Chelan October 22-23

With the rainy Vancouver forecast for Saturday and the Halloween fly-in happening in Chelan, it was time for a road trip!

Alex between the rocks as clouds form in the lee
On the butte it was initially blown out...about 30kph from Green Monster and the clouds were forming in the lee of the Butte.  Catspaws and windlines all over the lake too.  But after a couple of hours the winds totally died and we started thinking about flying.

Far from being blown-out, it was not quite ridge soarable on Green Monster but lightly soarable if you caught a thermal right off launch, otherwise it was sled ride to the LZ.  On my second flight the winds did pick up,  in a weird way in that it wasn't windy on launch, but once in the air it was windy.  So it was ridge soarable by the end of the day but not classic conditions.

In the end I got 2 flights on Saturday while others went for 4-5 flights.  The party that night was quieter than usual with only about 30-40 people attending, which meant that there was actually room for dancing in the airport lounge!

Liberty Bell in WA pass, highway 20
Traditionally, the Sunday is not as good flying compared to the Saturday during the fly-in weekend (not sure why, but that's been the trend over the years I've attended), and this year was no different.  High cirrus and XC skies was saying it was gonna stick around all day and keep thing shut down, so we headed back to Vancouver to get back at a decent hour.  A beautiful day for driving highway 20!

Woodside September 19

My first flight back in the Fraser Valley after getting back from Spain.  It's definitely fall; the thermic window is much smaller than last time I flew here a couple of months ago!  Cloudbase was quite low all day, but 1050m was enough (barely) to cross west to Sasquatch, arriving at just over 300m before finding lift.

The west wind was just kicking in at Sasquatch and cloudbase was still low on that side, but Alex and I were able to head to Deroche.  (Miguel and Rob also went across but ended up landing next to Harrison Bay.)  The spines were producing quite a bit of turbulence, and the spine between Deroche and Big Nick is especially un-nice in west winds (when you're low).

I opted to turn around at this spine after getting my highest of the day (1300m) and watching a bunch of high cloud move in, while Alex kept going and got around the other side of Big Nick before turning around.  The high cloud shut things down and it was a bit touch-and-go as to whether I'd make it back, but I found a thermal back at Sasquatch which gave me the extra oomph I needed to make it back to Eagle Ranch (it gave me 200m, and I arrived back over the LZ with 200m to spare!).  In the end I got just over 28km in XC, while Alex did 40km.

Alan over at Bridal reported 1300m and there were also people flying Elk earlier in the day.  Nice clouds all over and the wind never got up too much (except around the corner at Big Nick).  Lots of people were out today to enjoy the possibly last really good day of reliable thermals and XC potential, although I'm sure there will be additional thermic days between now and the November rains.

Ager Women's Open, September 3

Skies were too stormy and very strong east winds so we canned the day.

So in the end we had 4 valid tasks out of 6, and by Chris' reckoning, we flew a combined total of around 3000km this week.  Many goal virgins, personal bests, and those who it was their first comp, so many happy faces at the prize giving and party this evening.

Overall, 1st was Yayoi on her Ozone M4, Laurie on her Sky EOS, and myself on my Gradient Avax XC3.  I also came 2nd in serial class behind Yayoi.  Garnered some swag including a free parahawking tandem next time I'm in Nepal ;) (fortunately it doesn't expire!).

All the results and photos can be found (eventually) at the Women's Open website.

Well tomorrow a group of us are off to Barcelona for 4 days, and then I'm off to Halifax for some family visiting.  After all the flying and competing I've done over the past 2 weeks I'm a bit flown out, so am quite happy to put the glider away for a bit!

Ager Women's Open, September 2

Wx wasn't looking good (t-storms predicted later as the cold front moves through) so the day was eventually cancelled after mammata spotted and increasing winds on launch.  Most pilots went on the famous gorge hike while I laid by the poolside since I did it last week.

Tomorrow is the last day and then a group of us are heading to Barcelona for some sightseeing!

Ager Women's Open, Task 4, September 1

The skies started off similar to yesterday but with no potential for rain, so we set another task that kept us around the Ager area and not over the back.  SE winds in front of the ridge meant getting to the start took a while for the slower gliders but there was plenty of lift as the cu's started popping despite the overcast about 15 minutes before the start.

I had an excellent start and was actually ahead of Laurie and everyone else until on the way back from the first TP when her superior machine passed mine.  At that point it was basically a race between the 5 or 6 of us behind her and we raced around the course, landing in goal in 1:24 or 1:25.

We had about 11 pilots in goal today and the skies stayed friendly all day.  Swimming afterwards at the Camping pool and a BBQ tonight!

Belly dancing!

We tried belly dancing tonight :)  All the kitchen and bar staff joined us too!  Oddly, Chris was still trying to work despite the wriggling going on around him....
Belly dancing is hard work!

Ager Women's Open, Task 3, August 31

Cloudy skies on launch with more cloudy skies to the south, so we made a short (50 km) task that would keep everyone on the ridge or in front of it (no going over the back, as it seemed dubious that there would be much lift away from the cliffs).

We originally had a race start but after watching the wind technicians bob around with some sinking out and others not getting very high, we changed things to an elapsed time task so that pilots could choose when to do the task according to when they thought it would be the best conditions.

I had accidentally left my Flymaster on all night after downloading, draining the battery to 0%.  Of course this meant it was dead on launch so I had to fly with my backup Garmin 76S.  Which is fine except for its lack of a vario function, which meant I had to fly the task using the Garmin's altitude readout to determine if I was climbing (or sinking) and by how much (and my backup Sonic died too so I had no audible beeping to help me along).  (I am now recharging the Flymaster so it'll be good for tomorrow!)

Time to stop the task?
So I had to fly the task the old fashioned way, by feel, which meant I had to be slower since with the very light lift it was hard to tell if I was actually climbing or not.  Slowly I made my way around the course and the skies were starting to change.  There was embedded towering cu's starting to form in the overcast and virga was starting to appear all around us.  Hmmm, time to land?  With pilots reporting rain at the penultimate turnpoint Nicky made the decision to stop the task.

Of course this now meant it was very difficult to get down as we all spiralled into the Camping Ager LZ.  The task ended up being cancelled due to the rules regarding elapsed time tasks and what criteria must be met in order for such a task to remain valid after stoppage.

So in the end things remain as they did after task 2, and we will fly again tomorrow.

Tonight is a belly-dancing class :)  More to report afterwards!

Ager Women's Open Task 2, August 30

Similar weather to yesterday so we decided to stretch our wings and fly to the goal lake, after zigzaging back and forth in front of the ridge, over the back to the Castle, Isona, then finally to the lake, for about 66 km.

