Grouse Mountain Oct. 16

Had a nice flight at Grouse today.  Nice cu's but a bit shredded-looking, not as good-looking as yesterday's.  On the way up in the gondola I saw Fedja and Peter Graf already flying but I had the launch area to myself.

Even though there were cu's overhead it was tough to stay high...I was able to maintain indefinitely around 600-700m, although Peter mentioned getting to 900m earlier in the day.  Best lift was around the Cut, and nada over the gondola cliffs.

I ended up with about 50 minutes and Fedja and Peter had over an hour.  Nothing epic, just nice to fly some autumn air and watch the ships and planes in the harbour.  Cold though...time to switch to winter mittens soon!

Woodside Oct. 2

The forecast wasn't looking too great (stable-ish), but it looked like it would be worse on Sunday so I went out.  Cloudy skies clearing up and very light winds, and when I arrived at Woodside Dennis was just getting in the air after cloudbase finally rose high enough.

On launch it was crowded with 5 HGs and a pile of PG pilots setting up, and the cycles were initially very cross from the south, enough so that some pilots were actually laying out and launching that direction.  In the air it was nice though, lightly soarable and soft fluffy clouds to play with that rose as the afternoon went on.  By the end of the day I was able to get to over 1000m before it completely dried out and the lift died as the sun set.  2h:43 airtime.  I was pleasantly surprised...I thought it would be a rather lame day but it turned out much nicer than forecast!

Baldy Fly-in Sept 24 and 25

I attended the Baldy fly-in last year and had a great time, so dragged Alex along this year :)  And I have a new paraglider I've been itching to fly so wanted to take advantage of the dry side of the mountains to get some quality time with my new toy.

We had about 60-70 pilots attend (mostly Seattle pilots), including about 15 Canucks.  Saturday morning at breakfast we "pied" Jim Orava with whipped cream as the video camera rolled...always fun with the Pemberton crew!

Saturday was hot hot hot!  Rather stable so it was work to stay up at times.  I flew 3 times; my second flight was over 1 hour and I only flew out to land as it was getting funky in the air.  One pilot landed on the wrong side of the river and had to get a boat-ride across the Yakima river to the LZ.

Saturday night was the famous potluck dinner and bonfire; this year we had the added bonus of about 30 African drums to play with.  With all the booming it was a good thing that stretch of the canyon is pretty much deserted and the only house is a couple of miles away (the owner of Baldy mountain and LZ).  Turns out most of the prizes (spot landing and duration contests) were won by Canuck pilots; gift certificates from REI and glider stuff sacks made by a local Seattle pilot.

Sunday morning it was back up to launch for some more flying.  Grey skies turned blue with big cu's and the temperature soared.  One pilot had a rattlesnake attempt to get a free flight by crawling inside her glider cells; we had to shoo it out (carefully!) and scare it away from the launch area.  Similar conditions to Saturday initially, but local pilots suspected it would blow out eventually.  It did, and those of us in the air opted to land around 3pm while those still on launch had to drive down.  Eventually even the HG's stood down!

People started leaving but we stuck around to help clean up the area.  A swim in the river to wash off the dust and then driving west into the clouds.  As predicted, as soon as we hit the Snoqualmie summit it started raining, the temperature dropped, and we said goodbye to the sun and desert.

I had a really good time; the flying was good (not XC-able as it was too stable, but still nice to fly) and the party was really fun!  I was just so happy to be flying someplace hot and dry and get away from the coastal rains.

A big thanks to both Bob Bunger and Dave Norwood, local pilots who did the lion's share of the organizing and did a bunch of driving to make sure the visiting pilots got to fly.  They did a fantastic job and deserve big kudos!   You can see some more pics of the fly-in here.

Sun Valley Sept. 4

Well it was too windy today to fly, and tomorrow is projected to be even windier, so the organizers and task committee decided to cancel both days and finish the comp.  So we had 2 taskable days, which is unfortunate but hey sometimes comps go that way! 

Spent the day checking out Wagon Days, which is Sun Valley's and Ketchum's annual heritage festival.  Today was a mock shootout on Main Street, complete with cowboys, Indians, saloon girls, sheriff, and bank robbers.  Then it was the grand parade, which is a non-motorized parade of horse-drawn wagon, carriages,  and marching bands.  The grand finale was a mule jerkline with something like 20 mules, towing a train of 6 ore wagons through Main Street.

Final results of the comp can be found here, but in a nutshell, Jack Brown was the overall US Champion, and Eric Reed was the winner of the Sun Valley comp.  I ended up coming 3rd in the women's category, which was enough to get me a Go-Pro camera and some other swag.

I love flying Sun Valley (I think this makes my 4th time here) and hope they have a PWC here in a year or two, cause when it's on, it really on!

Sun Valley Sept. 3

Weather today was wind from the west down low, north up high, and higher cloudbase, about 15,000' in the high peaks.  So a 107km task was set towards Challis, with a TP at Dickey Peak about 70km along the courseline.

I was able to get myself in a better frame of mind for flying after yesterday's awful flight, so I was ready when the window opened.  Plus the fact I had no priority launching, and I figured the west wind would kick in at some point made me want to spend time in the air vs. on the ground.  Good thing, as the west wind did kick in, to the point that it looked like it was difficult to launch for the later people.

I could already tell it was gonna be a better day since we were getting higher than the same time yesterday, which really helped with the transition to Sun Peak and eventually Otto Peak.  I had a hell of a time getting high off Otto, and eventually dove off it into Trail Creek Pass from 13,000' (Nate recommends 14,000').

The next 15km or so were pure hell, as I was low in the valley wind which was just scouring the hills.  I scunged along and almost landed 2 or 3 times, but each time I was able to find a climb to get me a bit further along.  At one point I was 200' over the ground when Meredyth and I found something which eventually solidified and took us to cloudbase which was about 15,000.  Whew!

Finally back in the game, Meredyth and I parted ways.  I opted to stay upwind and fly in the lee of the north side where nice clouds were starting to form.  This stretch of flying is about 10km of no real roads, so you have to stay high to make it to where the highway comes back to the mountains, so I was very slow and methodical about jumping from cloud to cloud.

Finally I had to jump the valley to the south side since that was where the TP was.  Fortunately a nice cloudstreet showed me the way, and I arrived on Dickey Peak, which is a big massif about 11,000'.

From Dickey there are 2 main options to goal...cross back to the leeside and the nice clouds, or stay on the windward side.  I opted for the windward side and was able to cross-ridge-soar my way for the next 20km at 12,000' over a succession of knife-edged peaks.  It was very windy and I had to be careful not to get blown over the back (I heard somebody did, but was OK), and occasionally pushed out front to give myself some breathing space.  This stretch was some of the nicest flying I've had in a long time; beautiful scenery, pointy peaks all over the place, and I practically had the whole place to myself ;)

But, the big mountains ended about 12km from goal, leaving an into-wind glide for the last part.  By this time it was after 6pm and it was starting to glass off, with plenty of lift in the middle of the valley, so I was able to get the final 10km in very buoyant air.  Even so, I arrived at goal with maybe 300' to spare and then back downwind to the LZ (apparently the original LZ was right at goal, but was a field owned by a landowner who wasn't receptive to pilots landing there, so after the first few pilots were yelled at, people started landing in the next field just out of the farmer's view :)

I was 2nd last into goal I think, after 6 hours of tasking, and 7 hours in the air.  But I didn't care about taking so long; I was just glad to have made goal and not have to be retrieved from back of beyond.

Oh yeah, on the way back to Sun Valley and HQ we hit an owl, it was that dark :)

Pics can be found here, and results can be found here when they become available.

Not sure if we'll fly tomorrow...a cold front is moving in which usually means wind around here.

Sun Valley Sept. 2

After 3 cancelled days, we were jonesing for a flight.  It was sunny and light winds aloft, but the lift wasn't forecasted to get very high, maybe 11,000' over the deep peaks, and more like 10,000' over the valley.

In the air that's exactly what I got...I couldn't get much above 10,000' over the launch area.  The task was 75km or so to Stanley (north), and getting there was gonna be tough with this ceiling.  I figured going deep would work better than staying over the valley as I would potentially get higher, but when the start came, most people went for the over-the-valley route.  I saw a few people heading deep, and followed them rather than staying with the huge gaggle.  But I wasn't able to stay high enough during the glide to get to the next deep peak with any comfortable altitude, so I chickened out and headed back for the valley.

