US Nats August 22

There was some discussion about cancelling the day due to possible high winds and the fact we've had 6 valid tasks already, but the task committee decided a 7th task was in order. I had volunteered as a driver today (my knee is doing much better; I can walk around on it now if I'm careful) so I took a load of pilots up to launch.

The original task was a short 49 km flight north to take advantage of the predicted south winds. However after the task was announced and everyone was suiting up, Mark called the FAA (his daily courtesy call to let them know what our route is) and was told that a brand new TFR (temporary fire restriction) had just now been issued for a forest fire directly on our courseline (this fire apparently was set last week during the t-storms, but only flared up now after a week of smoldering). That put the kaybosh on that task.

So the task committee had to come up with a new task that didn't involved that TFR and yet was simple enough that retrieve would be easy (so everyone could be back in time for the party). So a 54 km task was set that would take people north but not so far as the fire, then turn around and fly south, and then goal would be at the school LZ directly below launch (so in essence a double OR).

By this time it was getting late and some high cirrus was coming in (the approaching front). But people were able to get high and cross Provo canyon no problem and get their way on course. I was assigned to the goal LZ to take people back to HQ as they came in, so I got to watch most of the flying as most of that particular course can been seen from there. We had about 15 pilots in goal I think. In the end the high cirrus came in and developed into some more substantial pre-frontal stuff, and most people sunk out around 6pm. It was a 1000 point day though!

The pig roast (a whole pig that had been simmering in a ground oven all day) and awards ceremony was at the north side of POTM. Lots of satisfied pilots there tonight stuffing their faces with food and beer, and at 10pm we had a visit from the police. Apparently in Utah you can't have parties or noise after 10pm so they were going to give us all noise violation tickets (70+ tickets!), but Brad convinced them to let us continue the awards ceremony (our cheering was considered too noisy).

I can't remember who all won what categories, but the overall results will eventually be found here. Surprisingly, I was able to get 3rd place in both the Sport and Women's categories, but fell from 22nd to 50th overall, despite me not flying the tasks for the past 3 days.

This was a very successful US Nats part 2. We had 7 flying days out of a possible 7 (a first for a US Nats I'm told), and a variety of flying conditions and routes to challenge us all. A lot of the local pilots were stoked about flying routes that they don't usually get to fly (either because of weather, retrieval issues, or just not enough pilots to gaggle with to make it easier). And the visiting pilots were blown away (myself included, and this is my 3rd time flying here) by the scenery and the awesomeness of the mountains here. If you are into strong mountain flying, I would recommend SLC as a destination (just check the weather beforehand, and be prepared to do other things if it's t-storming or gotten windy). Previous experience in Golden or Pemberton would be an asset, and you'll want to be comfortable on your glider and using your speedbar to cross the umpteen canyons with their associated canyon suck.

I'm off back to Vancouver tomorrow morning. I'll probably split the 16 hour drive over 2 days so I won't actually get back until sometime Monday. Hopefully by then my knee will be more or less back to normal for regular walking (fingers crossed), and we'll see what the recovery schedule to resume paragliding will be.

US Nats August 21

Task today was another long day, 104 km OR with the goal this time being the north side of POTM (the alternative task was a huge flight to the east, ending in Wyoming; ultimately the task committee went with the easier-to-retrieve option). As the temperature outside was 40C, I opted to stick to the air conditioning, get some work done, stay off my knee, and only went to POTM in the late afternoon in time to watch the lead gaggle come in. We had 33 pilots make goal (Ryan, Claudio, and Bernard all made goal) so lots of happy faces in the LZ. Climbs today were easier than yesterday, and higher cloudbase. One pilot reported getting to 15,000' at one point.

Kevin Ault flew here today. He and Judy, and Brad and Christine, are in the area for a hike in the Wasatch Mountains and decided to get a couple days flying in. He flew the south side this morning (I told him it would turn on by 7am; when he arrived at 7:30am it was already crowded with pilots soaring). This afternoon he flew the north side as the comp pilots were coming in and had a huge grin on his face after he landed.