After the start we had to tag the train station turnpoint and then return to the far west of the ridge.  There was a nice cloudstreet running the length of the valley so I tried to position myself under it after tagging the train station, but I was too far north of the lift and ended up hitting horrible sink.  Had to turn to the ridge and fight my way back up to ridgetop height after a very low save (100m AGL), after which point I learned my lesson and stuck to the ridge for the remainder of the westward trip :)

After tagging the western TP it was time for another ridge run and then over the back to the Castle.  It took a while to get up at the Castle and some pilots who had taken a different line got ahead of me while I struggled to regain cloudbase.  Finally though I was back in the game and then it was technical part to Isona.  When designing the task we figured this would be the crux of the task: flatland flying with possibly less clouds than yesterday, and this is exactly what happened.  There was a giant blue hole over Isona which meant you had to either take the southern or northern route to the turnpoint if you wanted to remain under clouds.

The southern route is more direct and is in the lee of some small hills which are good thermal producers, so I headed over there.  Yep, in the lee of the hills it was indeed working, although I had to keep saying to myself, "patience", as the lift was all disorganized and I had to circle around in 0's until it coalesced into a nice climb straight to cloudbase.

Goal at the lake.
At this point I possibly had goal on glide even with the necessary Isona detour, so went for Isona and found lift the entire way there.  Back to the high ground it was a short climb to get over the last mountain which is in the way of a straight glide to goal (you have to either go over it or around it).

I ended up in goal 5th for the day, and in total there were 6 pilots in goal.  Two of the Japanese pilots were tied for time into goal so it'll come down to speed and leading points to determine first and second for the day :)

Today's task was more technical then yesterday's but we designed it to make the first section fairly easy, and then progressively more difficult near the end, so we'd get a good spread of pilots along the courseline.  And the pilots that didn't make goal still got to see the lake since the retrieve drivers brought them so we could all go swimming.

I made a big mistake today...after tagging the train station I should have either returned straight to the ridge, or taken a more southerly line under the cloudstreet.  In the end I took the worst possible line in the sink between the two lift lines and it almost cost me the task.  Fortunately low saves are common here so I was able to get myself out of the mess I put myself into and continue flying :)  I also hit a couple of slow spots on the courseline: the Castle and the flats on the way to Isona, which cost me maybe 20-30 minutes in total.  I was flying by myself so had no help finding lift (other than birds etc) so I came into goal behind those who were flying in groups of 2 or 3.

After 2 tasks I'm in 2nd overall, but have to make up over 200 points in order to catch 1st place overall.  I just have to continue making goal and be consistent in my flying and maybe I can do it :)

Full results can be found here.

Ager Women's Open, August 29

Today's task was made short so we'd have lots of pilots in goal.
For the first task of the Women's Open we decided (I'm on the task committee) to make an easy-to-accomplish task that would allow the newer comp pilots the chance to fly the ridge without having to jump any intimidating gorges, fly the flats a bit, and finally jump over the back for the goal field in Vilamitjana.  About 40km once you take away the TP cylinders.

Today we were flying without the live trackers we had last week (even though we were originally supposed to have them this week too), since the organization for the FAI Pre-Europeans commandeered them for their comp instead, so unfortunately you can't watch us all live (I'm flying with my SPOT live-tracking though).

For most of the course I was in second place behind Laurie on her 2-liner but after the Ager Camping turnpoint I returned to the ridge a bit low and had to thermal up before continuing, which cost me some time and allowed several pilots to get ahead of me.  Over the back was easy since it was basically a giant glide to goal with a short safety detour at the Castle (to prevent pilots from flying to goal via the gorge lake).  I think I was maybe 4th or 5th
(?) into goal.
We'll see what the leading points do to the scores.

In the end there were about 13 pilots in goal (out of 32), many of whom it was their first time in goal, so there were lots of happy smiles today at the pool party!

Results (when they are published) will be found here.

Today was quite a fun day...I knew we were undercalling the task (it was an 80-100 km day) but it seemed more important to make the task easy for most of the pilots so as to have a very successful first day. Now that we've shown the pilots some of the main terrain features we hope to set some larger and more technical tasks.

Relax day August 28

With the World Cup over I decided to relax and take the day off, spending most of it by the pool.  But this evening after registration for the Women's Open there was a shuttle going up.  Since I've never flown here in the evening I decided to go up.

Very light lift meant the perfect time to skim the cliffs and take photos, and do a toplanding just to try it out.  As the sun set the glassoff set up, with the entire valley lifting off in gentle 0.5-1m/s.  As car lights starting to go on I had to do hard spirals etc to get down; a few pilots got caught out and ended up landing in pretty much pitch blackness in random fields (since the Camping LZ is rather small and has too many obstacles to land in when you can't see where you're going!).

Ager World Cup Task 5, August 27

Final task of PWC Ager.
Pics can be found here.

Today was the last task of the Ager PWC, and likely the last task with open class gliders for a while.  Much colder today, maybe 25C instead of the 40C we had at the beginning of the week.  Today it was along the ridge and across the gorge and back, followed by a technical section on the flats, ending back on the ridge and then goal in Camping Ager.  I think it was around 82km when you took out the TP cylinders.

There was a significant SW wind that made heading east easy, but the coming back along the ridge and across the gorge was very tough for me.  It was cross-windy enough that I didn't want to be close in to the ridge, so had to balance flying out front while at the same time finding lifty lines and stopping for the strong stuff.  A few pilots landed out on this section and one pilot tossed his reserve (he was OK), landing in the gorge and requiring a heli rescue due to difficult logistics of reaching him by ground access.

Back across the gorge to the familiar side and I almost landed out several times, but the gullies leading to the ridge were working and each time I was able to claw my way west another couple of km's.  The actual ridge itself wasn't working (which is the first time this week) which flushed a bunch of pilots (and almost myself too).

Crossing the gorge.
The crossing to the flats to the south was very tough...I had to try it a couple of times and backtrack when the first time didn't work.  I eventually got across the valley but then I had a bunch of high ground to clear, and the thermals were drifting me away from where I ultimately wanted to go.  The wind was picking up as the afternoon progressed and I had to, once again, backtrack a bunch of times before I got enough height to attempt the high ground crossing to the flats.

On the flats the wind was scrubbing all the thermals to shreds and it was hard to find anything cohesive; I struggled upwind but couldn't find anything to keep me up and going the way I needed, and ended up landing short of the penultimate TP, for a total of around 62km.  Flight is here.

It was a really tough day and only ~43 pilots made goal instead of the usual 70 or 80, so I didn't feel so bad about landing out since I almost made it around the whole task :)  The flying was quite technical in spots and patience was required, and I really enjoyed the necessary decision-making involved.  

The Norwegians party it up.
The final ceremony is tonight and the final results can be found here.  As I'm typing this the Czech team is going hard at it, with torn t-shirts, nudity, and singing (I'm not sure they will make it till the prize-giving at this rate!).  The Women's Open starts on Monday, with tomorrow being a practice day.  One more week of flying here!