Big mistake, as by then all the valley-folks had passed on and I was pretty much by myself.  Usually this doesn't bother me as I'm used to flying alone, but given that today was rather scratchy, I should have stayed with a group (any group), rather than chase off deep and then change my mind part-way.  Anyways, long story short, I wasn't able to get up once I started off, and eventually sidehill landed in Adam's Gulch next to a hiking trail, barely out of minimum distance.

I wasn't the only one to land early; some landed deeper than me in canyons and such.  I only had to walk about 30 minutes before getting to the parking lot at the trailhead, where a retrieve vehicle was waiting for us.

So in the end I had a really crappy day and made a mistake, which pretty much kills my chances of doing well at this comp.  I haven't bombed so badly at a task in years, so I'm kinda bummed about it.  But the good thing is, I really have no place to go but up :)

I have no idea who did what or who made goal.  But you'll be able to find the results here eventually.

Sun Valley Sept. 1

It was obviously going to be too windy today, forecasted 30-40 knots at cloudbase, so the day was cancelled before we even went up the gondola.

People scattered to do different things...a bunch of people wanted to go to Twin Falls to BASE jump off the bridge, and I decided to tag along (I had previously done a BASE jump off the same bridge back in 2006).

It was howling windy in Twin Falls too, and in the end only a couple of people went.  Same as I remembered from last time, except there's now a plank to stand on, rather than a tiny ledge as you get yourself ready and centered.

I think today was the last day of obviously windy weather for the next while.  I'm pretty sure we'll be flying tomorrow!

Sun Valley August 31

Another cold morning (I camped at the hotsprings!), and a long wait on top of the mountain while we waiting for cloudbase to lift high enough (fortunately we have the restaurant to hang out in).  Eventually we had a task set to Galena Lodge and then back towards Sun Valley (50km), but by the time cloudbase lifted high enough, it was windy over the back, and it looked to be too windy to launch off the back side anyways, so the day was cancelled.

Back at HQ it was free pizza and beer and then relaxation time with the foozeball table or watching DVD's.  I think tomorrow will be too windy, but we'll see what the morning brings.  Fortunately, Sun Valley is a place where, when it's not flyable, there's plenty to do otherwise!

I've got some pics up, you can see them here.

Sun Valley August 30

Well the first day of the comp has arrived, and it was a cold one!  Temp in the morning was right at 0C in the valley bottom, and there was frost on the offloading ramp at the top of Baldy.  Forecast was for OD and t-storms so it was a bit iffy that we'd actually fly.

Given the conditions, a quick 30km task was set north to Galena Lodge, just before the Galena Pass.  Since nominal distance is 40 or 45 km (I can't remember which), this would by definition result in a sub-1000 point day, but hey, a low points day is better than no day at all!

As I said before, it was a cold morning, and up top it was even colder!  Fortunately we were able to stay in the restaurant up top to stay warm.  Then it started to was ODing all over the place and snow showers were passing through.  It wasn't looking good for a taskable day.

Eventually, after pushing the start back 4 or 5 times, the organizers cancelled the day due to OD concerns.  Since it was only snowing slightly, and I had my glider unpacked already, I opted to fly down rather than pack up and ride the gondola down.  Most others had the same idea and the air was soon full of gliders sled-riding down to the LZ.

Of course it's now sunnier, but I'm sure the OD will return, and we'll have another session of rain (snow up top) before the day is out.  We'll try again tomorrow!

Sun Valley August 28

Looking up, it's mostly cloudy and kinda pinkish.  Yesterday while at Sky Ridge I noticed the smoke from a fire SW of Sun Valley, so I think the smoke is moving in.  You can smell it too.  The tandems were operating this morning, and later on some pilots went up for sled rides.  I ended up going to Frenchmans's Bend Hot Springs instead, about 30 minutes from Sun Valley.

The forecast for next week is looking good sun-wise; I'm actually glad we're getting all this weather now, so we can get it out of the way by the time the comp rolls around.  But the forecast is also calling for snow-showers (!) over the next couple of days and especially at night!  Gah, and I thought we had a few more weeks of summer to go; that's what you get for living at 6000'.  Fortunately I think I have enough hand-heat-warmers hiding in my harness from last winter to keep me warm if it's that cold while flying!

Sun Valley August 27

Too windy again today to fly, but a bunch of us went up to tidy up the launch area.  Usually it's a 2-3 glider launch in the cleared-off spot, but we widened it to about 8 gliders, with room for maybe 20 more if they are willing to lay out in the flowers and weeds.  So hopefully we won't have any launch lineup issues, and people will be able to lay out almost anywhere they want.

Later in the evening I went out to Sky Ridge; mostly to see if I could remember the way there, and also in case it laid down a bit wind-wise.  When I arrived at the LZ there were 5 speed gliders in the air, followed shortly afterward by a couple of comp gliders.  It looked strong at first and then appeared to mellow as the sun set.  I didn't go up though.  To the SW the sky was full of smoke from a nearby forest fire that started up last night.  Hopefully that smoke will keep it's distance!

Tenting in a Thunderstorm

It's been years since I experienced a half-decent thunderstorm (you just don't get much of them in Vancouver), so last night was a real treat.  For about 2 hours we had storm cells move through, all with their associated gust fronts, rain squalls, and lightening shows.  I was in the tent so got the full experience.  Being snug in a tent, knowing you're nice and dry, while it rages just on the other side of the nylon, is a pretty cool experience!

This morning heard there were tonnes of new fires started up by the strikes from last night.  Fortunately none of them are close, and so far the winds are keeping the smoke away from Sun Valley.

Sun Valley August 25

I didn't actually fly today...arrived in Sun Valley and had some things to do.  Ran into Pawel who had just landed after flight #2 from Baldy Mountain.  Apparently 5 or 6 pilots flew today.  Tomorrow is the beginning of the Intermountain League comp (a 3-day mini-comp, before the Nationals begin on the weekend), but I think it may be too windy tomorrow for flying.  We'll see.

Photo is of Sunbeam Hot of the many hotsprings in the area.  Some are easier to find than others; this one was pretty obvious from the road :)  See my Picasa site for more pics.

Bridal August 2

On the way back from Golden, passed Bridal Falls about that time of day!  Despite being tired I couldn't pass up a flight there, so did a quick flight to Elk Mountain, and then top-landed Upper Bridal for a nap.

Relaunched and top-landed Lower Bridal to drive a truck down, but all the vehicles were spoken for, so relaunched and flew down.  Nothing epic, just nice to fly locally again!

Heard it was windy in the Fraser Valley out by Deroche for the folks flying Benedict.

Canadian Nationals Golden August 1

The morning tandems and sledrides were rather entertaining for us watching in the LZ...apparently it was nil wind on launch, people launching off the north side etc, but it was super-windy in the valley.  We watched at least 3 PG pilots land in the swamp, while those that tucked in close to the mountain made it to the LZ and then parked their way down.  Not very encouraging.  In addition, dark grey skies to the south made us decide to cancel the day due to wind and possible OD concerns.  (In the end, it did storm about 5pm with a large cell moving through dropping rain, wind, and lightening).

So the results from yesterday will stand as the official overall 3 are Robert, Will, and Othar.  We had 5 valid tasks out of 7, which is pretty good for Golden.

People are now starting to leave for Calgary or points elsewhere; I'll be leaving in the morning for the drive back to Vancouver.  After 2 1/2 weeks on the road, I'm looking forward to some down-time in Vancouver before my next road trip and comp in Sun Valley (end of August).

Canadian Nationals Golden July 31

We were thinking it would be another OD day, but the numerous forest fires in the Chilcotin have finally made themselves known...smoke came in from the west and shut things down enough to keep the t-storms at bay.

It was so smoky that it wasn't very sunny...almost shady at times.  We could see cu's above the smoke though, so we were hoping to be able to fly above the smoke eventually.  So we set a task down south about 20km, back to Moberly, and then the Nicholson LZ.

But none of the wind techs were going up, and it seemed pretty stable, so we curbed the task a bit, getting rid of the Moberly leg and shortening the task by about 1/2.  When the wind techs seemed to be staying up we started launching.

