Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chelan Oct. 24

After a day of driving up from Bend, Oregon, yesterday, and no flying (it was cloudy and spitting rain in spots), we were ready to fly Chelan on Saturday. This was the weekend of the Halloween Women's Fly-in, which meant a lot of pilots were in the area (mostly Seattle pilots, with a large Canadian contingent as well).

Reports were of rather windy conditions on launch (10-12 mph from the SW) but doable, so a bunch of us went up to launch in Derek's truck. When we arrived there were a couple of gliders just launching, and they flew straight through a huge thermal right off Green Monster, so I knew it was working.

Got ready and launched between a bunch of people kiting, and went straight up in front of Green Monster. The first 20 seconds or so was quite slow, but once out front it got nicer and less windy, and it was nice thermalling/ridge soaring on the SW launch.

I flew for about an hour then decided to top-land to warm up. I had noticed Yaro out front and low on the next butte to the west, and after landing I heard on the radio that he was down in a gully and not moving. So Kevin White and myself got a truck together and went down to search for him.

When we found him he was walking around but not wanting to hike out unsupported, so 2 of us got his gear organized while the other 2 helped him to the truck. He went down the mountain and was pretty OK, except for a sore back, and went to get it checked out. Not sure what the outcome of that is yet.

Meanwhile back on launch it was getting windy so I packed up and went down for some lunch with Jim and Colleen, and when we returned a couple of hours later it was less windy again and launchable. This time I flew down to drop my bomb and try for the target landing, and it was windy enough in the LZ that I was able to hover into the LZ. Many pilots were landing short, coming in too far downwind and not making it to the target, and landing all over the place.

Over at the airport ridge a bunch of people were flying too. Alex, Robin, Martin, and Mia were there after it blew out on the Butte, and were having nice ridge/thermal flights there. We all met up later on for the party at the Chelan airport lounge.

As usual, the party was a blast and many colorful and crazy costumes. This year I didn't have a costume as we had been on the road for the past week, and no time (or room in the car) to get a costume ready. We had about 20 Canucks there, and the Barbie costume theme went off really well (Martina won for best costume: Martini Barbie).

Sunday morning it was grey and not windy, sledrides only we figured, so we opted to drive back to Vancouver early and beat the snow that was due in the mountain passes. I think some people stuck around for Sunday but nothing was really going on so we didn't miss anything by leaving early.

We are now back in Vancouver and probably no traveling for a while...time to get back to work and into Winter Mode. This last trip of the local season was fantastic; we flew all the sites we meant to fly, and only lost a couple of days due to weather or driving. I would highly recommend the sand dunes at Marina. You get a lot of kiting in, get better at your high-wind launching skills, learn a lot about your glider (energy retention, speeds, wanging around), and come back with a lot of sand in everthing! Just make sure to check the weather beforehand...you don't want to be stuck on the California coast when it's raining or blowing offshore.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hat Creek Rim Oct. 22


After leaving Marina super-early, we arrived at Hat Creek Rim mid-afternoon. The site is very easy to find; using the online site guides and GPS co-ordinates we were able to find the LZ's and also the road up. Road up is an easy 2 wheel drive and you arrive to the main launch at around 4500' (the main LZ is about 3500'). It faces mostly west which makes it an afternoon site, and in fact the main attraction is the daily evening glassoff.

After watching the conditions for a while we figured it was OK to fly. Given that we had driven the car up to launch, and we weren't sure about the top-landing, we had to figure out who was going to have to drive down. Initialy we drew straws and I drew the short straw, but Robin decided he didn't want to fly, so I was able to.

I elected to be the test pilot and got myself ready. When doing the radio check an unfamiliar voice came on the radio and asked if we were pilots! Turns out it was the only local in the area, Page, and the local radio frequency is the same as the Fraser Valley frequency! He told us he would be up in 5 minutes but I was already launching, so by the time he arrived on launch I was over launch and at about 6000'.

Winds aloft were north but not too bad, but it was definitely a bit over the back. Initially it was smooth, but as the flight went on it got rougher and rougher, so I opted to head to the main LZ and play around there, before landing in the target bullseye after about 30-45 minutes of flying.

Meanwhile Alex and Robin were geting ready to launch; Page had offered to drive retrieve for us so all 3 of us would be allowed to fly. Cycles were getting light (it was almost 5pm) and they had to wait for some cycles, but got in the air and were soon at the altitudes I had been at previous. Apparently the conditions were a bit different for them vs. me; it was rougher and the winds were coming from all sorts of directions. They flew for about 45 minutes before coming out to join me in the LZ.