Ager World Cup August 26: Why we didn't fly today :)

Some went on the gorge/canyon hike that I did a few days ago, while others went kayaking on the lake (apparently it was windy on the water too).  I and others went to Lleida to pick up a few things since Ager has very little for shops etc.  It was so windy the organization even had to take down the windsocks around HQ!

Ager World Cup Task 4, August 25

Task 4
Another quick task since there was a good chance of OD and storms later on.  This time a 90km along-the-ridge then over the back (62km once you take out the cylinders) to land at Vilamitjana.

I found the flying very pleasant and I wasn't in any hurry, taking climbs to the max and stopping often for lift.  It was probably completely unnecessary given the abundant cloud action, but I didn't really want to land out on such a great-looking day :)  About the only time I got low was heading over the back to Abella Conca, but I was able to find a windy thermal to put me back to cloudbase and onwards.

Race has started!
There was so much lift that pretty much all the legs were easy.  As I passed over goal on my way to the final TP at Castel del Mur I could see dozens of gliders landing, and I soon joined then after tagging the Castle and backtracking to goal.  And this time I wasn't even last into goal :)

Today's task was really quite nice...the clouds were big but not huge and there was plenty of lift on the flats.  Many happy pilots at HQ tonight ;)

World Cup results can be found here, photos are here, and my tracklog is here.

Ager World Cup Task 3, August 24

Today's task
Pics of the day are here.

Skies tending towards OD in the north meant a smaller and quicker task with an earlier deadline: heading over the back and zigzaging back and forth across the flats before heading for the goal at Chiringuito.

I flew most of the courseline either by myself or occasionally with Renata who was borrowing Nicky's Pure.  A bit of scrambling around to get high at Castel del Mur, and then it was off to the races under a nice cloudstreet.

The actual TP at Pont Montanyana was in a blue hole, so I tanked up before heading into the blue, tagging the TP, and then fleeing back to the relative reliability of the cloud shadow.  At this point it was going to be a long slog cross-upwind for 30km over the flats.

The going was slow but I took every climb and slowed down every time I hit 0's, which was enough to barely get me across the river.  I could see some gliders climbing ahead of me so I slogged over and found ratty lift which eventually coalesced into a beautiful climb right onto the high ground downwind of our objective.

The high terrain wasn't the most direct route to the next TPs but I opted to follow it since it seemed to be more reliable than the flats.  Usually I don't like approaching TP's from downwind as it means a long upwind slog to reach them, but this time it seemed worth it since I was unsure about relying on the flats when I was essentially by myself.  Sticking with the high ground and a significant south wind reducing my speed to single digits at times, it was a long glide out to convenient LZ's but I didn't really care about a potential long walk: I wanted to tag those TPs!

The wind was quite strong from the south so it was ridge soaring at times as I approached the final two TP's.  Now came the hard part.  Both TP's were upwind out in the flats, almost in line with each other from a certain angle so if you were high enough and positioned correctly, you could theoretically tag both in one glide.  But I didn't have the glide (and it was really windy) so I opted to first tag the TP at Abella Conca, run back to the hills, re-tank up, and then reposition myself on the high ground for the run to the farther-away TP at Isona.

It almost didn't work...I tagged the Isona TP but was only maybe 500' over the ground when I turned around, not enough to return to the high ground.  With a canyon approaching under me I ran downwind and bumbled into a scrappy thermal that was drifting wildly, grabbed the bull by the horns, and rode it up and towards the high ground where I was then able to connect with a "proper" thermal.

I was now back in familiar territory and could see the lake with the goalfield somewhere near it.  It being my first time in this area, I had no idea where the actual goalfield was so had to trust my instrument which was showing a 8:1 glide, but there was a mountain in my way :)  I could see another glider ahead of me, low, and he was skirting around the mountain, but I figured I would stay with the lift I was in and get high enough to jump directly over the mountain rather than take the long way around.  A 4:1 glide later I started following the goalfield arrow.

Gliding over my final obstacle on the way to goal.
Of course after all the hard work to find lift up till now, it was impossible to get down.  There was a large cu sucking just north of the lake and the goalfield was someplace between me and it, and I arrived over goal with 1600m.  Several minutes later after a series of spirals, big ears, and wingovers I was eventually able to land on the beach to be one of the last in goal.  Yay!  Flight is here.

Today there were 46 pilots in goal with many others landing out on the flats.  I consider myself quite lucky to find lift when and where I did, and today I wasn't concerned about being fast, but staying high and taking every bit of lift I could find, even if it seemed unnecessary at the time (and if you look at my tracklog you can see it meandering all over the place).  Certainly not racing, more XC-style, but today it was what I needed in order to achieve my goal.

Ager World Cup Task 2, August 23

The official website with results and live tracking etc can be found here.

I DNF'd today; a hard decision to make (I've only DNF'd 1 or 2 times in my comp career, and never at a World Cup) and definitely not what the majority of the pilots here chose.

Today's task was changed due to the east winds not abating like they were supposed to, so the new task was essentially over the back to Castejon, with a turnpoint in Isona to the east to stretch things out.  By the time the task was changed and the window opened, it was quite late (after 1pm), by which point the launch was getting quite windy.

Ever since getting to Ager I've found the launch winds to be quite do-able, albeit on the strong side the later you wait.  Today while there was plenty of drama with the usual comp-wings-launching-in-high-winds hoopla, there were also plenty of lulls that were quite sane if you were willing to wait for them.  Launching earlier would have alleviated much of this (although in all fairness to the task committee, the winds didn't do what they were forecast so changing the task made sense).

I wasn't comfortable with the current launch conditions so I opted to watch and wait. Pilots were calling level 2 on the ridge, and level 1 out in front on the flats, in keeping with the ridge compressing the wind and making it worse close in.  It did actually calm down on launch quite a bit after the majority of pilots took off, but my decision to DNF had more to do with the route of the task and not the launch conditions: I felt a section of the task was unsafe (at least for me; others will likely have a differing opinion). Since the ridge was producing all the trouble, it seemed like a good idea to avoid it (which pilots were doing after taking off by staying out front).  But after the start the task was supposed to take us over the back in the lee of this same ridge , on the way to a turnpoint that I also suspected was in the lee.

Now admittedly, I have limited experience flying in this area and am not familiar with its micrometeorology, but this didn't sound like a good idea. The rest of the course seemed fine in my fact I imagine the further north you went towards Castejon and the higher terrain, the nicer and higher pilots would get.  But I wasn't prepared to deal with the potential nastiness of the ridge and flying into the lee at the beginning of the course (although I could be totally wrong on this point and just squandered a really nice flight), so I packed up.  Standing down while watching 100 pilots thermal overhead was not an easy thing to do!