US Nats August 20

Well I'm a bit gimpy this morning, and won't be flying anymore during this comp. At launch yesterday I launched with a bad tangle, and didn't notice it until after I had cleared the ground (about the same time the glider fluffers noticed it and yelled it to me). It looked bad enough that I opted for an quick top-landing rather than fly out to the LZ, as the whole hillside is pretty open and grassy. My right brake fan was all tied up in the knot which gave me zero flare authority on that side, so I landed hot and a bit downwind. This would have been OK except for the small pile of rocks hidden in the long grass that I stumbled onto as I landed.

End result is a sprained knee and I won't be flying for the rest of this comp. I'm a bit bummed as I was really in "the zone" and flying pretty well against the comp ships. In retrospect I could have probably made it out to the LZ and landed there OK, but on the other hand if I need to land quickly and there's something reasonable and closer (ie. a bald hill) I'll go for that.

The task for yesterday was an attempt at the Utah state record, 111 km OR to SLC University and back to launch. 3 people made it, and several more made it back to the LZ but missing the last TP (which was launch in order to close the OR, and they arrived too low to tag it, and there was no lift to climb back up and get it; this happened to Bernard who missed the last TP by about 50m!). The start looked very slow as the day was weak, but it eventually got better and if people could survive the first few km's (and many didn't, getting minimum distance) they could get at least half-way around the course. Josh and Brad came in within 3 seconds of each other, and Peter came in about 30 minutes later.

US Nats August 19

We were able to get the fire restriction zone to the south made smaller (from 5 nautical miles to 1 nautical mile, below 9000') which made flying south possible. Given the NW winds which were setting up this was a good thing as we didn't really want to fly north again.

Task today was 87 km or so, via a few TP's downwind to Levan. A new TP was given to us to keep us on the flats for part of the route, and to keep us away from the 1 nm fire zone. The first part of the flight was easy...we've all flown it now and know where to tank up and where to push on. It was at Buckly mountain that we had to leave the mountains, tag the TP on the flats, and either return to the safety of the mountains or chance the flats for a while.

I was able to get a thermal out on the flats after tagging the flats TP, which enabled me to rejoin the group on the mountains just north of the windmill canyon. We were able to get to 10,000' (today wasn't a high altitude day) and then we had to cross the canyon. Everyone else in my group opted to head straight across. But I'm leery about crossing these canyons directly across, and always give their mouths a wide berth to avoid the canyon suck (and if you look at my tracklog you'll see it curve wide around in one spot for no particular reason). And this canyon was no different. My ground speed went to single digits as I pushed out front to veer around the mouth, and I was very glad to be out front with LZ's below me, and not the people back in the canyon who were crossing straight across, with similar groundspeeds and no easily reachable LZ's.

In the end the group that crossed direct, and myself going the long way, met up again at the other side, and at more or less the same altitude. Over the gun firing range we were able to climb up again and continue onwards down the range to the next crux at Payson (where I had my low save a few days ago). I got low again before this point, but was able to ridge soar my way out of there while Tim O'Neil and Cherie landed at the Dream mine.

At the jumping-off spot for Payson and the beginning of the next range we weren't able to get super-high, only 9000' or so, and it would be a close thing if we were able to make the crossing. Melanie and I started the crossing and part-way across we were able to find a flatland thermal which let us connect with the foothills at the base of the range. But unlike the other day, we weren't able to find the thermal necessary to get established on the range and ended up landing at the base of the foothills. Tracklog is here. A few people with a better glide across were able to get established and presumably flew further towards goal (I think once past this point it was all downwind and a fairly straightward flight to goal for the next 45 km).

We were prepared to wait a bit as people had landed all over the place earlier than us and the retrieve vehicles were all full headed back to HQ before they could return for us. But a retrieve vehicle came by as we were sitting in the shade (it was about 30C) which was originally meant for 2 other pilots they were searching for. But when they saw us they opted to pick us up instead, and leave the other 2 pilots for another retrieve vehicle. Score! This meant we were able to get back to HQ earlier rather than later, in time to watch the last 30 minutes of the ridge soaring fest that was going on at the north side of POTM (I was too tired and hungry to partake).

This task was rather fun and I liked the bit about making us flatland fly for a bit. It would have been nice to be able to connect back to the mountain range at Payson, as I think the route was easy after this crux, although it may have been touch and go for some pilots making goal in time (goal closed at 7:30pm and the task distance was the longest yet). About 10-12 people made goal; Mads rumored to be in 1st. Bernard and Claudio were among these!

