Wednesday, August 19, 2009

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!

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