After 3 weeks off flying to let my knee heal, I was itching to get back in the air. The forecast turned unexpectedly good, so a bunch of us showed up at Eagle Ranch rather late in the day (after 2:30pm; people were already flying and Nicolai had already gone over the back) with an eye for some late-in-the-season XC.
We tossed around a few ideas, possibly crossing the valley to Bridal, flying to Hope, etc, but in the end we decided to see what would happen, but made a pact to land *anyplace* other than the usual LZ's around Woodside.
Since it was obviously good, I got ready as soon as I got up the mountain, and launched into a nice cycle which took me up to 1050m and I was on my way over the back. Kevin had launched before me and was leading out, so I was able to see what the sink was like. Not too bad, but leaving Woodside from 1050m is not very high, and I arrived at Agassiz Mountain at about 800m (the CYR is below 335m). Al was with me, and we saw Robin headed our way, so we waited until he joined us, and then continued on to Bear Mountain.
On Bear it was quite reliable and we started chatting about what to do at this point. We knew Norm was chasing us so we had retrieve all lined up; it was just a question of what to do? The winds still looked light enough for a run to Hope but the day was late (it was about 4:30pm by now and blueing up). So we decided to fly as far as Ruby Creek and see what would happen once there. This time I led off for the run to Hicks.
Dove around the corner of Bear and made the run to Hicks Mountain, arriving at the toe which was still in sun. We weren't getting as high as we had been at Bear and Agassiz Mountains, but it was enough to push to the bump just west of Squakum Peak (Robin led out this time) and above the Ruby Creek LZ.
At this point you kinda lose LZ's for a bit if you're not high, and the final push to a suitable LZ in Hope required a bit more altitude that we were getting (I could see Hope but wasn't quite high enough to get there!). Had we arrived an hour earlier at Ruby Creek, we probably would have found enough lift for the final glide, but it was too late and the stratus clouds were coming in. So we ridge soared on the bump above the Ruby Creek LZ to "decompress" from the XC portion of our flight, and landed at the LZ with Norm and Al waiting for us (Al had landed at the base of Hicks).
I want to give a big thank-you to Norm, who despite not being able to fly due to his ankle cast, still comes out to drive, and offered to come get us if we went XC. I know it must be hard for you, Norm, to watch us flying when you're grounded, and we appreciate it! One of these days, when you're back in the saddle, we'll do the same for you.
Meanwhile Nicolai had crossed the valley to Laidlaw (he had a 2 hour jump on us) and flown back to Bridal. Last I heard Miguel was driving over to pick him up.
Given the time of year, and time of day, we were unexpectedly treated to a late-season XC of about 25 km. Tracklog is here. It was very cool to fly XC with a bunch of my friends...when flying XC I usually end up flying alone (unless it's a comp), and always enjoy the gaggle-flying and swapping the leading-out job that comes with a group. Hopefully this wasn't the last XC day for the Fraser Valley, but these days are gonna get fewer and farer between!