On the ride down we heard over the radio that a pilot had tossed his reserve over the back of the ridge on the way to the first turnpoint, landing OK.  Despite the flying looking quite nice once established over the back (and I'm sure many pilots will report that it was fine), I'm happy with my decision to DNF.  Being near the bottom of the rankings has its advantages...I'm under absolutely no pressure so don't have to fly just because everyone else is.

Unfortunately I can't comment on the task or goal conditions (but it appears from the live tracking that, once again, something like 70 pilots made goal), so you'll have to go to another blog to find that information out :)

Hiking day, Ager August 22

Pics of the day can be found here.

Up on launch it was pretty overcast with embedded cu's but also lots of virga, plus high winds predicted (30-40kph), so the day was cancelled.  A few pilots opted to fly down and it looked a bit sketchy as the winds kicked in early and they were flying into the rotor on their way to Camping.  The rest of us drove down :)

With the day cancelled and mostly overcast, it seemed like a perfect day to go for a hike and experience some rural Spain from the ground, rather than always flying over it.  Judith had done a long hike a few years ago around the Canyelles Pantana (the reservoir to the west) and suggested a shorter version of it (instead of a 6 hour out-and-return hike, we would get a PWC retrieve vehicle to pick us up on the other side, so it would instead be a 3-hour open distance hike).

We gathered a small crew together and started hiking.  The first 1/3 is a moderate uphill climb to the ridge, followed by a 2/3 slight downhill walk through the Mont Rebei gorge.  You actually start the hike in Catalunya but end up on the border with Aragon (both separate autonomous political communities in Spain), which is a much drier region.

Beautiful and awesome scenery, as you start on the green side with the turquoise reservoir below you, transitioning along the sheer red and yellow cliffs (they have installed cables in spots to help you along, and there is apparently some rock climbing in the area), following through the venturi in the gorge, and coming out on the dry arid side.  It's not too strenuous a hike, provided you bring lots of water (there is a spring at the highest point so you can refill) and do it on a semi-overcast day.  Doing it on a bright sunny day would not be a good idea :)  At the other end there was a small interpretive hut with a temperature gauge which read a "mere" 34C, which is downright cool compared to the previous days.

A nice way to spend the afternoon and we got to see some pretty spectacular scenery from close up.  But we're here to fly, so hopefully the winds will do their thing today and tonight, so we can fly tomorrow.

Ager World Cup Task 1, August 21

Our route today.
Well it was a pretty successful first task, about 70 pilots in goal after ~110km of flying.  But I wasn't one of them :)

Task today was a cat's cradle over the back of the Ager ridge and to the east to Organya, back towards launch, and then ending at a lake beach to the north.  There were cu's over the Pyrenees but nothing where we were, and it felt a bit stable.  I wasn't getting very high over the back ridge (maybe 2200m) but most others weren't either, so when it was time to head over the back I went too.

Just after the start Renata tossed her reserve quite close to the cliffs, and had to use her second reserve (!) after her original one wrapped around her main canopy.  But she landed OK and was quickly retrieved.

Over the back the thing to do seemed to be to climb out on the low foothills, cross the river to the other foothills, and follow them to Organya.  It appeared that some pilots chose this route while others chose a more direct route over the flats.  Meanwhile I and the slow gliders were fighting for lift on the west side of the river, not getting very high, and trying to figure out how to punch into the wind to achieve the foothills on the east side of the river.

In the end it was not to be (for me, at least) when I finally got over to the east foothills but not high enough to do anything about it, landing in a corn-stubble field partway up.  My flight is here.  While waiting for retrieve I then watched as about 50 pilots passed overhead on their way back from Organya, on their way to goal.  I think in the end there was about 70 pilots in goal (with Yassen first), so most of the field which made for a busy goal field I'm sure (a public beach on a hot Sunday).

It seemed the slowest and hardest part of the course was near the beginning.  If you could make it past the 30km mark, you were pretty assured of at least reaching Organya, and quite probably goal (see results for distance breakdown).

It was a bit frustrating to watch the comp gliders quickly fade into the distance but I'm being philosophical about it...I'm not here to win (or to do particularly well) but to fly against some European comp pilots, fly a new continent, and have fun.  I'm sure after a week of flying against the best World Cup pilots I'll learn something ;)

Ager August 20

Pics are here.

Today was the official practice day so pretty much everyone went up (no retrieve though).

I was test-flying a new EN-D glider, the Air Design Pure.  Nicky owns one and offered it to me.  I was flying it with an Impress 2, with ballast to get me to about 80kg on the small size.

Conditions were better than yesterday: less wind and higher climbs.  We could see instability coming at us from the north and the clouds kept getting closer.  By the end of the day some pilots had connected and were reporting 4500m+.  My flight is here.

Quick opinion of the AD Pure: I loved it!  It was awesome; faster than my XC3, better glide, lovely turning, light brake pressure, and I was able to fly to places I would normally not (or arrive low etc.).  Speedbar is light, about as light as my XC3, and oodles of travel (I hadn't set it up for full travel so I was only able to get 3/4 but that was plenty). The risers come with a C-riser ball to rest your hands on when flying on the C's during long glides. I loved this feature and using them came very naturally. I also loved the adjustable brake handles...they are a soft neoprene-covered Velcro loop so you can change them depending on your hand and/or glove size.

With this new machine under my command I flew along the ridge to the gap, and this time crossed it with ease.  On the other side I got low and had to swerve around some cliffs but was able to climb out and get to 2800m and cross to the south along with a bunch of R11's; climbed out over there, and headed back to the Ager valley.  I saw at least one pilot land out in this area, and given the remote terrain and lack of an official retrieve I can only hope he had arranged his own retrieve or was able to phone for a ride (or hike for several hours in the 40C heat).

I did have a 40% collapse (I was on 1/2 bar at the time) on the transition back across...I actually felt the turbulence coming, but I wasn't quick enough to get off the bar (and in the back of my mind was idly wondering what an on-bar collapse on this glider would be like so maybe subconsciously I was slow to respond on purpose).  Yes it is an turned and dove a bit during the recovery but other than that it was a non-event.  Nothing to worry about unless you're low and close to terrain, but that's true of most collapses on most gliders :)

Back in the Ager valley I got high again, and this time crossed to the south with way more comfort than yesterday (although in all fairness I started from higher and there was less wind) and played around on the other side before crossing back to the ridge.  The clouds were getting closer as the instability approached, and base looked like 5000m.  I could see a couple of pilots connect with these clouds behind the ridge, but I was feeling like landing so didn't really try to connect (although it would have been nice and cool...I was flying with everything unzipped and every time I got below 1500m I started to sweat.  Clothes are purely for UV protection and possible launch/landing abrasion!)

