to cancel the helicopter which was dispatched. A bit of confusion until SAR was notified that he was indeed OK and to send the troops home.

My total distance today was 91 km out and return, 4+ hours airtime. Even when you can't go far downrange, Golden rocks!

Tracklog is here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Golden July 8

Not a good XC day as it was very windy from the NE and lots of high clouds around. A window appeared mid-afternoon so a bunch of us went up for a local flight. When we arrived it was lightly blowing up and mostly overcast, so Norm and I launched off the NW side rather than drive back down.

In the air it was a bit bumpy near the mountain (leeside) but out in the valley it was nice and smooth. But it was windy...lots from the north meant we had to be careful not to thermal too far downrange if we wanted to make it back to Nicholson LZ. With a rain cell in Parson (and moving further south) it wasn't really possible to go XC so we just played around and made sure to stay upwind of the LZ.

Eventually I watched as a rain cell developed to the NE and started moving south towards Nicholson. The rain was slanting at the bottom as it hit the ground, indicating a probable gust front ahead of it, so we both landed before it got too close.

After a while it did indeed gust front from the north (it blew a tree down in the RV park), and a HG was still in the air when it hit. But he was at 2000'+ and above the wind, so he just stayed there while it blew through, and landed afterwards. But he got rained on pretty good so we were concerned about his mylar leading edge, but he pulled off a perfect landing and no stall issues.

Later on everyone else went back up for an evening glass off, and flew in light lift until 7pm and then aimed for the tarp we had put in the LZ for a spot landing contest. About 20 gliders came in by the end, and lots of happy faces in the LZ this evening. Tomorrow is looking good, with possible ODage in the late afternoon (6pm-ish) around Golden, but nicer down south. Perhaps a day to do open distance and not risk coming back into potential ODage.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Golden July 27

Yesterday was a write-off as far as flying went. The skies went nuclear before noon and a severe T-storm watch was in effect all afternoon. It finally blew up around 3pm with lightening and rain. People went to Cedar Lake, Banff, Invermere, Radium Hot Springs, etc.

Today the weather was looking better but still very unstable, so it wasn't looking like a great idea to do long XC. A bunch of us went up to fly locally, as there were giant cu-nims to the west, east, and south of us. North was the only clear air (and looked fabulous) but that wasn't really an option since it was rather strong NE winds aloft. The forecast was actually for light NE winds so I think the strength of the wind aloft was partially because of the huge cell to the SW of us, sucking all that air into it to grow.

Anyways, it was light SW down low, and then switched to NE at around 7000'. At the interface it was very rough. Robin, Fedja, and I were soaring up the NE side (backside) of Mt. 7 and getting to 9000'+. But we could see all around it was going off in a big way so we decided not to go anywhere and land at Nicholson. My flight was around 1.5 hours or so.

Fedja and I landed at Nicholson and Robin landed near the CP railyard in town. The huge cu-nim across the valley slowly moved south but we could see a bunch more lined up behind it. It finally OD'd and started to rain and thunder around 7pm local time. In Golden it was blowing 40 kph from the NE, but once south of the gravel pit it was actually south about 20 kph. I think the NE winds were venturi-ing through the gap between Mt. 7 and Table Mountain (where the Trans-Canada goes) but not able to bend around to head down the valley towards Nicholson.

Meanwhile Rob Clarkson flew downrange and ended up in Canal Flats (~150 km). Ken Nicholson landed near Brisco (~50 km) and reported landing 5 minutes before the wind switched 180 degrees. Guy landed in the river 8 km south of Nicholson (flying his HG) but is OK. Igor made it to Invermere (100 km). Norm, Keith, and Ryan opted not to fly.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Golden July 25

The first day of the Willi and it was a hot sunny day. After getting the preliminaries out of the way we went up to launch arriving around 1pm.

There was a glider already soaring so I got myself ready after giving Al a short site briefing and where not to land etc. With the east wind up high and the south wind down low (but light) it was a perfect out and return day. My plan was to head south for a bit, and then return to launch, and then continue north, and then return to launch, for a double out and return.

