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.