Once again landing was tough as the whole valley was going off; I hope this characteristic is reliable if/when I get low during a task and can use this to avoid landing early.  The Pure does big ears just fine although they flap when it gets rough.  Easy to do wingovers and spirals too.  Landed next to the pool.  I've found 2 ways to keep cool here in the middle of the day:

1.  swimming
2.  flying

So it makes sense to land next to the pool :)

Tomorrow is the first task day, and it's looking good.  Hot hot hot.  Hope not too stable though.

Big thanks to Nicky for offering her glider to me today.  I had a lot of fun on it!

Ager August 19

Pics of Ager can be found here.

Finally I got to fly!

Hot and stable-ish, but it was flyable which was a relief from the heat in the valley.  Bombed up and down the main ridge and then crossed the valley to the other side, before landing next to Camping d'Ager and a dip in the swimming pool.  Flight is here.

The ridge here is very imposing with all the exposed rocks and the strong bullet thermals coming through.  But it's very don't have to turn at all and you are able to stay up just fine.  There are actually two ridges with a bench in between, which makes the larger in-back ridge a bit bumpy with all the rotor coming off the front ridge.  The front ridge works just fine as well, and the thermals off that one are much smoother and nicer.  But since it's lower you end up bombing along at a lower altitude than the back-ridge pilots.  I'm curious to see how the start gaggle will form with a whole ridge to wait on (assuming the start will be on the ridge in the first place)...will it stay as a ginormous cohesive merry-go-round, or will it be spread out a bit?  With all the cliffs around I'm hoping pilots will be sensible and not be playing too close to the rocks.

The flats in the valley work too...I found this out as I was trying to land and kept climbing back out.  Good to know if I ever get low!

The heat here is want to fly just to get away from the heat on the ground. Every time I got low I could feel the heat radiating up and would have to unzip until I could thermal back up to a cooler altitude.  Today was getting to 2400m or so.  I'm told it will heat up again for tomorrow (predicting 40C) and then "cool" to 35C on Sunday...OMG!  Thankfully I'm flying with lots of water ballast in the strong conditions least I can drink it!

Most pilots stayed local due to no organized retrieve being offered today; a few went farther afield and eventually flew back.  Most did the ridge run and then crossed to the other side of the valley since there are turnpoints out there we may use during the comps.  Discovered the open-class 2 liners can do the crossing much easier than me ;)

Tomorrow is another practice day, and then things start for-real on Sunday.

Ager August 18

The ridge overlooking Ager
A front moved through last night and today, which resulted in the odd rain shower and several thunderstorms (when one went off near us as we were heading up, we turned around).  A few of the tandem guys were operating but most pilots opted to forego flying and wait for better weather.

Pilots are steadily trickling into town and pretty soon it should be pretty busy.  Ager is a small place so 125+ pilots descending en-masse will certainly impact them!

Vancouver to Ager, Spain

Well I'm finally here in Ager after 30 hours of traveling...the body is ready for some zzz's!

I'll be in Ager for the next 2+ weeks, flying in the Ager World Cup which starts this weekend, followed by the Women's Open.  Hope to fly tomorrow after I get myself oriented and de-jetlagged.

It's HOT here!  Mid 30's and the humidity is way up there too.  I think this will be a minimal clothing flying trip :)

Big days in Pemberton August 7-8

Mt. Meager with 2010 landslide.
 Photos of the 2 days can be found here.

We haven't been to Pemberton in a while so it seemed like a good time to head up.  The gossip had been of nice flying the past few days but Whistler Express showing up pretty much every afternoon (common in summer).

Met up with Sam and got a ride to the MacKenzie upper launch, where people were already flying.  In the air cloudbase was approaching 3000m and the winds were building from the south, lighter the further north you went.  As I approached the Hurley gap I could see the clouds were still nice towards Meager with no chance of OD.  And there were riverbars available on the Lilloet River as well as a maze of logging roads along the mountains.  So the 100km OR seemed like a very good possibility today.

Alex joined me just past the Hurley gap at Face Mountain and we proceeded to fly towards North Creek.  After the gap the winds turned more west and the tailwind we had became a headwind instead.  Once past North Creek the destination, Spindrift Mountain, was next but the final 5km was really tough since you end up flying towards Spindrift in the lee of a strong west wind, with no real LZ's and very large cliffs to avoid.  After the initial attempt failed we had to backtrack and try another line to get over the final ridges, and then we had the windward west side of Spindrift.

Spindrift is the last mountain at the Y-junction of the Meager complex and the logical place to turn around for the 100km OR.  The last time I had flown up here was a few years ago, and things have changed!  The west flank of Meager now has a huge debris flow reaching to the Lilloet River, courtesy of the landslide of August 2010 that threatened the Pemberon valley.  Fortunately the river has cut a new channel through the debris flow so it can continue flowing uninterrupted.

After we tagged the 50km mark it was time to turn back for Pemberton.  The return trip was relatively uneventful, although I had a bit of a sphincter moment when I crossed the North Creek gap a bit low and arrived on the other side with not much altitude (relatively speaking) and my only LZ was a logging spur road with a long walk out to the main FSR (which is itself a long walk out to civilization).  Fortunately I hit lift on the other side and get myself back up to mountain peak level and resumed the course home.

Mt. Sampson
Flying over Copper Dome we heard Peter and Oni who had top-landed for an overnight vol-bivy and invited us to help them finish off their bottle of champagne.  But nope, we had other plans, thermalled up over them back to cloudbase at 3000m, and resumed heading south.

Back at Pemberton the Whistler Express was in full swing, with pilots reporting gusts of 40kph in the LZ.  The winds weren't really manifesting up high where we were, so we actually pushed out over town to get a few extra km's before turning tail and returning from where we had just come from in order to find a nice LZ in Pemberton Meadows.

Despite big ears, speed bar, and spiral diving, it still took another 45 minutes to get down, since with a Whistler Express the whole valley lifts off.  Thanks to Norm for coming to pick us up and saving us a hitchhike back to the car!  Total for the day: 107km OR and just over 5 hours (although the last 45 minutes was after I got back and was trying to land).

Also of note for the day, Sam also did his first XC, flying up to Hurley Pass and landing in a farmer's field near the Hurley FSR.  Apparently after he landed, the farmer came out, hooked Sam's wheelchair up to his ATV, and towed him out of the field so he could get properly retrieved.

Next day Alex and I talked about flying the Miller side of the valley.  I've flown this side a bit, but never the whole side to Hurley, and today seemed like a good time to do it.  This time we launched from the lower launch and it was a bit stable down low, which meant it took me a while to get high and established enough for the crossing over to the west side.  Climbs were initially lower too at only 1800m.
Ipsoot glacier and Sugarloaf Mountain.

Since the Miller side faces east, by the time we got over there the sun had gone around to the SW side which means flying up Miller Creek to get around to the sunny side.  This is fine if you can get high, but with 1800m you have to be careful you don't find yourself sinking out on the backside with a long glide down the creek to reach the Pemberton valley LZ's.  There are nice alpine LZ's on the backside with road access, but a locked gate at the bottom which means a long walk out if you land up there.