I launched off the south launch and immediately went up, and made my way over to the south ridge where everyone else had been getting up. There was one PG in front of me but I caught up to him quickly and I was on the way south towards Harrogate. Al was right behind me and we traveled together for the most part. With the east wind up high I was actually flying the east side of the range, staying between 11-12,000' or so, while Al was staying a bit lower and on the west side of the range.

At Parson I could see a bit of OD down towards Invermere and it looked like it was gonna be in our way soon. I radioed to Al that I was gonna turn around at Harrogate. The cu-nim was slowing getting bigger down by Invermere and coming north, so we turned around at the 43 km mark (the forest fire hill from a few years ago) and started running away from it.

There were a bunch of people chasing us but they weren't able to penetrate as far as we did as the cell was moving north and cutting off their route. Meanwhile Al and I were returning to Mt. 7 (it only took about 1 hour, vs. the 2 to get to Harrogate against the wind) and cloudbase was getting higher and higher. I got to 14,700' at one point, and cloudbase was still about 300' above me! Thin air up there and I had to make myself take deep breaths as I could feel myself getting a bit hypoxic and wanting to hyperventilate.

Once over Mt. 7 I flew back over launch just to close out my out and return and then decided to head to the LZ likkidy-split as the cell was now at Harrogate and still coming north. From 13,000' it took a while doing spirals etc, but I managed to land in about 30 minutes. As I got closer to the ground I could see a gust front coming up the valley...the water on the ponds was all smooth and glassy around Nicholson, indicating calm winds (which Bev confirmed at the time), but further south I could see the water was getting ripply and looking different.

Then I landed in calm winds and about 10 minutes later Randy Parkin got a call from somebody in Parson that a gust front had gone through at about 50 kph. Since Parson is only 30 km south, this meant the gust front would be here in about 30 minutes, give or take. I got on the radio and told the pilots still in the air to get on the ground quick as a gust front was coming up from the south.

Most pilots were able to get on the ground before it hit, but there were still about 10 pilots still in the air when it hit. All of a sudden gliders were parked over the LZ, going backwards, and going all over the place. A bunch of PG pilots all of a sudden found themselves unable to penetrate; some of them turned tail and raced to Golden to find landing spots there before the gust front hit there, while others stayed parked over the LZ trying to get down. Meanwhile HG's were parked over the LZ not going down or forward too. It was a mess.

Several pilots in the swamp to the north of the LZ; Fedja managed to stay dry even though he landed back there. He did an amazing job keeping his glider open. Other people weren't so lucky...a pilot broke his tailbone trying to land in the soccer field in Golden. 2 HG pilots (Serge and Doug Keller) broke parts of their HG's after hard landings (Doug came down like the hand of God smacked him down like a pancake; amazingly he walked away). A couple of pilots managed to land at the Golden airport with it's nice long strip that they could back into, backwards. A few pilots still in the air outran the gust front (Brett Yeates) by flying into the Blaeberry valley (off the main valley) and having uneventful landings there.

All in all a bad end to a great day. Al and I managed to do an 88 km out and return; Robin did 82 km OR. Some HG's went further south then us so they got maybe 100 km OR.

My tracklog is here.

Weather for today looks similar to yesterday. Chance of storms and gust fronts near the storms. We'll see who flies and who doesn't...I imagine a lot of people are now spooked.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pemberton July 20

After yesterday's long flight I was in the mood for a mellow XC, and I had promised Magali that she could test-fly my glider when she got off work at 4pm, so I decided to only do a short flight. Got a ride up with Bill Nicolai and his wife Linda, and I launched about 1:30pm. It was more stable than yesterday, no cu's, and the climbs were slower. But it was nice air nonetheless, and I did a short OR to Fraser Peak and back (about 27 km).

At 3:45pm I tried to top-land but it was a bit too lifty for my tastes, so I went to the Community Center LZ where Magali, Oni, and Marty were waiting. Drove them up to launch and it was just starting to turn tail on launch (but still soarable out front) so they scrambled to get off launch. A bunch of high cirrus (which XC Skies had predicted) moved in which just made things nice, less bumpy all around. Not the epic day of yesterday, but still nice climbs to 9000' at Fraser Peak.