US Nats August 18

With the forest fire still burning south of us, with a 5 nautical mile restriction zone around it, we had to fly north instead. This wasn't an ideal direction given the wind direction for the day (NW) but we decided to give it the ol' college try. On a side note, on the news today the fire was said to be caused by arson. When speculated on who started it, one local said that all he knew was that the fire started up shortly after "all them hang gliders flew past yesterday". So once again we are equated with less-than-civil behavior (unless of course somebody was smoking while paragliding :).

Task was to fly north just past Point of the Mountain, tag a TP there (just south of Olympus), and then goal at the north side of POTM. Total distance about 53 km.

I launched and was able to climb right out to 12,000' up to Cascade Mountain behind launch, which gave me a great view of the Wasatch range and Deer Creek State Park (the lake in the distance in photo 1). Since we had to be within 3 km of launch after 2:30pm, and we were ultimately going to head north, I decided to wait for the start upwind, on the other side of Provo canyon, and then dash downwind to tag it (as the 3 km mark was right in the middle of the canyon), rather than have to slog upwind at 2:30pm when I might be lower.

This worked great as I crossed to the other side of Provo canyon out front and was able to find a thermal over there to keep me up. I was actually 4 km away from goal, but the thermal was drifting me back to the 3 km mark, and I had 10 minutes to go until the start, so I let myself drift back in the thermal until 2:30pm came. I was still a bit upwind and outside the start, so I had to turn downwind for about 10 seconds or so, but I was able to tag the start along with the first 10 gliders or so coming upwind towards me, and was among the first to lead back out across the canyon.

Now this canyon is broad enough and has some LZ options in it that crossing it deep is not as bad as some of the other canyons we've had to cross. And the mountain we were headed for (Mt. Timpanagos) was directly into the wind, so I reasoned that if I could only get there, I'd be able to ridge soar up the face of it and not sink out. And there were plenty of places to land on the plateau below Timpanagos if you had to glide out (albeit with a mondo hike out). So I went for it and dove onto the face of the mountain. Everyone was following and doing the same thing and we all just dolphin flew our way back up to 12,000', not turning once, and flying the entire face this way. It was rather fun with all the gliders around me, all doing the same thing and the vario beeping reassuringly. I would have loved to have taken photos of this part of the flight, but I was close-enough in to the mountain face, and surrounded by gliders that weren't always behaving themselves, that I didn't want to risk letting go of the brakes to grab my camera.

At the other end of Timpanagos was another canyon. American Fork canyon is not as friendly as Provo canyon, even though it's a shorter glide across, since it's steep-sided, with no LZ's at the bottom, rocky cliffs the whole way to the road at the bottom, and very narrow so the wind just howls through there. This canyon is why the phrase "canyon suck" was invented. When I saw this canyon I knew it was trouble, and stayed on Timpanago to tank up for the crossing over. Problem is, Timpanago is set so far back that when you tank up, you end up so far back that you can't really cross straight over the canyon without getting sucked into it, with no place to land. You have to head out into the flats essentially in order to curve way around it and avoid the canyon suck (if such a thing is possible with this particular canyon).

I headed out to the flats from 12,000' in order to do the curve-around, but still I almost ended up in the canyon. The suck was enormous. Gliders that didn't curve around like I did and tried to do the crossing from further back were in even worse trouble. A couple of gliders landed up in the mountains at this point, either because of canyon suck, or too much wind to glide out, or whatever. Some were able to relaunch (although their flight for the day was ended as far as scoring goes since they had technically landed), and some stayed up there for retrieve. Apparently one person landed up high (~9000'), called for retrieve as there was a "road" nearby, gave his co-ordinates, but didn't mention his elevation. So the van that was sent for him ended up going up this serious 4 wheel-drive-only road, bottoming out, for 10 km, instead of going along a paved road they had assumed he was next to in the valley floor :)

I managed to get across American Fork canyon and on the other side it was working too, but it was getting windier and nastier. It was harder to get high now since the wind was trashing the thermals up, and we had another huge bowl to get to the other side of and over before we could tag the TP. I dicked around in this bowl forever, trying to get high to cross to the other side, and did indeed get to the other side finally. But once over there, finally at 12,500', it was extreme leesidedness. We still had to get over Lone Peak, which is about 11,000' high, and it was not gonna happen. From 12,500' we all hit sustained 8m/s down, with gliders all around me wadding up and falling out of the sky, and were flushed back into the valley we had just struggled out of (in the opposite direction we were trying to go). All that effort we had just expended down the toilet!