So very slowly we worked our way up the backside of Miller creek until we could connect with the clouds at 3000m, and finally we had some breathing space!  From that altitude you can easily see (and fly to) the Ipsoot glacier and the Pemberton Icefields to the west.  And also with this altitude you can easily explore the peaks of Sugarloaf Mountain with all it's snowfields and ice-lakes.

Heading north from Sugarloaf it was time to cross the Ryan River valley gap to Mount Morrison which has the Camel's Hump on the Pemberton end.  The Ryan River valley extends very deep to the west...if you kept flying that direction you'd eventually pop out near Jervis Inlet!  But we had no intention of flying any more west...after playing around on Mount Morrison it was time to re-cross the Pemberton valley to the Hurley side and return to Pemberton via the usual route.

Once again it was Whistler Expressing in Pemberton, and once again we chose to land elsewhere up in Pemberton Meadows.  And this time it took 30 minutes to get down in the lifty valley :)  The take-home message is this: when it's Whistler Expressing in Pemberton, DON'T LAND IN PEMBERTON.  The phenomenon only extends about 5km around Pemberton itself, which means Pemberton Meadows is not subject to these same winds, and the 40-50kph you get in town manifests as 5kph in the Meadows.  And if you choose to escape to the east, the airport is often safe as well (although some days the edge of the Whistler Express may extend to here).  The Festival grounds and the fairgrounds are much nicer to land at as well during Whistler Express events.  Pretty much anyplace outside the 5km zone centered on Pemberton town itself is safe wind-wise, but DO NOT LAND IN PEMBERTON if pilots are reporting unsafe winds in town.  Whistler Express can manifest any time of year, but most often shows up in mid-summer, ie. now.  So if you are flying Pemberton in August, assume you'll get Whistler Express in the afternoons and plan your landing accordingly.  Fly with a radio (146.415 MHz) and ask locals what the winds are doing before committing to landing anywhere near town.

This flight turned out to be just over 57km.  And a special thanks to Mike Sadan, who left his vehicle at our chosen LZ (we had radioed ahead of time where we'd be landing) so we could self-retrieve!  A really nice flight, and after the bigger flight of the day before a nice change of pace.  After 2 days of big-air flying we took 2 days off to relax and chill out at Birkenhead Lake before returning to Vancouver.

Red Rocks Nats July 29

Q's building over launch.
Well the weather gods aren't with us this week...the moist monsoonal air is starting to move back in, and today it was close enough to create several storms and cancel our day.

Up on launch a task was set (to the north) but before the launch window opened, a large cell developed right on the courseline.  Launch was temporarily closed while we waited for it to dissipate and move off, but in the meantime several more cells started popping off in our vicinity and the decision was made to cancel the day.

The day was still looking free-flyable so many pilots, rather than pack up and drive down, opted to fly down instead.  I chose to drive down as it started raining and hailing so I hope those who launched late were able to land and find shelter before being pummelled by hailstones.

Since tomorrow is also looking sketchy for flying (monsoonal moisture finally coming in with widespread t-storms predicted, plus lots of meteo wind) the decision was also made to cancel tomorrow, making today the final day.  So, in the end we got 2 tasks in.  I'm sorry we didn't get to fly more, but we can't control the weather, and I had a lot of fun on the 2 tasks we flew.  I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of winds this week...I was imaging that with a launch at 11, 000' and flying at up to 18,000', wind would be a continual issue, but we've had light winds all week.  But I'm told it *can* get windy here, so we have been very lucky this week to not have to deal with it.  The t-storms are another matter...this has been a bad week for t-storms and I think it's usually drier and less t-stormy this time of year, but it's been an atypical year for pretty much all of western North America.

Party and awards tonight, and then people are scattering to the winds.  Some are staying for a few days for non-flying stuff; there's a PG comp on the east coast others are heading to; others are heading for flying elsewhere in the northwest.  Not sure what I'm doing yet...I"ll take a look at the weather on the route back north to see if there's anyplace worth stopping at.

Red Rocks Nats July 28

Getting ready on a sunny, no-TCU day!
New photos are here.

Given the propensity for the skies to blow up lately, the task committee wisely set a shorter task that would take us away from where the blow-ups have been occurring and have us on the ground sooner.  Task was 68.5 km north to Centerfield (when you take the cylinders out, it actually comes to more like 61 km), which is the same direction as task #1 but not so far.

Winds were pretty light for much of the flight; cloudbase was lower than on Sunday, just shy of 15,000'.  This time I was able to get past the Sigurd/Glenwood gap at highway 24 without wasting a bunch of time, flying with Jug and Bill Hughes for a while.  We parted ways for a bit while they ventured out front while I flew deeper, but in the end we rejoined with neither route showing a clear advantage.  There were plenty of clouds marking thermals out front this time, compared to Sunday when the only clouds were deeper in, so more people were flying the front route this time around.

I could see Centerfield in the distance between Salina and Gunnison, and had been keeping an eye on my transitions.  I had been getting 9-10:1 for most of the flight so I made a mental note that when I got a 7:1 glide to goal I would go for it.  I was with maybe 5 or 6 gliders when we topped up to around 11, 000' (goal at 5200') and went for the 10 km glide to goal.

Initially I thought I was going to make goal easily...I was maintaining the 9-10:1 glide and had goal at 7:1.  But then it happened...the air became super-sinky (see the last graph on my flight to see the massive sink near the end) and I watched as my actual glide disintegrated and my needed glide to goal started going up:  8:1, 9:1, 10:1, 11:1, and it kept going on and on.  Sh*t!  Everyone around me was falling out of the sky...some were getting slightly better lines and some were on comp gliders, but we were all in the same trouble: we were not gonna make goal.
Goal is in the cloud shadow to the center-right.

I made myself as pointy as possible and prayed for some lift in the final km's; often you get a floaty line as you approach the ground with people many times ending up too high over goal.  But not this time.  The awful sink continued all the way to the ground; I landed 1.3 km short of goal.  I could see the goal field with the windsock and trucks waiting for us, but I couldn't quite get the last 1.3 km!

My mistake today was not giving more consideration for a sinkier-than-usual line on the way to goal.  Usually when I have goal at 7:1 and I've been doing 9 or 10:1 up till then, I make goal no problem and in fact usually arrive too high.  This time however it was the opposite and 7:1 wasn't enough.  I heard stories today of people with 5 or 6:1 not making it, so it seems that today you needed somewhere around 4 or 5:1 in order to make goal comfortably.

