Monday, September 27, 2010

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.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

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!

Friday, September 3, 2010

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.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

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.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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!