A few pilots were able to sneak across to the other side, but closer to POTM, and ended up landing at the north side of POTM as there was no lift on the windward side by now. It was so windy from the north that even the people who were 10 minutes ahead of us and at the TP, weren't finding lift on the way to goal (down/crosswind), and landing short. In the end about 22 pilots made goal, most of them people who had arrived at Lone Peak about 10 minutes before my group, when the wind was still more west and less north (which made for less leeside and thus a bit easier to penetrate).

Meanwhile those of us back in the lee of Lone Peak were being flushed to the ground. Fortunately at the base of Lone Peak is the town of Alpine, with lots of fields, schools, churches, etc. to land in. Pilots were raining out of the sky all around me. I found a field to land in, next to an intersection (International Way and Meadowlark Drive in Alpine, Utah, if you want to find it on Google Maps :), and on my final glide I saw that the actual T-intersection just short of my chosen field was wide enough to land in, was deserted (no car traffic), and had no obstacles like powerlines or trees. And the field I was about to land in was full of line-grabbing sagebrush which I envisioned taking hours to extricate my glider from. So at the last minute I opted to land in the intersection instead (had traffic all of a sudden appeared I would have just gone long and landed in the sagefield instead) and had a nice touchdown just past the stop sign. Tracklog is here.

This meant I got to pack up on a nice green mowed lawn next to the sidewalk, rather than a messy sage field with grasshoppers, and talk to the people who lived nearby who were out mowing their laws, BBQ'ing, walking their dogs, etc. Landing in SLC is much more civilized than landing out in, say Golden or Pemberton! Retrieval driver Marge was in the area so she picked me up and I took over as co-pilot, as she was a bit overwhelmed with driving, answering the radio, taking phone calls and GPS co-ordinates from downed pilots in Alpine (about 20 of us landed in the same vicinity), and using the Nuvi. We discovered that some of the subdivisions in Alpine were too new to actually be in the Nuvi GPS, so it took us a while to find those who were giving their co-ordinates as street intersections rather than GPS co-ordinates.

In the end we were able to round up everyone who had landed in the Alpine area, and back to the north side where we learned that 22 people had made goal. Others landed at goal, without tagging the TP first, since it was so windy that they couldn't continue upwind anyways. All in all a rather challenging day, and a bit dangerous in the lee of Lone Peak for those who got there a bit late. Not the best task for the day's conditions, but given the restriction on flying too far south, not much option. Hopefully the fire will be out soon so we can fly south more and north less :)

Apparently there is a tie for 1st place for today, Matt and Josh with something like 976 pionts each, but these are still provisional results and may change between now and tomorrow afternoon. Provisional results can be found here. And new pics can be found here.

US Nats August 17

Today's task was simple (at least to remember, not necessarily to fly!). Launch and fly south to Nephi airport, about 66 km away straight line distance. Winds were predicted to be NW so it would be downwind for the most part (in theory, anyways).

The wind techs weren't staying up, so it was up to Bill Belcourt to launch and get the rest of us motivated. I happened to launch just as a band of cirrus came through so I had to work hard to find lift and stay in it. But I managed to stay with the lead gaggle until the start (at 3pm), at which point we were all just outside the 3 km start cylinder, so we had to backtrack to tag it before we could get on our way.

Most pilots were flying deep in the range, but I didn't like the glide out if caught back there, so a few of us stayed out front instead. It was windy down low (as per) so the thermals were all broken up, but we got down to the spot on the range where you have to decide what to do next. Goal was actually still 45 km away or so, and in the flats, with the mountain range curving around towards it. This meant you could either attempt to fly the flats the whole way, fly the flats for part of the way, or stick to the mountains.

Ryan, Bernard, Andy Macrae, and myself chose the flats for the first part at least. It took us 2 thermals to get across to the other side, but by doing so we cut a major corner and were able to jump ahead of some people, and catch up to other people who had chosen the more roundabout way. But flying the flats requires a gaggle...I wouldn't recommend it here if you are flying alone!