Bill Hughes made it to within 500m of goal (landing a couple of fields further than me), while Jug got a slightly better line and barely made goal.  Many others dirted 3-5 km short of goal.  Other pilots tagged the end of speed section (10 km from goal center), and then returned to the mountains to try to find more lift to make the final 5 km's to the edge of the goal cylinder.  Apparently Bill, Hayden, and Nick were in a group that attempted this from quite low, with Bill marking a thermal at the last minute just before running out of altitude and landing, allowing Nick and Hayden to overfly him, catch what Bill wasn't high enough to catch, and use it to get high enough to tag goal.  Many other stories of pilots just squeaking into goal, or just landing short by a few km's in the awful sink in the valley.  Claudio told the story of being in the highway 24 gap when he was about to land in the only LZ around, spotting what he initially thought was a cow, got lower and discovered it was a bear, and then found the incentive to thermal back out of there and continue on his way :)

In the end about 10 pilots made goal, with numerous others like myself landing just short.  Most people agreed that the task was awesome however: a nice XC distance, no bad weather to speak of (just a few cu's with rain dropping out a looonnngg way away), light winds, and a good spread of pilots strung out along the course.  Once again the task committee called it perfectly, sending us the right direction and for a suitable length of time.  Thanks guys!

Red Rock Nats July 27

Photos are here.

Well I was a bit too optimistic about flying today.  We did indeed go up the mountain, and a 65km task was set, but shortly before the window opened a large cell developed on the courseline (to the south) and started dumping rain and shooting lightening out of it.

Being on top of the largest mountain in the area, next to a bunch of metal antennas, didn't seem like such a good idea so the call was made to head down the mountain and reconvene at HQ.

Back down at HQ it wasn't much better…another large cell was approaching and the day was pretty much done at that point, task-wise.  Around 3:30pm the skies opened up and poured rain and hail at us.  Vancouver storms have nothing on a good ol' Utah storm!

Daily wx briefing can be found here, courtesy of Chris Galli and XC Skies.

We try again tomorrow...

Personal rest day July 26

It was cloudy and raining in the distance this morning, so the day was cancelled due to afternoon thunderstorms and OD.  This looks like the last obviously cancellable day for the rest of the comp; drier air is now moving in and the next wave of monsoonal moisture is not predicted until the weekend (when the comp finishes anyways).  So tomorrow we will most likely be going up to launch.

I did pretty much nothing with my day except catch up on sleep from the long days and late evenings as of late.  Some people went to the hotsprings, others went to Capitol Reef National Park, and others did a reconnaissance of Mt. Edna which is an east-facing morning site (turns on at 9:30am).  Apparently up to quite recently you couldn't drive all the way in due to snow (launch is at 11, 700') but as of today you can get to launch.  So, we may end up using Edna at some point this week for a change of pace since this site affords an early XC day.

The town of Monroe put on a free chicken dinner for pilots this evening; we are all stuffed and ready to fly tomorrow!

Bryce Canyon National Park July 25

The organization decided to cancel the day due to forecasted overdevelopment with rain and t-storms, but offered several activities for those of us wanting to do something with our day.  A bunch of us decided to take up the offer of a ride to Bryce Canyon National Park with Jochen as our tour guide.

The skies were indeed ODing as we drove south and when we arrived at the hike-in trail it was already thundering from a cell in the distance.  Personally, I was looking forward to the cell blocking the sun, since in the canyon it was mid 30's C and we had 4-5 hours of hiking ahead of us.  The plan was to hike up from the bottom to the rim of the main amphitheatre, traverse the rim, and descend back down for the hike back to the retrieve van.  (You can also drive to the rim on a paved road if you are not into hiking up; however at that point you have to pay the $25 entry fee.)

Bryce Canyon is indeed gorgeous...check out the photos I took.  Amazing red rock hoodoos inside the amphitheatre, surrounded by a perfect horseshoe of yet more red rock.  Caves and arches too, as well as many different hues of red, pink, and beige.  And dry as a bone...there were indications of washouts from flash floods inside the amphitheatre but nothing at the moment.

As we ascended the trails to the rim it got shadier and cooler which was much appreciated.  Up on top it was much cooler, maybe 15C, mainly because the wind was blowing from the thunderstorm in the distance and it was starting to spit very cold rain (almost hail).

As we traversed the rim to the other side we did indeed get wet...and the dry red dirt became red clay-y muck which was quite slippery.  But we all made it safely to the bottom with only a bunch of very dirty shoes and mud-spattered bodies...and it turned sunny again just in time to dry us out.

So it took us about 5 hours to do the entire hike from bottom to rim, along the rim, and back was certainly a worthwhile trip and I would encourage anybody in the area to check it out.  Maybe go when it's not the height of summer and a bit cooler though!

Red Rocks Nats Day 1

Monroe Peak below me.
New pics.

Red Rocks website with results and live tracking.

Day 1 and it didn't disappoint!

I was keen to fly after not flying yesterday, so after the task was set (121 km north to Mt. Pleasant airport) I was all ready.  Denied initially since they pushed the start time back after I kitted up, but when the window opened for real I was 4th or 5th in the air.  I wanted to get a solid hour of flying in before the race started since I haven't flown here before.

I got my highest of the day, 17,300', right over launch and well before the start.  Of course this meant that when the start came 20 minutes later, I was way low and had a crappy start.

Heading north was initially super-slow, both because of a slight headwind, and also because the lift was very disorganized with slow climbs.  It took me forever to fly 20km, and by the time I reached the gap with highway 24, I was pretty much by myself.

This gap was a sink hole for many people, lots of sink and also lots of wind venturing through the gap towards Fish Lake.  Every climb was taking me deeper towards Fish Lake and the high plateau, and away from where I wanted to ultimately go.  At one point I had to make a desperate dash to a small hill in the hopes I would get out...otherwise it would be a long walk to the highway.  But the hill was working, and I was able to get back up and high with the help of Claudio and Szilard.

But by this time I had been pushed back along the "back range", not too bad a situation since there's lots of roads and LZ's back there, just very inconvenient to have to wait for retrieve in the blazing hot sun.  Every time I got below 8500' I could feel the heat building and was way overdressed (rare for me).  So I had a vested interest in staying high, if only to cool off!

Flying north towards Mt. Pleasant.
The reason we were sent north was to avoid some moisture coming up from the south, apparently there is a monsoonal flow setting up and this was the forerunner.  The moisture manifested as nice clouds around 16,000' and it was converging between Glenwood and Salina where I was stuck behind highway 24.  With my climb from the small hill I was able to get back to cloudbase, and essentially surf the convergence as it slowly moved north.  Since this was the direction I wanted to go anyways, I was quite happy to stay with it and not outrun it.

However the convergence seemed to stall around Salina and I had to leave it behind.  It also meant the wind had switched, and what was once a headwind was now a tailwind.  Finally I was able to make some progress!