Pemberton July 19

I wanted to get another flight in Pemberton under my belt before heading to Golden, and XC Skies was calling for a good day up there (light NW winds, 10,000’ base). Got to the Community Center LZ about 12noon and Corinne was launching students and said it was nice. About then 4 hang glider pilots showed up…Jon, Jeff, Alex, and Ralph. I got a ride up with them and discussed our XC plans for the day. With the light winds I was thinking of a flight to Lilloet, or perhaps to Goldbridge, something different from the usual Hurley-and-return milk run.

Up on launch it was nice cycles with a touch of north (which is nice) but the windsock down on the Dome (they just installed it a couple of weeks ago), said it was east out front. Hmmm, leeside? Anyways, I thought it still looked good so after watching the cycles for a while I launched just after 2pm.

Right off launch I got a nice thermal, and didn’t even have to go over the south rocks where you usually get up. This thermal took me to about 3500’ in a fairly strong west wind, when it all of a sudden switched to east wind. At the boundary it was a bit rough, but totally manageable, and I continued upwards in the east wind until about 6000’, when it switched back to strong west wind.

Now I should mention that during part of this thermalling upwards, the sunscreen that I had applied earlier started to run into my eyes, blinding me, and for about 10 minutes I was pretty busy blinking away tears and trying to wipe the darn stuff out of my eyes. Denis on launch was trying to radio me to find out how it was, and I was too busy with my blindness issue to answer. Apparently this told him it was very rough up there and not really nice, so he decided not to launch, and in fact all the other people on launch who had arrived after I launched stood down as well (except for the HG pilots). It was a bit rough in places, but I was making it look really bad by flying erratically (sorry Denis!). I eventually regained my vision and started thermalling properly again, and radioed that it was actually OK, but everyone had driven down by then so I was the only PG in the sky.

I got to 10,000’ over the tower and decided to jump over the back to Cassiope Peak (photo 1), at the head of the valley towards D’arcy. I flew along the range there to the north end of Lilloet Lake and the head of the Duffy Lake road mountain pass. I thought briefly of heading over the Duffy Lake pass to Lilloet, but cloudbase wasn’t quite high enough for my liking (I’d prefer 11-12,000’ at least since there are few landing options for most of the way to Lilloet). So I decided to cross to the other side of Lilloet lake (photo 2) and return via Mt. Curry.

The crossing was uneventful but I arrived a bit low, but had the glide out to a couple of fields. So I scunged around until I found a nice climb and then started making my way west towards Mt. Curry. I discovered that the wind was actually very north here, which meant the entire face of Curry was ridge soarable! It was the smoothest air I’d encountered the entire day so far, and I took full advantage of this opportunity to fly right along the rocky spines in the smooth up-ness (photo 3).

Ridge soared my way past the airport at about 9000’ and then found a thermal on the sunward side of Curry, which took me to 10,500’. I was above the peak of Curry and could see into the back ranges, and Whistler was only about 2 glides away (photos 4 and 5). But it was actually south wind behind Curry (north wind on the Pemberton side), and converging right at the Peak, so I played around there for a bit.

Next on the agenda was the crossing to Satellite Peak, which I had a nice tailwind for initially, and then hit the west wind once over Pemberton proper. Cu’s forming over the valley so I joined up with one of them and used it to return to launch at about 8000’. At this point I saw a couple of HG’s, which I thought would have followed me on my circle of the valley, but apparently once they launched they couldn’t find me to follow.

Now that I was back on familiar ground and it was only 5:30pm, I decided to tack on a Hurley run to round out the day. Did the run out to Hurley in the mellowing conditions with Ralph and Jeff and a sailplane, and was back to launch by 7:10pm.