We were able to cut a bunch of distance off at Spanish Forks canyon, avoiding the windmills and the huge gap to cross, with the associated canyon suck, and reconnect with the mountains on the other side. Back in the game!

From then on it was easier as I had lots of thermal markers all around me and the more familiar mountains to fly. As we passed by a large forest fire started up on the mountain just south of Spanish Forks, and was still burning as of this evening. Hopefully it won't impact our flying tomorrow and they put it out quickly. (Probably human-caused as there wasn't any lightening in the area).

At Payson was another crux. This involved a large gap jump into the west wind as the mountain range did a major right turn into the valley before continuing on south. I topped up at Tower Peak with everyone else and then we started the long slow glide into the wind. Depending on what line you took, it either worked or didn't. My line very nearly didn't work :) Jon and I found ourselves very low at the end of the bend in the mountain range, just on the last foothill, and not finding anything. We were getting ready to land, only about 35m above the ground with our feet out of our pods for landing, when we found a little 0.1m/s thermal. Since it was totally flat ground beneath us, and there was little to no wind on the ground, we decided to turn in it. Worst that would happen is that we'd fall out and have to land slightly downwind.

Fortunately we didn't fall out (!!!), and from that low save of 100' AGL, we gained 650m of elevation and were finally able to connect back with the mountain range. It's the lowest low save I've had in a while, and it felt great to pull it off (especially when other pilots came to the same spot and had to land; many pilots landed here).

Back to the mountain range where we were able to meet up with the other pilots who had made the glide a bit more easily, and it was time to start thinking about goal. It was still 25 km ahead of us, but out in the flats, and we didn't want to fly too far past it and then have to punch cross/upwind to make it. So I started planning my approach by staying out front, and making sure not to drift too far back into the back range.

This worked nicely until the group I was with found a ripper which was taking us past 13,000'. It had some drift to the backrange, but since it was taking us so high I decided to stick with it and see what would happen.

The thermal kept going past 13,000' (cloudbase looked to be about 16,000'), but it was starting to drift me too far back for my liking so I bailed and headed back for the front range. I looked back and everyone else was following me, and looking at the GPS I could see why...goal was now only 20 km away, cross/downwind, and available at 11:1.

I was averaging roughly 11:1 (it varied between 7:1 and 15:1), and the day was getting late, and it was time to start thinking about heading out into the flats anyways to not overshoot goal, so I decided to go for it. I got myself as skinny as possible and put the glider on a glide for goal, putting the arrow on my GPS straight ahead, and tried to move around as little as possible. It was going to be close!

Fortunately the lower I got, the more downwind it became, and the faster I flew. I still wasn't sure I was going to make goal until about 4 km out, but the last 4 km flew past as I was doing 75 kph downwind. My GPS chirped that I had arrived at goal and I had about 100m to spare (phew!), enough to turn around into the wind and elevator down into the field next to the airstrip.

Many people ahead of me, but also some people behind me arriving, so I'm not dead last :) It took me 3 hours 55 minutes to fly the course. Tracklog is here (even though the distance to goal was 66 km, I actually flew 77 km to get there), and pictures are here. There were about 20-25 people in goal which will make for a 1000 point day. Mads was in 1st, about 10-15 minutes ahead of the lead gaggle. He apparently flew most of the way via the flats.

I really enjoyed this task (and yesterday's as well). Technical and lots of decisions to be made, gap crossings, and a combination of flatland and mountain flying. Kudos to the task committee!

US Nats August 16

The first day of the Nationals and we arrived on launch early to get the logistics sorted out. Weather was sunny but windy in the valley, although not much wind at launch elevation (yet). It was predicted to be fairly windy at the top of lift (12,000' or so) but from the west, which is a good direction for most of the range.

The task was not super-long, only 50 km or so, but it was very technical. We had to launch and fly south to a TP, then fly back north to tag launch again, and then turn around and fly south for about 30 km to a goal field in the flats. All along the route were several canyons with the dreaded "canyon suck" (venturi).

When the window opened at 1pm it was looking very lame (the wind dummies weren't skying out like we hoped) and the race start wasn't actually until 2:30pm, so it wasn't a huge rush to get off launch. Good thing, as the cycles on both launches were few and far between. (There is a lower and upper launch, and I had hiked to the upper launch for the extra space, no lineups, and the extra 200' it gives you...launch is only 1800'/550m above the valley floor.)