I was able to get over to where some pilots were getting up, and eventually got high enough to get some nice climbs under the cu over Mt. 7.  The smoke was very think was difficult to see the ground, and difficult to see around you.  It was almost IFR flying; I had to constantly use my instruments to double-check my heading.  And it didn't seem to be getting thinner the higher you went.  In fact I got to 3900m at one point and was still in the smoke.

Getting the south TP was pretty easy actually, so long as you stayed high.  Those that got low got flushed in the north wind and ended up landing pretty soon I think.  After tagging the TP I caught up with Will who was struggling down low, and together we were able to climb to cloudbase and start the slog back to Mt. 7.

More north winds on the final Pagliaro-Mt. 7 crossing, and I wasn't willing to dive into the washing machine that is Willi's knob in strong north winds.  I was pretty sure I didn't have the altitude to tag the last TP just across the valley past the LZ, and landed about 1km short of goal.  Had I stuck it out in the washing machine I probably could have climbed high enough in the rotor to make that extra 1km; Will and Xavier opted for this and got high enough for the crossing and tagging; oh well!

In the end there were 3 people in goal (Will, Robert, and Xavier); Brett, Chris, and myself just short of goal by about 1km.  Lots of people made only minimum distance so the day was only worth about 550 points for the winner.  Results can be found here (scroll to page 2).

The smoke is making it dark sooner; it's only after 10pm and already it's dark when in previous days it's been light until 11pm.  We'll see what this smoke does for tomorrow's final task.  Pics of the smoke are here.

Canadian Nationals Golden July 30

 First off, the update on Jeff is excellent.  It turns out that instead of a back injury, his only injury was a cracked sternum, due to his radio harness wacking him in the chest when he pounded in.  Otherwise he is OK and resting comfortably in a Calgary hotel.

Today turned into a pretty lopsided day, since of the field, only 10 chose to fly, while the remainder DNF'd.

Essentially it was very windy down low from the WSW.  Reports of winds in the 25kph range with gusts to 35kph down south, and in the LZ at one point.  And in the air over launch it was clearly windy.  But apparently up high it was better.  The problem was getting to up there safely...I wasn't comfortable with the winds on launch (especially on my EN-C glider, when there were comp gliders reporting being parked at times) so ultimately decided not to launch (which probably cost me a top-10 finish, but I'm OK with that!).

Of those that did launch, it seemed there were 2 results...either you got high, stayed high, and made goal (which was once again Chris' house after tagging Willobank and then Moberly), or you got low and landed in some weird place going backwards.  Mike Christiansen got low at Moberly and ended up landing in a punjy-stick cutblock and buggered his ankle a bit.  Max also landed in a cutblock as he couldn't reach the regular LZ's out front, but landed unscathed.  Others reported Level 2 conditions on some valley crossings.  It didn't sound very nice, so I was quite glad I was safely on the ground.

In the end, since most people DNF'd, the winner only got 250 points for making goal.  I'm pretty sure there will be lots of discussion at tomorrow's pilot meeting!

It's evening now and people are flying...still windy but mellower than earlier in the day.

Canadian Nationals Golden July 29

We didn't go up the mountain until late...noon, since there was a bunch of cloud around, but it was projected to clear up in the afternoon.  When we finally arrived on launch, it took a while for us to get a task together since we weren't sure how the weather would hold.  In the end we opted to go north and stay north (Willobank Mountain to Table to Moberly to Chris' house) since the forecasts were for worse weather the further south you went.

By the time I got my stuff together it was getting quite strong on launch, and those in the air (maybe a half dozen) were ridge soaring but not really going up.  I wasn't that enthused about launching in the strong conditions, and was considering an intentional DNF.  At this point there were 2 pilots in the air having problems...Xavier was in the gully to the east of launch (not a good place to be in strong south winds) and going all over the place, and Jeff was on the Tits having problems too.  While I was busy watching Xavier, I missed the action on the Tits.  Jeff had a big collapse and was so close to the ground that he went into the trees near lower launch.

At this point Bruce stopped the task and those in the air went out to land.  Now we had to get Jeff out.  Fortunately he had gone in at the one place that is easy to access...he ended up about 50m from the lower launch and helipad, and there's a road right to there.  Alex and Leif went down to help Jeff, and reported that he needed a helicopter rescue due to some sort of back injury.

Since he was essentially right on the helipad, it was probably the easiest helicopter extraction ever of a PG pilot in Golden.  He's now in the hospital for further testing.

I think it's eventually been windy cycles on launch every day we've had south winds, but we've just been launched and gone by that time.  Today, because we went up late, we got to experience what we've been missing up to now.

Canadian Nationals Golden July 28

We suspected the day would OD like yesterday but earlier, so we opted for a quick-n-dirty task, similar to the Day 1 fishbowl task we set at the 2007 Nationals (for those who remember that task).  In a nutshell, from the gravel pit to Pagliaro, with points in between, and ending in the Nicholson LZ.  In addition to keeping everyone local (good for retrieve), and keeping everyone safe (can see everyone and not be sending people downrange where we can't see the weather), it's also good for spectators since they can watch the entire race unfold in front of them.

Initially it wasn't that great in the air, pretty scratchy, and I had a sucky start.  I didn't get very high for the gravel pit TP and arrived back at the mountain low, and had to scratch on the Tits (or the Ass Cheeks, depending on who you ask) for a long time.  For those familiar with the Tits, it's a great place to hang out, but hard to get away from.  You can spend hours down there and not get away.

But I was able to get away from there eventually, and scratched my way to Willi's knob where I was able to get high (thank God!), and get the Pagliaro TP.  At this point the skies were getting big, and it was getting easier to get high and stay high.  On the way back to the gravel pit started to get hailed on by the cloud above me, but it wasn't growing that big so I put some bar on and drove to the other side.

Xavier was in the same general vicinity and got on the radio to report "Level 3".  So Bruce stopped the task.  Aggh...I had just reached cloudbase and had the rest of the course on glide; just needed to be quicker to get around the course before it was stopped!

Actually nobody had finished the course yet; the farthest-along pilot ended up with 730 points or so.  Pretty much everyone landed at Nicholson LZ after the task was stopped so very little retrieve needed doing.

Low save of the day goes to Randy Parkin, who launched almost last, immediately sunk out of sight, and after an hour of not being visible, popped above launch and gave a salute to the cheers of the crowd watching from the HG ramp.

In the end the skies stayed fine, and some people went up to fly later.  But better to be safe than sorry, and we have lots of flying left.  Golden is not a place to play with cu-nims!

The organization has now posted the results on the WCSC website; you can see the results here and scroll to page 2.

Canadian Nationals Golden July 27

It looked forecast to OD eventually, and be south wind, so we set a task to the north to Donald Station, back to Moberly Peak, and goal at Chris Muller's house in the Blaeberry (about 57km).  The air was not as spicy as yesterday, so it was easier flying I found.  Climbs to 3100+m.

Didn't find the usual lift at the Moberly mine so went around the corner a bit in the Blaeberry to get high, and then did the crossing to the other side of the valley to Willobank Mountain.  Once over there it was an easy ridge run to the end, tank up, and then head out for Donald Station.

Back to Willobank Mountain up to cloudbase and then did the into-wind slog across the valley back to Moberly.  I wasn't able to tag the TP at first, and had to tank up and try 3 times on the ridge over Chris' house before I got high enough to tag it.  Of course then it was an easy glide to Chris' house and I arrived at goal with a few thousand feet to spare.

The skies were starting to get big so it was tough to get down (of course!).  About 22 people in goal I figure, with several people in goal for their first time (always nice to see!).

Some photos are here.  Since there is no website for results at the moment, I've also included some photos of the results: Task 1, Task 2, and Overall after 2 days.

Later in the day it did OD and start spitting rain in the LZ and we had some thunder, so a good call to make the task short and quick, with people on the ground a few hours before the rain hit.  We will see what tomorrow brings weather-wise.

Canadian Nationals Golden July 26

Day of the Canadian Nationals and the task was simple: fly to Invermere which is about 108km.  We decided on this task since it's the classic Golden flight, and we wanted lots of people in goal for the first day, and the weather was going to be good for downwind flying.

I found the air a bit trashy, rougher than Chelan, but still fine.  There was wind around however, and you had to be careful not to find yourself low, or in the lee of a spine.  My motto for today was get high, stay high.  For the most part I was able to do this, although I got low at Brisco and had to ridge soar my way out of a low spot before catching a nice thermal to 4200m.