As the HG’s were ahead of me on the way back I didn’t see them head to the airport to land there until the last minute. I decided to land there too, to be sociable etc., but as I flew over Pemberton I hit the Whistler Express, which put a stop to that idea! (Had I been higher I would’ve been above it and not a problem, but I hadn’t planned on an airport landing until the last minute so I hadn’t topped up my altitude at launch.) So I turned around and landed at the Community Center in fairly bumpy conditions. Total airtime 5:16, distance covered 77 km OR, or 63 km FAI triangle (depending on how I want to score it), max altitude 10,500’. A great day in Pemberton!

Tracklog is here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Grouse Mountain July 18

XC Skies was saying both the Fraser Valley and Pemberton would be blown out, so I opted for Grouse Mountain today to get some more airtime on my new ship. I didn't get out there until later (arrived at Guest Services at 4pm), which is good as according to Todd et al, it had been spicy all day.

Up on launch your typical cross cycles, and quite strong thermals coming up the slope. Not my idea of a fun launch, so Fedja and I sat on launch for about an hour or so until it started to look calmer and the cycles were a bit straighter. The First Flight crew showed up about then with tandems so all of a sudden it was busy.

I waited for a straight cycle and launched, and immediately went straight up. Not forward...up. I continued in this fashion for about 300' over launch, still not even over the chairlift yet, and slowly inched my way over the chairlift and into the gully. The whole time I was going up.

The going was slow at times (there was a fair bit of wind aloft) but the lift was huge. Fedja eventually got off launch too, as did Bill Nicolai who showed up after I launched. They both reported spicy air right off launch too.

But once out in front of the gondola and out of the gully it was a totally different story...nice smooth easy lift all over the fricken place. Lots of wind but smooth lift ranging from 0.1-0.8m/s, everywhere we went. I got to 5300' without turning (and the CYA's ceiling is 6000'). With such gobs of lift all over the place it was easy to just boat around and enjoy the view.

After 2 hours of this my feet were starting to get cold (I was just wearing my mesh runners and not my usual hiking boots, and my non-pod open harness) and I was still at 5000', so I flew to the Upper Levels Highway (and the southern edge of our CYA) and back. Landing was uneventful as it was 7:30pm by now, and Fedja and Bill were still in the air. And then the First Flight crew came out over the LZ on their solo gliders, so in the end there were 4-5 of us with huge grins on our faces after that amazing glassoff.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bridal July 10

With BFAR coming up and my being grounded during it, Friday was my only chance to get to fly my brand-new glider (Aspen 3). (I will write a proper review later on after I get a few more flights on it.) When I arrived at the Bridal LZ there were already a bunch of people on launch, and Alan in the air (he had launched at 1:30pm), but it seemed quite stable. I didnt' really care; I just wanted to get a flight in and it didn't matter if it was gonna be stable or not.

Jim came by and squeezed me in his truck, and up at launch Derek had just top-landed. Nice cycles were just starting up (they had been pretty lame up until now, according to Derek) so I laid out, launched, and cored the house thermal to about 900m. What stability?

Flew to Upper launch and saw a bunch of debris from old campfires etc so I planned to top-land later on and clean it up. Kept going to Gloria and passed Robin and Alan who were on their way back from Elk (Robin had gotten to 1700m or so; once getting through the stable layer it was easy flying). No problem getting to Elk and back from 1500m...there was practically no wind so I glided there and back and only lost 200m or so.

Back at Upper launch Derek was taunting me about top-landing for a BFAR meeting, so I took up the challenge and landed in the grass off to the side, not wanting to get campfire soot all over my brand new glider. For some reason Derek was unable to top-land after all that taunting (couldn't get low enough on his passes to touch down!), and so it was just Alan, Robin, and myself up there. Cleaned up all the logs and charred wood, and covered the firepits with the remaining black pieces of cloth to keep any future landing gliders clean. Then a sled ride to the LZ (there were enough top-landers at Lower Bridal for the vehicles already) where I took the opportunity to test out the A3's speedbar and response to various types of collapses (user-friendly, and uneventful, respectively).