Eventually a cycle came through that I liked and I got off launch, and headed for the gazebo for the house thermal that some people were getting up on. Others were bombing out to the bailout LZ (relaunches are allowed at this comp) in the hopes of getting a quick ride back up before the launch window closed at 3:30pm.

Conditions were quite rough in general. The thermals were strong but not organized and there was HUGE sink in between. Apparently this is common around here the day after a cold front passes through; day 2 is usually much nicer which augers well for tomorrow. And up high it was windy as 12,000' it was maybe 20-25 knots and directly from the west, which meant that everyone who got that high and allowed themself to drift back with the thermal soon found themself on the back range with a long glide out. And by the time they made it back to the front range they were back to the same altitude as the people who stayed out front. In fact the best lift was out front over the valley floor.

I stayed out front and down lowish to avoid the higher winds aloft, and made my way to the first TP quite easily. Getting back to tag launch was another story. Strong canyon suck made the return trip very slow and tricky, and many pilots bombed out on this section. Reports of strong winds on the ground made me not want to join them, so I vowed to stay high and out of the valley flow, and if the thermal took me in the wrong direction from where I ultimately wanted to go, so be it.

Eventually I tagged launch and found a really nice climb which got me back to 11,000' and then it was the 30 km down/crosswind to goal. At this point you have two options. Some pilots opted to stay in the mountains the whole way, but this route was very circuitous as it took you away from goal, involved a huge into-wind push at the very end, and involved some big canyon crossings. It was also late enough in the day that people who took this route risked not making goal in time for the goal closing at 6:30pm.

I, and some other pilots, opted for the more direct route. Rather than flying the long way to goal, crossing some big canyons with big canyon suck, lots of west wind, and then having to punch directly into the wind to make the goal field, we opted to fly over the flats down/crosswind and hope to make goal that way. All day along the mountains, it had worked better out front vs. tight in, so we reasoned that the flats would be good too.

Several of us went on glide from our chosen jumping-off point and started the glide into the flats. It was soon clear that unless we found lift, we weren't going to make it as the wind was a bit too cross for a true downwind dash. I wasn't too upset though...the flying up until now had been very tough with wind to deal with, and I was fine with some quiet time with my glider.

3 of us made it to within 10 km of goal before we landed. I managed to get a ride in a goal-bound retrieve vehicle and drove the extra 5 minutes to goal :) In goal were about 12 pilots (Claudio landed just as I arrived), most of whom had chosen the longer route with the into-wind push at the very end (all comp gliders except for 1 serial class glider). So I guess the longer route was the way to go, although the last person just squeaked into goal with 10 minutes to spare before it closed. I don't think I would have made goal before the closing had I chosen the longer route. In the end I made around 40 km. Tracklog is here. Results (provisional so far) are here.

To top it all off, while climbing the fence out of the goal field (I had climbed in to help people pack up), I disturbed a hidden wasps nest in the vines covering part of the fence, and got several nice wasp stings from essentially grabbing their nest. Good thing I'm not allergic, and the swelling has now gone down :)

There was some carnage along the courseline too. One pilot side-hill landed/crashed on the way back from the 1st TP as he got enormous sink and wasn't going to make it to a LZ (there were powerlines in the way). Another pilot crashed up high and was heli-evacuated with a broken leg. It was definitely a day to keep an eye out...for many pilots this was their first flight here, and the post-frontal conditions made their maiden flight an exciting one.

Salt Lake City August 15

I'm here for the US PG Nationals (part 2; part 1 was in Dunlap a few months ago) which start tomorrow. I drove down (16 hours, spread out over 2 days) while the rest of the Canucks flew down. Also here are Ryan Letchford, Bernard Winkleman, and Claudio Mota.

When I arrived yesterday the front was just moving through. Huge storm cells in the area and lots of lightening. There were multiple strikes as I drove down from Idaho and many forest fires were started. Looks like BC! But the front moved through this morning, taking the south winds and the thunderstorms with it, and the forecast is for excellent weather for the upcoming week!