With this height I was able to skip the dreaded Spur Valley gap, and fly straight to Edgewater before I needed to top up again.  A couple thermals later I was on final glide for Invermere.

Since I was flying with a borrowed GPS without a glide-to-goal function, and the winds in Invermere can switch to south (resulting in a headwind vs. the tailwind up to that point), I opted to get very high before making goal.  Fortunately the winds stayed north right to the ground, and I actually arrived about 800m over the ground, at which point I found it very difficult to get down!  I could have tagged the 400m goal cylinder, thermalled back out, and continued to Canal Flats, had I wanted to.

Meanwhile Xavier had crashed on top of a peak/ridge near Parson (some sort of collapse), but was unhurt and relaunched, and flew to goal!

I think in the end there were about 20 people in goal, and several personal bests were had.  Veronica had 3 personal bests: first time in goal, longest XC distance, and highest altitude.  She was very happy in the goal field!

Chelan Butte PWC July 24

I didn't have a great flight today...very windy from the SSW and I wasn't able to penetrate into the wind for the leg back to the Butte (from Brewster).  Landed at the edge of the plateau and was able to scoop a ride with Greg Kelley's private retrieve truck, which was a good thing since we didn't see an official retrieve van until Bump in the Road.  Many others landed at the TP, and in the end only about 9 pilots made goal, with many others missing the Butte TP since it was a 400m radius and hard to reach from the lee.

But I was able to hold onto 3rd place in the women's overall rankings, which means I get a spot in the Superfinal in Turkey if I want it.  If I go I'll have to upgrade to at least an EN-D glider :)

You can see the overall results at the PWC website.  Alex and I are now heading to Golden for the Canadian Nationals.  The weather is looking sunny and hot!

Chelan Butte PWC July 23

After a much-need rest day (too windy yesterday)  it was back on launch for what we thought would be a short-ish (relatively speaking) task.  We were wrong...about 120km OR to essentially Sim's corner and back via Gonam Peak.

The winds were very north which meant it was crosswind to Sim's, and every thermal resulted in a more downwind climb.  It was very difficult to stay upwind and by the time I reached close to Sim's I was quite far south of highway 172.  Too much north wind and I landed about 46km out.

The retrieve didn't come by for about 2 hours, and then it was an adventure-fest down small primitive roads that turned into trails (and we weren't actually looking for anybody at this point, but trying to get back to Chelan), culminating in a "Thelma and Louise" moment when the trail dead-ended at a 700' cliff on Jameson Lake and we had to screech to a halt.  Obviously we were lost!

After some serious 4 wheel driving, going through gates and past "no trespassing" signs, down to Jameson Lake and back up the other side, we finally found a paved road and eventually found our way back to Mansfield.  Back at HQ 5 hours later...

I think about 20-25 pilots made goal; most dirted around the first TP as the winds were stronger than predicted.  And I think the scoring is taking a bit longer than expected...with the funky task (1 exit cylinder, followed by a much larger entry cylinder around the same point!) I think the scoring software is having issues :)

Chelan Butte PWC July 21

Phew...I don't think I've ever had to fly so hard, for so little reward...

Task today was a monster 150km triangle, with the first 2 legs either into the wind or crosswind.  Winds aloft were varying between NW and NE, depending on your altitude, and the air was very textured.  We had at least 3 reserve deployments, 2 of them (at least) near the first TP at the north end of Banks Lake.

With the north winds it was tough getting established on the rim, and all the climbs were taking us away from the courseline.  It was a battle to get a few km's, and then you'd lose a bunch of that in a weak climb.  But mixed in with the weak climbs were some rippers that took you to cloudbase about 12,000'.  I got very low just east of Mansfield, and dove into a monster dust devil to get back up and in the game.  As I climbed out I was getting peppered with clods of dirt, grass, and tumbleweed debris as they rose around me.

I was getting pushed further and further off courseline with every climb, so decided to push more into the wind for the next bit.  I crawled to Sim's corner and then spent the next 2 hours clawing my way north towards the TP with Cherie, Jimmy, and Cliff.  The winds kept picking up and blowing the thermals to snot, and those that were coherent were too slanted back to be of much use.  Eventually the wind drove me to the ground where I landed in the middle of butt-f*ck-nowhere at the NW end of Banks Lake, going backwards about 3km/h, and had to utilize my high-wind landing skills.  Tracklog is here and photos are here.

One primitive dirt road I could see about 300m away, so hiked out and of course no cellphone reception, and no radio contact with retrieve.  So I pulled out my Spot and pushed the OK-come-get-me button, found some shade at a big boulder to hide from the fierce sun, and waited for retrieve.  Lo and behold, a van came by about 30 minutes later!  Spot saves the day!

I then learned that Jimmy had tossed his reserve a few km behind me, so we went on the hunt for him.  Found him and he was just fine, and also picked up Cherie who was nearby.  Cliff was a bit tougher to find, and we spent a couple of hours looking for him, but eventually found him and back to HQ after only 4 hours in the retrieve van :)

Meanwhile about 15 pilots had made goal (somehow remarkably, against that wind), and most others were scattered out in the countryside.  A very tough day, industrial air, and for the 4.5 hours I spent doing battle, got credit for 49km of the task (do the math!).

Alex chose to fly open distance and flew to Warden, which is SE of Moses Lake and about 122km.  Hitch hiking and the Greyhound to Wenatchee, and then Tim took the car to grab him.  A long day for all!

Chelan Butte PWC July 20

Lots of cloud around, which was both good and bad.  On launch it was a bit of a shit show with light cycles and people not getting up, so I got off launch quickly to escape the fray and take my chances in the air.

It was not easy going in the air either, northeast wind and light thermals down low meant it was very hard to get high and stay high.  I got very low a couple of time I was too low to make it to the LZ, and had committed to a possible walk out (or hike back to launch) if I couldn't find anything.  But I was able to get myself out of there and back up to cloudbase (about 2500m over the Butte, although it got to about 3500m by the end of the day).

By now the start had come and gone, and most people had left for the first TP.  Most people chose the flatland route, but the group I was thermalling with chose the western route (over the airport etc).  I didn't want to go that way so I was pretty much alone for the glide over to the flats, and once there had to grovel for a long time before getting high.

But once high there was a nice cloudstreet all along the rim of the flats all the way to Brewster, so I just had to stay under them and top up when needed.  I got my best climb of the day just after tagging Brewster, and it was a good thing I got this climb as that was going to be the last for a bit.  It was overdeveloping on the flats and most of the ground was in shade, so the entire glide to Bump in the Road was just a glidefest.

There were some other gliders with me at this point, Cherie and Melanie (the "girly gaggle"), and we were able to work some light lift over the powerlines on the way to the last TP when it started to spit rain.  No more lift there, so on glide over the river with the hopes of finding something on the other side and perhaps over town, when the call came in that the task was stopped due to rain.

It was getting suspiciously lifty so I big-eared it and spiralled my way to the soccer field to land in light rain.  It was also raining comp gliders all over the place as people were landing as soon as possible to avoid the possible cloudsuck and big clouds that we suspected were embedded in the cumulo-stratus layer.  About 40 pilots in goal before the task was stopped.  Tracklog is here and photos are here.  Because the task was stopped, the new PWC rules say we'll be scored according to our altitude at the time, and given an adjusted distance given a 2:1 glide ratio.

Had the task not been stopped I think we could have made the last TP no problem, since it turned out to be so lifty over the river, and probably goal as well.  But given how lifty it ended up getting all of a sudden, it was probably a good idea to play it safe and stop the task before it got potentially dangerous.  We have lots of flying left!

Bill Hughes tossed his reserve just after the start and Pawel landed next to him to assist.  Bill was fine and is just looking for a replacement reserve handle, if anybody has an extra one :)

Chelan Butte PWC July 19

I was back on my trusty Aspen 3 today, so it was more difficult to keep up with everyone else.  Task today was 119km triangle, since it was "light" winds aloft and high base (about 12,000').

I had a heck of a time getting high after tagging the first TP, and grovelled for about 1 hour since I had to cross no-mans land between Farmer and Mansfield, and didn't fancy landing out there.  So by the time I got high enough to make the crossing, I was super-late and had wasted a bunch of valuable flying time.

I met up with Ty in the middle of no-mans land and we were able to get up from about 500' over the ground back up to 12,000' in one thermal, with dust devils breaking off all around us.  Then onwards to Leahy and that was a tough one to get too.