Hat Creek Rim is a beautiful place to fly; you have Mt. Shasta to the NW and Mt. Lassen to the SW, and you are in a secluded valley away from the main valley winds (in Redding it was strong north winds, while at Hat Creek it was very light). It's completely unregulated; just read the info on the online site guides and make sure to clean up your litter. Free camping in the LZ (or on launch for that matter) and you have the place all to yourself. Page said most people who fly are visitors, and they come for the glassoff, although mid-day XC is possible. But in the middle of the summer, he doesn't recommend flying mid-day as it will be too strong and unpleasant. But this time of year, mid-day flying is fine.

We are now making our way further north, and hope to fly either Chelan, Saddle, or Baldy tomorrow. Slowly making our way back to Vancouver!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Marina Oct. 21


Marina delivers again!

We didn't get up to launch until mid-afternoon as the winds were still light; we started at Sand City and it was too light, so we moved operations to Lakecourt.

It was still light but doable, and straight in which made the light winds OK. No signs of locals, even at the HG ramp up north, so we had the whole place to ourselves. Alex flew south to Sand City and back, kiting some sections, while Robin stuck closer to home just south of Lakecourt. I went north a bit and played at a section of dunes I'm quite fond of...a low sand cliff that people will write their notes in ("Bob wuz here", etc.) with a long sloping dune behind it to waga around in.

I played in this section for a while, doing my swoops and getting low enough to read all the notes that people had written in the sides of the cliff (which is only about 10' high). Whenever I got low I'd tank up on the dune behind me, and head back out for some more swoopage.

Back at Lakecourt and I landed to do some filming of Robin and Alex, who were back in the launch zone as the winds were lightening up. BTW, the "table" sand formation in the bowl south of Lakecourt launch (people who have been here before will know what I'm talking about) is now gone...it looks like somebody undermined it so it's now eroding to a barely recognizable stump, sans iceplants so it'll probably be totally gone by next year). It was getting late and the winds were switching more SW (they had been pretty much straight on W until now) so it was harder to stay up on the low stuff.

Robin and I opted to pack up next to the car, while Alex would try to fly back to Fort Ord, where we would pick him up (you can now drive into Fort Ord, which makes it a handy half-way spot to get picked up if you land out between Lakecourt and Sand City). Alex ended up landing on the beach beneath Fort Ord and hiked up where we found him later on.

All in all 2-3 hours of flyable winds, and we ended up with 3/4 days of flying (the missing day it was drizzling, so we went to Big Sur for a hike instead.). We are now on our way north, stopping at Hat Creek Rim, near Mount Shasta, and then onwards to Chelan for the Women's fly-in.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Marina Oct. 20


Today was sunny skies and NW winds, so we got ourselves to the Sand City launch around noon and met up with a visiting pilot, Andre, from the Czech Republic. It was almost on, but by the time we got our stuff ready, it was fully on and threatening to blow out.

Launched and it was so on and almost straight in that we decided to do the run to the HG ramp at the Marina Beach State Park (about 10 km one way). Alex and I opted to stay down low, while Robin stayed high. Initially Alex and I were staying local while doing some filming, but eventually we started making tracks north.

With the strong winds you had to be careful, if staying low, not to get sucked into a gap and the associated venturi, and most of the gaps I crossed just fine. But I misjudged on one, and had to land in the iceplants. Hiked down to the beach and kited my way back up the dune and continued flying north; Robin and Alex were now ahead of me while I had sorted myself out.

Robin reported, at Lakecourt, that he saw a couple "fully involved" as he flew overhead. One of the dangers of flying at Marina is what you see from the air! Nude sunbathing, sex, homeless people with makeshift camps, dead sea lions, we see it all.

Once north of Lakecourt the the dunes are smaller for a bit, and involved on my part some kiting past some low sections (on one of my landings, I kited my way past a sea lion who was rather unconcerned with my presence). The winds had backed off a bit so this wasn’t a problem, and I got myself to the ramp to find the HG pilots just setting up. I had brought my lunch so figured it was time to eat!

We could see a roll-cloud-type (in appearance only, not in actuality) coming in, and the locals said it would cause the winds to die off, which is what happened. As the roll-shaped cloud came overhead another one started to form offshore (see picture #2 behind Alex), and it was clear a wave effect was setting up, and the time to relaunch and get ourselves back to the car at Sand City was in between waves, when the winds were actually reaching the ground and not bouncing over us.