Most pilots showed up today and a crew went to Inspo (Inspiration Point, in Provo, just south of Point of the Mountain) to check things out. They apparently had good local flights, landing at the local LZ in time to make it to POTM where the rest of us had been hanging out.

It finally turned north at POTM mid-afternoon (as the sun came out after the morning t-storms) so there were lots of people kiting their gliders, doing short flights, getting their harnesses all set up etc. The north side has changed a lot since I was last here in 2004-05. It's now a full-on flight park, with mowed grass, HG set-up pads complete with tie-downs, benches, interpretative signing for the public, bathroom facilities, webcams, and a windtalker. And of course most of the houses adjacent to the flight park are owned by pilots, so some pilots are able to launch right from their back yard.

HQ for the comp will be at the north side, in the backyard of one of the local pilots. Of course it'll be a party zone every night as beer is not allowed on the public flight park land, but is OK on private property.

Rides up are courtesy of some comfy-looking vans. They are all equipped with Nuvi-GPS's, so when we land (if not at goal) we can just radio or text our GPS co-ordinates to the retrieve drivers, they'll be input to the Nuvi's, and they'll drive right to our location. Things are looking super-organized and the weather is looking to co-operate, so we hope to have an epic comp!

The official website for the comp is here and you'll be able to keep track of the results and other blogs as they happen. Pictures from the comp will be posted here and I'll be adding new ones every couple of days or so.

Golden August 2

A rather windy day and I didn't like the conditions that much, so I landed early at the 15 km field. About 5 other people joined me, so there were 6 of us on the side of the road, trying to hitchhike. Since this was obviously not going to work, I got the other 5 people to hide in the bushes, as I would try to hitchhike solo, return to GEAR, pick up a vehicle, and return for the rest of the people.

After getting rid of the deadweight :) I stuck my thumb out and lo-and-behold, the first car whizzing by stopped to pick me up. Turns out it was a friend of Vincene Muller's brother! Back to GEAR and picked up a truck and returned for the rest of the hitchhikers.

Meanwhile there had been 2 incidents. Louise had drifted over the back in a thermal and found herself pinned behind the range just past Harrogate, where the range splits. She was unable to penetrate back into the valley and landed on the backside of the range, high up, but OK. Another pilot tossed his reserve about 35 km downrange at about 2300m after flying into massive rotor (it was windy!). As there was no radio contact with this second pilot a helicopter was dispatched to rescue him. A bit of a cluster with the heli as it was a long weekend and the longline person was away, and some other issues with GPS co-ordinates of the downed pilot. In the end it was something like 2-3 hours post-reserve-toss that the heli actually left. In the meantime the pilot had hiked down and out on his own and had been picked up on the highway. So the heli was called off that rescue, and since Louise was still on the wrong side of the range the heli went to pick her up instead.

So in the end all ended well but I think there will be some changes made when a heli is called out for a PG or HG rescue on the range.

Some pilots flew far. Robin and Gray flew to just past Invermere and towards Fairmont (Robin 118 km, Gray 130-ish km). Many pilots at Harrogate and Brisco, but I don't think there were any out and returns today due to the strong winds.

Awards ceremony was held in the Events Pavilion and we had an awesome catered dinner and then the prizes. I can't remember who won what, but the results will eventually be posted here.

Golden August 1

I was still pretty tired from yesterday's flight so I was happy to do a short flight and land at the LZ. Conditions were similar to yesterday's which meant it didn't really turn on until later (3-4pm) but then people went far! Flights to Invermere and Fairmont, and several out and returns byt the HG's.

Flight of the day goes to Fiona, who did Spillimacheen and return to Nicholson, only to see the approaching storm/gust front (it was really hazy so hard to see the embedded cu-nim coming from Revelstoke). She turned tail and outran the gust front, doing 140+ kph downwind (her chase vehicle was doing 130 km on the road and she was pulling away) until she found a field that the gust front hadn't reached yet, landed, and about 3 minutes later the 80 kph winds hit. Serge had a similar landing in Parson, landing just before it hit and partially disassembling his HG to survive the winds. Jason Dyer flew to Invermere for his new personal best both distance-wise (previous best had been about Harrogate) and time-aloft-wise.

Serge says this week has been a training camp for spotting and surviving gust fronts :) Lots of stories which will hopefully make it to AIR magazine next issue.