Flying back upwind to the soccer field was very slow...a bunch of us worked together to get high again about 11,000' and then it was on glide, hoping to find something else.  But I was unable to find anything and ended up landing after 88km.  Most of the other pilots in my group landed nearby or maybe 1-2km further on.  Tracklog is here.

I was very tired after 5 hours in the air, pushing speedbar for most of it.  But it was a good day and good task-setting.  Less hassle with retrieve compared to yesterday (not so far to find people).  But the clouds we were hoping for didn't materialize for the most part (except in isolated areas).  I think they are predicted for tomorrow though...light winds and nice clouds means we'll have another epic task I'm sure!

Chelan Butte PWC July 18

Initially I thought the weather forecast was wrong on the winds as it was howling in the morning, but it died off by the late morning.  I was test-flying Meredyth's GTO so had to futz on launch a bit, so I wasn't off launch as early as I liked.  But that was OK as the start was over on the flats which meant you could go over there pretty much when you wanted to, so long as you stayed with some people to help with on the other side :)

We had a scary moment at the start when Amir chucked his reserve, and it got entangled with his glider, resulting in a spinning mess all the way to the ground.  But fortunately part of the reserve reinflated in time (apparently he used his hook knife to cut-away part of the glider and free up part of the reserve) for him to hit the ground.  It was a soft moondust field, and that, coupled with the partially re-inflated reserve in the last seconds (literally) meant the difference between minor injuries (separated ribs) and a more dire outcome.

Several people landed nearby and were able to render assistance so the rest of us continued flying.  I found the lift abundant and easy to thermal in...other people were reporting punchy thermals and hard to core up in.  There was wind, significant from the SSW, which meant most of the flying was cross-wind, but not a big deal I felt.

Getting across Banks Lake and Coulee City was a bit technical...with the wind you wanted to stay upwind but the thermals would drift you downwind and across open water.  I made sure to get high before the crossing and crossed at the causeway.  It worked out fine except there wasn't much lift on the other side so I had to dribble along for a few kms, until I found a dustdevil to show me the way.

Goal was 10:1 glide away, and with the cross-wind I wasn't sure I would make it with that, since in between the lift there was plenty of sink (I was getting average 4-5:1 glides at times).  So I figured I'd play it safe and get high enough to read 4:1 before leaving for goal.  Fortunately this worked and I was able to find additional lift on the way, enough so that I arrived at goal with about 2000' to spare.  Good thing, as many other pilots didn't make goal and landed just short.  About 70 pilots in goal by the end I think.  Tracklog.

I didn't fly very fast, 2:36 while the leaders were under 2 hours, but I was happy with my result.  Nice to make goal at my first PWC.  The glider was very nice as well...awesome performance and speed.  But I found it a bit heavy in many respects...heavy weight, heavy leading edge, heavy brakes, and heavy speedbar.  You need super-beefy legs in order to use the speedbar for any length of time, and by the end of the flight I was very tired.  But I can see why people are buying them if they want to fly performs beautifully!

Chelan Butte July 17

The official practice day for the PWC and light winds so we all flew to Mansfield and then back to the Butte (50km OR) so we'd be back in time for registration and the party. Initially climbs were only to 7000' or so on the Butte, but on the way back I got to over 11,000' on the flats near Mansfield. Martin et al were also flying and reporting nice conditions all over the place. Beautiful day (had it been a task day we could have easily done a 100km triangle) and it was very relaxing to be so high, no pressure, and an easy glide back over the rim into the Columbia river gorge and landing in the soccer field LZ.


Photos are here.

Chelan Butte July 15

I took the day off from flying yesterday in order to kick this cold, but Alex flew to Sim's corner. It was strong west wind and not very high lift, so it was difficult to get over to the rim with enough height to continue going...a lot of the comp pilots landed on the rim on their way to Withrop. About 20 pilots in goal at Sim's corner.

Stayed the night at Martin and Mia's in Mansfield, and today we are going to watch them tow and then swimming. A bit too windy for PG's we think, but fine for HG's.

Chelan Butte July 14

A "light" wind day so Alex and I decided to fly to Sim's corner and back to the Butte (about 80 km OR). The usual mayhem in the air above the Butte as the comp pilots got established and then all on glide for the rim and the flats.

Once established on the flats we flew together towards Sim's corner and found some east wind (?), so we turned back for the Butte. The comp pilots were coming back from sinky Leahy so we crossed paths over Mansfield, and a long slog back to the rim against the crosswind from the south. I didn't top up enough to make it over and landed next to McNeil canyon and a quick hitchhike back, while Alex got over the rim and down to the soccer field. About 80 km for Alex and 70km for me. Meanwhile lots of pilots in goal, and no accidents today!

Of course my 2 GPS's crapped out during the flight and now won't work (!), so I have to scramble to get a replacement/loaner in time for the weekend. Today (Thursday) is the last day of the Chelan Open so a lot of pilots are leaving, to be replaced by those showing up for next week.

Bridal July 10

A bit scratchy in the air and difficult to get high. It took forever to get to 1000m, and then it was still hard. I finally benched my way up to the Saddle and found nice lift to 1600m+, nice.

My goal for the day was top-landing Upper launch, since I haven't done that yet this year. There were a bunch of ATVers hanging out and enjoying the view so we had a nice chat while I waited for Alex to get high enough to also top-land. Perfect temps on the upper launch!

Relaunched and flew to Gloria, not much lift so flew back to lower launch and top-landed there to drive a truck down. Lots of gliders on the soaring knob but not too many people got away.

Bridal June 26

Windy in the Fraser Valley so I think it would have been blown-out for most of the afternoon at Woodside, but Bridal was definitely flyable! When we showed up at the LZ Wally was already in the air and staying up, and it stayed flyable until at least 8pm (he got about 6 hours today).

In the air it was a bit windy, but totally flyable, and people flew the entire range from Elk to Ludwig. Cloudbase never got really high (1100-1200m), and it never got high enough to top-land Upper Bridal (except perhaps at the very end of the day), but there was plenty of lift despite the low cloudbase. I found the air at Elk a bit weird with it actually feeling more like north wind (instead of SW), and it felt like I was being pushed into the Chilliwack River Valley, so I didn't hang around there too much.

At the end up the day it was sweet flying and top-landing conditions, and I was able to top-land to drive Ihor's truck down. A few others also top-landed after 7pm and relaunched as it was still cycling up reversible even that late in the evening!

Mt. St. Benedict June 25

Well after several days of machine- and hand-work, we finally got to fly the new launch! Initially we thought it would only be 3-4 people, but in the end we gathered up about 10 pilots to head up, do some more work on the launch, and fly off when we were finished.

Cloudbase was right at launch (1080m ASL) when we arrived about 2pm so it was no rush to get in the air, so we worked on shoring up the ditch behind launch, creating a bridge over the creek and swimming hole, spreading grass seed, and generally cleaning up the still-muddy launch and surrounding area.

Then the clouds started to part so we convinced Al that it was his privilege to launch first from the new-and-improved launch; a couple of tarps on the fresh spots (until the grass grows in), and he was off!

As the clouds continued to lift we were concerned about the strong SW winds that were supposed to be manifesting in the Fraser Valley; however we also thought the Sylvester Valley would hide the wind a bit. After watching Al we decided it was OK to fly, and we'd try to fly north to Dewdney Mountain where we had parked all the cars. In the end it was Al, Rob, Robin, Alex, and myself that flew, while Derek, Martina, Jim, and a couple of FlyBC students opted to drive down.

In the air it was quite rough due to all the spines that stick out along the range. But if you stayed high it was much nicer and less windy. But despite that it was still a bit spicy in the lee of the spines so you had to be on your toes. Cloudbase was abnormally low for this area...only 1200m or so. Usually it's way higher!

Once at Dewdney it was both ridge soarable and thermic, and we had a nice field picked out next to the cars. But it was so nice we decided to stay in the air a lot longer, playing in and around the clouds, flying out to Hatzic Lake, and generally enjoying the view. We didn't land until after 7pm, and it was still thermic and flyable even then (and probably until 8pm). Tracklog is here.

