Wednesday, July 21, 2010

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!

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