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.