Alex went first and kited/flew back to Sand City. I was a bit behind and made it as far as Fort Ord before landing, and Robin stopped at Lakecourt to play with another pilot who was in the area there. On the beach it was nice and sunny and warm, and I relaxed while watching the surf (sunny California!) until I figured it was time to walk out to the road and catch up with Alex who was getting the car (Alex says for me to put in here, that he saved our bacon).

In the end we flew pretty much all afternoon, and it was still on at the end of the day (it got stronger again, but I had packed up by then and was nicely ensconced on the beach, watching the sea lions playing in the surf). NW winds and warm temps all day (Robin opted to fly barefoot and in shorts, it was so nice!) made it a perfect day. We hope for more tomorrow!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Marina Oct. 18

It's time for our annual Monterey sand dunes trip!

This time it was Alex, Robin, and myself. Drove down in the Fit (cozy but efficient) and when we left Vancouver it was pouring rain. In fact it poured rain for most of Washington and Oregon, hydroplaning through Seattle and Portland. But by the time we got to Northern California the rain had stopped and it was dry again.

Arrived in Marina mid-day on the second day of driving, and it was SW and light, which is not the greatest direction but doable on certain aspects. We signed in at the ramp and then de-reserved our harnesses (not much point in having one, and you'll just get sand in it), and then it was off to play in the sand!

Robin and I stayed near the ramp while Alex ventured south towards Lakecourt. We played all afternoon in the winds, launching, surfing through the sand, running up the sides of the dunes, and basically getting sand in everything. So fun! A bunch of locals showed up but they weren't inspired to fly (they called the conditions "unflyable", too south for them), but we had a blast.

After it got dusk we headed to Papa Chaco's (our favorite Mexican spot) for our Mexican fix, and then joined up with the locals for an apres-flying beer. Suzie (one of the locals, a former HG pilot) invited us to stay at her house, which we accepted.

We are down here until Thursday, and then will make our way north to stop at the Chelan fly-in next weekend. Forecast is for sun and onshore winds for the rest of our trip so we hope to get more flying in. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Woodside Oct. 8

The east winds were forecast to die off for today so it was time to take advantage. Alex, Ryan, and myself showed up at Woodside in the early afternoon to find several people on launch waiting for a band of cloud to pass through before launching.

Arrived on launch and Al was ahead of me in the launch lineup, so when I launched he was already in the air. The air to the south seemed to be working more than the north cliffs, so we all flew to the south knob and were able to stay up. If you sunk below launch height it was quite difficult to get back up, but if you were able to stay at launch height or above, it was much easier.

I was able to get to about 1000m and then I noticed that the winds at that altitude were very south and very strong. Al was headed over past the north cliffs and I saw him get flushed, to the point where I wasn't sure he was going to make it back. In fact he was on the other side of the north ridge and was forced to land on a sandbar and get a boat ride back to the mainland.

At the same time this was happening, I noticed a red and black glider in the trees at the bottom of Woodside, just above the lowest cutblock on the mountain. Mike was OK (he hadn't suffered a collapse or anything, just scratched too low and couldn't make the glide out to a LZ) and secured in the tree and using his rope kit to get down, and Jim phoned 911 to let them know he was OK and not needing Search and Rescue (the glider was visible from the road so we were worried somebody from the public might call it in otherwise). Mike had other help already to get the glider out of the tree so there was no need for the rest of us to land and rescue him.

I top landed after about 2 hours of flying, just in time for Jim and a new load of people to show up and fly again, and lent my glider to Alex for him to try. It was still flyable and thermally, and in fact it was better flying conditions compared to earlier in the afternoon. But the whole day the thermals were very snarly and not well-formed, not classic thermalling conditions.

Kevin and Brad Henry showed up with their new Ozone Swifts, and Ryan was on flight #26 or so. In the end there were about 10 people or so in the air at various times throughout the afternoon.

Back at the bottom of the road and Mike was still getting his glider out of the tree. A couple of trees later and it was down, at least half of it was. The other half was (is?) still in a tree, so if you are looking for half a glider, it's available at about the 0.8 km mark (look to your left).

Given the time of year and the fact it has been outflow for a while now, it was nice to get some inflow and thermic conditions for a change. It's getting colder and weaker sunlight now though. Time to start thinking of winter flying destinations!