Down in the LZ it was time to set up the Big Top for BFAR, set up the traffic signs, and generally get as much stuff done as possible before Saturday morning. Lots of willing helpers made the work easy, and we had a tent city set up at the edge of the driving range by nightfall. All ready to go for the next morning!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Shotgun July 4

The weather was looking ultra-stable and I imagined it would be pretty lame at both Woodside and Bridal (according to yesterday's reports, they were only getting to 900m and 1200m respectively), so I opted to try out the new Shotgun launch that Al's been working on.

Met up with Al and Rob S. and headed to launch, stopping at the main LZ on the way since it was my first time. The road up is not long but a serious 4-wheel drive...there's a couple of large cross ditches that require a vehicle with a short wheelbase to get through them without scraping. Quads can rip through without slowing down.

You can drive right to the lower launch, and we went out to take a look. Perfect cycles, and had it not been my first time, I would have launched there instead. But Al's been introducing people to the site lately by taking them to the upper launch, so you can see more terrain and the lower launch, and have more time to look for lift before you have to head out. I think that now I've had my initial flight, I'll probably use the lower launch since it's easier to get to :)

So we started to's only about an extra 200m or so to the upper launch, but it's through steep slash for the 1st half, and then somewhat less-steep forest for the 2nd half. It was HOT, about 30C, and hiking up that steep slash was very enervating (no shade!). Rob very kindly took my glider most of the way after I started wilting from the heat. Thanks Rob! I owe you a dinner for that!

Finally up at the upper launch and it's a nice ready-made launch, after a few previous excursions took out a couple of stumps and small Christmas trees. You can lay out without a tarp required (the lower launch has a tarp) and have plenty of room to kite your glider, inspect it, and run off.

This upper launch is at 675m, and the LZ is at 220m, making a roughly 4:1 glide. The lower launch faces more west, and the upper launch faces more south. I should mention there are actually several launches even higher than this launch at about 1100m (facing east, south, and northwest)...Al's called this cluster of launches the "top-gun" launches (at the top of shotgun mountain :). You get to those via an entirely different road altogether, but you can drive right to them.

Anyways, I launched first since Al wanted to launch last and make sure Rob and I got off OK. Waited for a straight-in cycle and then stepped off launch, and found light bubbles of lift around the launch area. It seemed light but doable, but after a few passes I started to get lower than launch (but still way higher than the lower launch), and given that it was my first time, I wanted to leave myself plenty of space to make the LZ if need be.

So I headed over to the "chimney", which is a series of rocky cliffs to the south, since Al had mentioned that he's had good success with getting up there. But it was late (2:30pm), and the south wind had kicked in, creating a venturi effect next to the chimney (there's a small hill next to it and a gap you can fly through) and breaking up all the lift. So I headed out and made for the LZ.

Now the LZ is a shooting range, where people go to do target practice either via a stationary target (which today were calendar pages of scantily-clad models!), or skeet-shooting. As I approached the LZ I noted there were people there skeet-shooting. Not wanting to accidentally get shot as I landed, I shouted at them to let them know I was coming in.

Landed in the LZ no problem; the guys had halted their skeet-shooting while I landed and then started up again once I was out of their way. Soon Rob came in for a landing, and then after that Al. Rob and Al had found some lift around launch like I had, and Al had gotten up in it, but he wasn't able to get to more than 900m, and when they headed out to the chimney, experienced the same south winds that I had previously. So no epic flights; extended sledruns, but totally worth it to fly a new site, especially on anotherwise lame-looking day.

I think to fly Shotgun successfully, you need to launch there before the south winds kick in, which was probably 1-2 hours earlier than my launch. Between 12-1pm would be perfect I think, for the lower launch anyways. And if it's north winds forecast than I think you can wait even longer.

An alternative way to access launch, if you don't have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, is to catch a ride with the quad-guys. I retrieved Al's truck this way while Al and Rob were packing up...there were dozens on the road and they just love that sort of thing. So if you park at the LZ you can probably get a ride up with a quad guy no problem, and it's only a 15 minute drive by quad. That way if you sink out or go XC, it's easier to get your vehicle back (just hitchhike back to the LZ, which is 2 wheel drive accessible) rather than have to get a quad ride or hike later on. I think this would work best on a weekend...not sure how many quads play around there mid-week.