So the new launch has had its first customers, and they were very happy with the results. Big Kudos to Al for getting this project finally off the ground; he really deserves a big round of applause for all the personal work he's put into this place and helping to develop a new viable site. We envision this site being suitable as an alternative to Woodside and Bridal on stable and/or windy days, especially in the height of summer when the FV cloubases are low, while the Sylvester Valley cloudbases are almost always higher. The road is still in rough shape, but Tamahi Logging is scheduled to fix the lower 2/3's in order to get their logging trucks up and down, so in the end we could end up with a Woodside-quality road for at least the bottom 2/3's.

Grouse Mountain June 22

This time cloudbase was higher so we were able to launch from the peak. But it was still low...1200m initially, then it got higher at the end of the day. Greg, Alex, and I flew NW up Capilano Lake towards Crown Mountain, where Greg and Alex were able to ridge soar up the NW face and get to 1500m and above cloudbase while I was stuck on the lower slopes at 1200m.

Playing with the clouds for about 1.5 hours and then out to land in thermic conditions. Apparently Alex heard Jim and Derek on 146.415 mHz...sometimes it's possible to talk to the FV pilots if conditions are right!

Grouse Mountain June 19

Cloudbase was low (1050m) and it was blowing from the SE so launched off the Cut (1010m). Nice flying for about 1 hour and then it started to feel a bit "big", so went out to land at Cleveland Park. A baseball game in the upper field meant landing in the lower field. Nice flying and only 15 minutes from the house to the gondola!

Lumby June 12

It was light winds and cloudbase in the back ranges was going to be high, so we had high hopes for a nice XC. Original plans were for a possible flight to Revelstoke but once in the air it felt a bit stable for the initial flight to Mabel lake (low hills for the first part) and the higher and more unstable peaks once up there. So instead Kevin, Alex, and I flew east to Rawlings cliffs where Kevin and I were able to find a weak climb which Alex missed and ended up landing.

Al joined us and to the Camel's hump, and onwards towards Cherryville but it was too stable in the main valley and Al and I ended up landing in Bear Valley. Kevin turned around and flew back to the Airpark.

The hitch-hike retrieve turned into a ride back to Cooper's launch (!) as the guy wanted to see us fly again, and wanted an excuse to get away from the wife and newborn infant :) So back up to Cooper's he drove us. Blowing down with the occasional up-cycle (it was 4pm by now) so launched lickidy-split and had another good flight to 2300m this time.

People were at Saddle so I flew over there and it looked like lame launching conditions so I was glad to have launched off Cooper's again (even though it was really late in the day for that site). Later on we heard that Glenn had dared to do what we had all talked about and actually flew to Revelstoke. It sounded a bit hairy with long glides out to no LZ's (Mabel lake is very high and the beaches are gone, leaving only cutblocks up in the alpine). But a good job Glenn!

King Eddy June 11

Showed up in Vernon late in the day and it was just starting to get good at King Eddy, so stopped there for a short flight. I wasn't feeling like flying so drove the car down while Alex and Jonas had a nice flight. Meanwhile over at Cooper's it was sled rides for the most part as it stayed OD'd for most of the day.

Woodside June 8

Swiss pilot Jonas Buchli is in town for a while, so Alex and I took him out to Woodside for a flight. It was forecast to milk over in the afternoon, and that's exactly what was going on when we showed up on launch.

It was very light winds lower down and north up high, but Rob S. sunk out on Sasquatch mountain so I opted not to cross west. Instead I went east over the back to Agassiz Mountain.

North winds up high so I took the north line to Bear Mountain, where I got stuck and couldn't get high for the traditional run to Hicks. After about 20 minutes of bopping around I said f*ck it and went for Hicks anyways (from about 800m), arriving on the toe of Hicks quite low (about 350m).

But the west wind had kicked in so it was actually ridge soarable on Hicks, so I was able to get high enough for the glide to Ruby Creek and landed in the LZ next to Alex. Didn't want to continue to Hope as the wind had arisen so quickly I was worried it would be windy there, and Ruby is the last real LZ before Hope (especially with the sandbars gone for the next while while the river floods).

Total distance 27 km and Jonas came and got us...he chose to stay local and landed in Riverside after a couple hours in the air. I'm not sure if anybody else went XC from Woodside (except Rob), and I saw pilots at Bridal staying up in the shady milk. Later on it got sunny again so it may have turned on again for those who stuck around.

Woodside May 24

Mostly cloudy with a bunch of blue holes, Woodside was the call as it was south winds aloft which was keeping Bridal in the shade all day. We got to watch a police cruiser drive to launch to inspect the stolen and burned-out truck, and were wondering if the tow truck was going to have to tow both vehicles out! But she made it back up the hill, fishtailing the whole way, and the tow truck was able to drag the truck out as well. But what a mess left behind as the truck was shedding parts the whole way out. We picked 6 garbage bags of truck parts off the road and the parking lot.

The air was a bit snotty initially, the south knob was working very reliably but very ratty and a handful at times. Over the back to Agassiz Mountain and it was working better there, and then made the jump to Bear.

The river has risen a lot since the last time we flew here, and the sandbars on the Ludwig side are currently underwater. No low crossings to Ludwig for the next while; alternative ways to Bridal include via Harvest Market to Bridal launch, or crossing into Laidlaw from Hicks and trying to fly west from there instead.

With the Ludwig option now closed what to do? It was really light winds, and flying to Hope was an option. But Alex suggested trying to fly back to Woodside launch as this is a hard thing to do on a PG (normally) with the prevailing winds. Alex was a bit in front and was able to catch a climb west to Green Hill, while I missed the climb and arrived on the east side of Agassiz Mountain really low (300m). Al was behind us and also trying to fly back to Woodside.

I was just outside the prison CYR boundary (which has a ceiling of 335m) so I had to get higher before venturing west. There is a little bowl conveniently located just outside the CYR boundary that was working nicely, and I was able to get to 600m which enabled me to cross over the CYR and get to the nice cliffs and get even higher.

At this point Martina, Kevin, and Rob S. were coming from Woodside on their way to Green Hill and the Esso station in Agassiz. Passed each other and then it was the push back to Woodside launch. Alex tried the "south knob" approach and had to turn around in the shade to get back up in the sun, while I was topping up at Agassiz Mountain.

At 1300m I figured I had enough to make it back to Woodside, and it was shading out quite a bit so I didn't want to wait any longer. I went for it, having to go around the south knob and popping around the SE corner at 500m (just over the last tree line; the new cutblock behind the south knob gave me a few beeps to help me along). Once back on the west side I was able to thermal up in the last bits of the day with Mark Tulloch who was still in the air on his HG.

Alex meanwhile had topped up to 1400m+ and was able to take a more direct line back to launch, over the towers and skip the whole south knob route. Al tried the same route as me but was unable to make around the last little bit, landing around Harvest West and getting picked up by the Esso crew.

Light winds all day, and a short rainshower at the end of the day to round things off. Not an epic day and rather average in fact, but still nice to be able to try something new that PG's don't get the chance to try very often!

Bridal May 13

Initially we thought it would be really good, unstable etc, so on Woodside launch we decided to try over the back for the Woodside-Bridal-Woodside triangle. But once in the air it was apparent that it was not as great as the skies were showing, stable down low and sharp-edged thermals and low climbs. Al and Jim bailed on the over-the-back idea, while Alex and I went for it after only getting 1000m at launch or so. Al ended up landing at Woodside, then going to Shotgun, flying there, landing, and then going to Bridal for flight #3!

Agassiz Mountain wasn't much better at 1100m, and the crossing to Bear was brutal for me; getting there low and nasty thermals there too. We were able to get to 1200m a couple of times, which is barely enough to make it across to Ludwig on a good day. But fortunately there wasn't too much wind which made arriving on Ludwig low easier than usual.

But for me the flight was over at Ludwig...I arrived at 200m, got to 160m before finding something to 350m at the usual quarry thermal, and then sunk out on the sandbar at the base of the quarry (the thermal was drifting me too much away from a safe LZ...the only one at that point would have been a sandbar not connected to the mainland and I would to have swum to shore). Alex was able to get to 600m or so which was enough to get established on the range and he continued to Bridal and then Elk, eventually landing in the middle of the valley between Bridal and Woodside.

Oh well...if I don't sink out once in a while, it means I'm not trying hard enough!

This is the second and third times arriving at the quarry, and it seems there is a semi-reliable thermal out front these days. I think it's related to the big sandbar just upwind, with the Ludwig ridge behind, which makes this spot work. Something to keep in mind for others who want to do the crossing there and are looking for a reliable thermal trigger on the Ludwig side.