The run from Salina to Manti was pretty uneventful.  I made sure to stay high and cross the canyons with plenty of altitude.  But now the problem was the time...the goal closed at 7:30pm, and because I had gotten stuck back towards Fish Lake, I was now quite late and it was gonna be close as to whether I'd make goal by 7:30pm.

It was approaching 7pm and I was at Manti, with 40km still to go.  I was pretty sure I wouldn't make goal in time given my current altitude (and the lift was dying), so I made the decision to go for the death glide and see how far I could get in my remaining time.  Glided in quite still air to within 16km of goal when I finally ran out of altitude, landing around 7:15pm.

So in the end I made 105km, which I was quite happy with.  The speed section took 5 hours plus the 1 hour waiting for the start.  And the air was quite punchy but surprisingly average lift (I was expecting 6-7m/s but got mostly 2-3m/s).  This place has been described as a mix between Chelan and Owen's Valley, but today didn't really feel like either.  But a 6 hour flight, at high altitude, and with lots of active flying required, takes a lot out of a person!  I bet I'll sleep good tonight; if this is an example of the flying here, then it's gonna be a war of attrition to combat fatigue!

BC/Montana/Idaho/Utah and finally in Richfield!

Well the marathon drive is over: 18+ hours of driving and 3 hours of sleep, and I'm now in Richfield, Utah for the US Nats.

Sunny and hot!!!  Low 90's predicted for the next couple of days.

Pics of the US Nats will be here as I (hopefully) add new ones daily.

After registration (somehow I ended up on the protest committee, along with Kari and Melanie) we all got together at the Cove LZ to head up for an evening session with landings just before the fireworks started (it's their Pioneer Days annual festival).  Cove launch is at 8500', and faces west, with a nice west and south launch, and a rather crappy north launch.  This site is ridge soarable pretty much every evening.  However, tonight it was blowing north, and the west launch was a bit too cross.  The north launch was working, however like I said before it's a rather crappy launch with lots of lava rocks and sage to catch lines on...I wasn't keen to potentially break one of my comp lines on this launch, the day before a comp, and it was rather cross on the west launch (although still possible to launch in the lee of the north side).  That, combined with my lack of sleep over the past 40 hours made me decide to not launch but rather enjoy the view.

One pilot ended up throwing their reserve on the west cliff wall at 12,000' after presumably flying into rotor but was of now he's still hiking out in the dark, with a flashlight fortunately.

Tomorrow is day 1; weather so far looks good!  We have a mandatory safety briefing in the morning regarding comp gliders, how to fly them, etc, that all pilots have to attend (even those not flying comp gliders).  And we had to do a videotaped interview saying we were aware of the risks of flying in comps etc etc etc.  All this because of the recent CIVL decision!

A rule rather unique to this area: due to the extremely high altitudes possible here, the organization is putting a ceiling of 17,500' (5334m) on the pilots to ensure we don't inadvertently bust 18,000' (5486m).  Anything over 17,500' is a 30% penalty for the day.  If you continue climbing and bust 18,000' you get a 0 for the day.  Everyone is memorizing or writing down these magic numbers on their GPS's :)

Like last week, I'll have my SPOT activated for those that want to watch.  Not as exciting as the X-Alps I grant you, but an additional live tracking option for those who care.   The US Nats website actually has all the SPOT owners listed under live tracking (next to the results tab) so you can watch a bunch of us at the same time.  Most likely tracking is anytime after 11:30am mountain time.

Golden July 22

Well it was not to be...another rainy day and we knew the sun was coming, it was just a matter of when and would it be early enough for a task today?  But no, kept clagging in and raining, so finally at 3pm we pulled the plug and cancelled the day.

With that news I was able to get going and start the drive to Richfield, Utah, about 18 hours according to Google Maps.  There is a fly-in tomorrow evening after the pilots meeting (the actual comp doesn't start until Sunday) that I hope to get to in time to participate in...provided I get some sleep between here and there!

Golden July 21

We figure there's a huge cell on top of this very-flat-bottomed base.
Well we tried again, but no luck!  Rain in the morning but we reconvened at 3pm when it got sunnier.  Up on launch we had a short window, but was watching a big cell come straight at us from the WSW.  Kamloops flight services was telling us "not to fly" due to impending t-storms coming our way, and Revelstoke was reporting icing conditions (snow, hail?) on the valley floor!  With all this activity surrounding us and the window closing by the minute, we opted to play it safe and cancel the day.

Will explaining what to do in a gust front.

Back on the ground and no t-storms or hail yet; but the evening is young :)  Tomorrow is the final day, and so far it doesn't look good for a task, but you never know...

It's 7:30pm and I'm just looking up at Mt. 7 from town...there's fresh snow on the upper launch and summit!

Golden July 20

Nice atmospheric shot near the end of the day.
Pics of the day are here.

Well we finally had task!  We had to wait all day for it to clear up and stay cleared up; all afternoon we'd get excited but then our hopes would be dashed by a cell moving in from the west.  Fortunately, all the cells in our area were t-storm-free and we basically just had to worry about garden-variety rain :)  The freezing level came down was much cooler in Golden today and up top it was definitely brisk.  After a cell passed by Moberley and off to the east, we could see new snow on the peaks, around 3000m I guess.

We had a task set in mind if the wx co-operated...the classic "fishbowl" task we like to use when it's not conducive to going downrange.  This way we could keep everyone close and know what wx was coming our way with the west winds, and not have to worry about sending people to an area we couldn't physically see and keep an eye on.  Essentially the task was 2 laps between Willi's knob and the gravel pit, and then across the valley to the bench just west of Nicholson LZ, before landing at goal in Nicholson.

Once the rain cells stopped formed across the valley and moving over us, we had a nice time of sun, but then of course the wind picked up, so we had to wait for that to die down too!  By this time it was 6pm so it was gonna be close as to whether or not we would have enough time to finish the task.

In the air it was super-sweet flying, smooth and not rough at all.  Got to cloudbase which was about 2800m.  Flew most of the course with Will and Jim (on serial gliders), while Sandor and Brett on their comp gliders were in front of us.

We could see another patch of rain approaching from across the valley so it was gonna shut down eventually, so it was a race to see who could get the most around the course before we ran out of lift.  Nobody made goal; Sandor made it the furthest around with about 1/2 the task completed.

Task 1 results: click and zoom to enlarge.
Landed at the feedstore after I was unable to tag Willi's knob the second time...I could only get to within 500m and I needed 400m!  Not enough lift and ended up in the feedlot (the mountainside field is OK to land in...the riverside field is not OK).  Talked with the owners out on their quads who said they had just spotted a cougar over the hill, so I made sure to pack up quick!

A short flight for me and a low-scoring day (~200 points to the winner) but hey we got to fly!  Everyone had safe and enjoyable flights; it's just too bad the wx couldn't have let us fly an hour earlier or else we would have had enough lift to complete the task.