It got better later in the day and Bridal fliers were top-landing at Upper Bridal and getting to 1700m as well. Mt. St. Benedict may have been the better call on a day such as this...stable in the Fraser Valley but unstable further off the main valley and in the mountains.

Bridal May 11

A windy day at Bridal but doable. When we showed up at launch Alan was just landing and several others had just sunk out in a sink cycle. But it was shady on launch which made the launch cycles very weak, so I had to wait for a patch of sun to help things along. Conditions for my launch were fine, but apparently after the sun had been out for a while and others were laid out, it got worse on launch and many latecomers opted not to launch in the freight trains that were then coming through.

In the air it was quite windy but smooth cloudsuck, but difficult to get higher than 1000m. But as the clouds broke up it got easier, and I was able to make my way to Elk and then back to Upper launch. Got my highest climbs of the day at Upper, getting to 1700m+, and then decided to call it a day and headed out to land at the Rosedale school. Kevin was still playing in the air above Upper when I left and appeared to be having a great time.

Still really windy in the middle of the valley; I was using 1/3 speedbar most times and still only had 10-12 kph forward speed. In the end I opted for the large open field just upwind of the school (the school has a row of trees just upwind which can be problematic in strong winds) and let off the speedbar, resulting in only 4 kph forward speed. But the air was nice and laminar, not like at the LZ where it was more gusty, and the landing was uneventful. The landowner was nearby harvesting the hay, and he welcomed us to land there anytime.

Meanwhile a novice/intermediate pilot had launched, flown, top-landed (by accident), and crashed when he tried to relaunch. In the end Kevin Ault was able to topland (after 30 minutes of trying; it was so lifty and windy) to help get the glider out of the tree, while Alex and I drove Kevin's truck up to provide a way down for them. In the end the glider was a big mess of a ball, with the risers detached and the lines all tangled up. I'm sure it will take a couple of hours of detangling and reattaching of risers to get the glider airworthy again. The pilot was radio and he wasn't current, on a windy and technical day when lots of other more experienced pilots decided to stand down.

Bridal May 9

We didn't get out to the Fraser Valley until later in the afternoon, so we missed all the potential XC from Woodside. Cloudbase was looking epic at over 2200m, so I was figuring a PG pilot would succeed with the fabled Woodside-Bridal-Woodside triangle. But it sounded like the Green Hill crossing wasn't working today and most people sunk out in Agassiz.

Meanwhile up at Bridal it was looking pretty good. Strong lift and lots of development over the back, with the odd snowsquall over Gloria and Elk. Crossed to Elk and got quite high at 2000m, and then pushed out west past the first tower and to the second tower lower down. I was still at 1500m but decided to turn around, although I got back to Elk with so much height I probably could have continued west a bit longer before turning around (now I know I can push out that far at least, and still get back though!).

It was starting to snow quite heavily in spots and the development was getting larger and darker over the Elk side of the range, so I ran away east to Ludwig. Wind reports were coming in so I knew coming back from Ludwig might be an issue, but I wanted to try it anyways so I continued on. Got my highest at Cheam at 2200+m in the middle of a snowstorm. I learned that while on speed bar, snow grains really hurt your face!

Yup, coming back from Ludwig was harder, and the lack of sun didn't help as it had milked over and gotten dim. But I was able to find a bit of lift at the Lakes to get me to 1400m, which was enough to make the LZ in the dying part of the thermic day. So my first "Sammie" of the season! Tracklog.

Pemberton-MacKenzie May 8

Woke to cloudy skies which was actually nice, as it meant it would take a bit longer to heat up and possibly keep the skies more human today. A quick dip in the hotsprings and then back up the lake to Pemberton for some flying.

Since it was a Saturday there were lots of people around, and some HG's from Vancouver too. Up to launch and it was currently blowing down due to a large cloud overhead shutting things down. But the skies in general were nicer and no anvils. But still a bit too unstable for a large run downrange since I didn't want to get stuck on the wrong side of a cell forming.

Cloudbase was higher today, even though I stayed away from the bases like yesterday (I climbed to 2800m and then was cold!). Flew down to the gap and then saw a cell dropping snow down near Hurley, so it wasn't really possible to head all the way down there. But I decided to cross the gap and then watched on the other side for about 20 minutes as the snowstorm slowly formed and moved. But it was moving soooo slowly (there was practically no wind) I didn't want to wait for it to pass to continue to Hurley, and I didn't want to fly through it, so I turned around and headed back to launch.

Meanwhile Alex had crossed the valley and headed back to launch via the Miller side. He flew to Currie via Rutherford and then landed at the same LZ as I did yesterday.

Back at launch there were still people flying so I crossed the valley to Signal Hill, where I had a heck of a time getting back up and high enough for the crossing to Currie. Alex had already warned me of the south winds coming over the top of Currie so when I got there and got up I was ready for the shit-kicking I got at the end of the climb and hit the south wind (Currie faces mostly north). With my Currie TP in the bag I headed home to close my OR. Total distance almost 50 km and 3+ hours, and tracklog is here.

Plenty of lift in the middle of the valley and the skies were looking really nice as it had dried up and the cu's were now normal-sized. The HG's were still in the air and having a great time, and a load of pilots were heading up for a nice late afternoon flight. But Alex and I were pooped and had to head back to Vancouver anyways, so we left while it was still obviously good in the air.

Pemberton-MacKenzie May 7

We decided to head up to Pemberton for a change of scenery, even though we were aware it might still be too unstable for the area. When we arrived around noon there were already large towering cu's all around, and a few anvils were threatening to erupt.

In the air it was very industrial and large cells were all around. Some cells were starting to drop virga and get anvil-shaped, so it wasn't possible to really go XC. You didn't want to head downrange and find your only escape route blocked off by a cu-nim! So I decided to stay local and keep a sharp eye on the skies. I got to 2300m+ but never reached cloudbase, which was just fine as I didn't fancy getting cloudsucked.

After a while the skies started to get more threatening. With a large anvil starting behind launch, one downrange towards Hurley, some at Whistler, and one starting up across the valley over the Ipsoot glacier, the best option was SE towards the airport. But as I got closer I noticed a small plane doing circuits around and around the airport. Not the best place to land at that moment, I decided, and opted to land at the Pemberton Music Festival grounds instead. 2320m and 1 hour flight time before it got too big for me. Tracklog.

The skies never got too epic and we never had any thunderstorms but it was definitely on the edge. But with a large chunk of day left we didn't want to fly again, so we decided to head for Skookumchuck hotsprings for a soak and then camp overnight.

Woodside May 6

A very strong-looking day (and the first day of the first good stretch of paragliding weather this spring), with lots of industrial cu's around and wind too. Tentative plan was to go over the back and try to cross to Bridal. Cloudbase wasn't that high (1200-1300m), but high enough to make the glide to Agassiz Mountain no problem.

It wasn't that great at Agassiz Mountain either, but there were lots of clouds in the middle of the valley, so Alex, Jim, and I headed to Green Hill while Al, Nicolai, and Miguel continued onwards to Bear Mountain to try the crossing from either there or Hicks. It was quite windy on Green Hill, but lots of lift once you were south on the ridge a bit, so we were able to get high enough to continue south over the Fraser River. We had a close encounter with a Cessna as we were climbing out over Green Hill, and I had to throw a few spirals in to make sure he saw me and swerved away. Jim had a bit more trouble getting height and ended up landing at the cloverleaf on the Bridal side, while Alex and I headed more downwind towards Ludwig. Fortunately we were both able to find lift on the way (gotta love those sandbar thermals!) and get on Ludwig at 900m; yay!

You'd think that after getting to Ludwig the next part of the flight would be easy, given that we've done the Bridal run many times, but it was really windy and shady too. We were able to cloud-suck our way back to the Lakes and stay at 1400m, but getting around the corner of Cheam was the crux, and we almost didn't make it with all the wind, almost having to land with Jim at the cloverleaf exit. But once around the corner it was OK as we were able to ridge-soar our way up the ridges on Cheam and get back out of the strongest part of the valley wind.

We were able to cloud-suck our way back to launch and then continued west to Gloria (very slowly!), and then to Elk, where cloudbase was still only 1300-1400m. Not quite enough to get back to Woodside, especially given the wind, so we opted to glide into the valley and see what would happen, and perhaps land at the Rosedale school.

I saw a nice cloud in the middle of the valley and headed for it, while Alex was downwind of it and heading for the school. But despite me being in the optimal spot to find the thermal that was feeding it, Alex found the climb and I didn't, which enabled him to make it a few km's further than me in the end. But we both landed short, on the Rosedale side of the Fraser River, and unable to complete the circuit we'd been hoping to accomplish. Denied!

Al Thielmann was there to pick both of us up (he and Nicolai had landed in Laidlaw) and then it was back to Woodside. Meanwhile Miguel had landed in Ruby Creek. They all reported lots of wind, as were all the people flying at Bridal. Meanwhile it was actually getting bigger around, with anvils at Chehalis, behind Cheam, and behind Gloria. And it looked like it was spitting rain on Woodside at one point. So we weren't entirely disappointed to be landing at that point.

So despite the forecast for not much valley wind, there was actually plenty of it. Had the winds been lighter, or cloudbase a bit higher, we probably would have had a better chance of flying back to Woodside since it was one of those rare days with obvious cu's in the middle of the valley all day. Total distance was about 47km, and tracklog is here.

Woodside April 25

The day wasn't looking very good fact it was raining in Vancouver when we left. But the webcam at Woodside was showing sun, and the subsequent days this coming week weren't looking too hot, so we headed out, me to fly XC (hopefully), and Alex to do a couple of tandems.

Indeed, as we headed east it got brighter and brighter, and by the time we got to Abbotsford it was sunny with huge industrial cu's all over the place. It looked very nice especially with light winds all around. Up on Woodside launch it was quiet cycles-wise, but people were staying up no problems despite the shade.

I didn't launch right away, and in the meantime both Martins and Thomm headed over the back to Agassiz Mountain. Meanwhile over at Bridal Alan was reporting east wind. Reports of strong outflow winds at Harrison Lake (Martin H. flew back to Woodside, Thomm landed at Harrison Hot springs) made me decide to head west instead.

Martin H. and Justin were ahead of me and reporting leeside conditions; all the lift was away from the mountains and over the valley. With this in mind I topped up to 1500m over the north cliffs and headed over to Sasquatch, heading for the north side (arriving at 900m). But this didn't really work as I didn't find anything on the north approach and had to settle for the leeside of the south side of Sasquatch where Martin H. and Justin were grovelling.

I passed Martin H. who was heading back to Woodside (for a 25 km-ish OR) and then it was just Justin and me. While Justin was nice and comfortably high, I was grovelling at 300m over the gravel pit at the west end of Lake Errock when I finally found something that got me out of there and into the game again. From then on it was the occasional cloudsuck, but mostly flatland flying out front over the valley.

At Dewdney I got low again, and rather than skipping over the back to Sylvester Valley, I had to doodle my way around the entire Dewdney mountain the long way to get into that valley. My original plan was to head to Mt. St. Benedict, and then try to return to Woodside, but when I started heading north I saw a lot of shade (the entire mountain range was shady), lots of sink, and you start losing convenient landing zones. So I went about 1/2 way to M.S.B and then turned around to head back to Dewdney and the sun.

Meanwhile Justin had continued west and landed in Mission somewhere, and I ran into Norm who was just coming up to Dewdney from the east when I came back to it from the north. I radioed to him that we should go to Mission too and off we went.

It was very buoyant and lifty all over the place, and we easily reached downtown Mission on glide. However, the airspace surrounding Mission was extremely busy with GA pilots and small planes flying all over the place. You had to continually be swivelling your head to keep an eye on all of them, and I'm sure I missed some, even though I could hear them nearby.

In Mission I saw a nice baseball diamond to land at, but as I got closer I could see guard towers and a large fence surrounding the entire area so I opted to give that LZ a miss :) (Good thing as the CYR surrounding that prison is 1500'). Instead I headed for a school with a nice track and field oval to land at, and Norm followed me. Unknown to me, Justin had landed at this exact field a short time ago and was still there. Also unknown to me, Justin lived about 4 blocks away!

Anyways, I was about to land with Norm when I found a nice thermal over the subdivision and climbed out again (photo #2 of me looking back east, with Dewdney in the distance). I could see downtown Vancouver at this point and wondered how far I could get. It looked like I could glide almost to Maple Ridge at this point (it was still lightly outflow conditions), but with all the weekend air traffic and the fact they probably weren't seeing me, plus the fact Norm was already landed with a ride waiting, made me decide to land there instead. So I turned around and spiraled and big-eared my way to the ground. 46 km (with my detour towards M.S.B) and Tracklog.

Justin and Norm were waiting for me and Justin gave us a ride back to Woodside. Thanks Justin! It was a great day flying, and I wonder just far west I could have flown if the air traffic had been a bit lighter... When you are in the mountains you don't have to worry about it so much, but over Mission you leave the mountains and are flatland flying and are encroaching on their turf (so to speak). But it was definitely tempting!

Woodside April 18

Went out to Woodside to help Ian out with his new student, Brett. It was stable and scratchy most of the day, which made for perfect student conditions. We were able to get Brett 4 solo flights, before it "turned on" at 4pm and people started staying up.

So Ian took Brett for a tandem and I got to fly solo. My first flight since getting back from the desert, and it was sweet to get a nice 2 hour flight in (even though I didn't go anywhere). The thermals went pretty high given how the day had started...we got to 1200m a few times. At the end of the day, however, it shut off quite suddenly while I was waiting to top-land (Denis was ahead of me, and people were still launching) so I didn't get the chance and ended up in Riverside.

A very mellow day, perfect for students, and nice to get the cobwebs out.

Back home in Vancouver

After Zion National Park we headed north to Salt Lake City as the weather was forecast to crap out all over the region, and we wanted to try to get a south side flight in before the weather hit. But when we arrived it was blown out (the hang gliders were packing up, and the speed flyers were being extra careful) and expected to pick up even more in advance of a big snow and rain storm. So we bid adieu and booked it home to Vancouver in a marathon 16 hour driving session.

The trip was quite fun. We did some paragliding, some climbing, and a bunch of hiking. But mostly we got away from the rain and cold and got to play in the sun for 3 weeks (we didn't have any precipitation south of Portland on the way down, and north of SLC on the way back). Pictures of the trip can be found here.

Zion National Park

After getting in some final climbing at Red Rocks we headed north to Zion National Park for some hiking, and a chance to rehab my fingers after several days of hanging off them. Today we hiked up the Angel's Landing trail, which is a steep ascent of 1500' to 5800'. The final part of the trail is on a knife-edge of a ridge, with steep 1500' cliffs on both sides. There are no railings or walls, the occasional chain to help haul you up, and is completely base-jumpable (I'm pretty sure it's been done, despite being illegal I imagine). There are, however, plenty of signs warning that people with vertigo or fear of heights should avoid this final section, no small children, the unfit, etc etc etc.

The way back down was much quicker than the ascent :) and then we did a couple of easier hikes to some hanging gardens, canyons, waterfalls, and river gorges. The difference from Vegas is amazing, even though we're only 2 hours north. There is actual flowing water, dripping greenery in spots, and real deciduous trees, not just transplanted palms. And we actually got to see some weather in the form of storm clouds in the distance and signs of recent precipitation. It's also getting colder...down to 3C last night and glad to have the overbags just in case.

Red Rocks March 24-25

After arriving in Las Vegas we found the climbing campground and then got ourselves oriented. Spent 2 days on various easy sport routes on the Panty Wall, Magic Bus, and Black Corridor. The rocks here are pink and red sandstone, which is a nice change from the sharp rocks of New Jack City and the gritty granite of Joshua Tree.

The scenery is very beautiful and lots of tourists are here as well taking photos and doing short hikes. We did a hike today on the way to our day's routes, taking the back way into the park to get some additional exercise and see the gullies and flood washes up close. The rock here has amazing shapes and colors...little caves all over the place, overhangs, native rock art, and changes in the colors as you move from cliff to cliff. And to go along with all this red and pink sandstone is red and pink sand like you'd find at the beach. Unfortunately it's so fine it gets into everything with the slightest breeze (of which there are plenty) so you end up pretty dirty at the end of the day!

We are thinking of trying a final route at Red Rocks tomorrow morning, and then hit the road for Zion National Park. We are slowly making our way north and it's showing in the colder temperatures at night. Daytimes are still fine, so long as it remains sunny :)