Sunday, March 27, 2011

Woodside March 27

The forecast was a bit iffy but lots of people were out anyways.  In the air it was a bit leeside and the thermals were a bit punchy, but once you got established in a core it was easy to stay up.

Alex and I eventually went over the back to Agassiz Mountain, with Robin and Greg following.  Alex turned around at Agassiz to fly back to Woodside, while I opted to keep going and crossed to Bear once I got to 1500m.

Over at Bear it was kinda north up high, although Harrison Lake looked dead calm (see photo).  The thermals were sliding across the west face and it was hard to get up, but Robin, Greg, and I each found a thermal core, which eventually coalesced into one giant Cerberus thermal which took us to 1550m.  We were trying to decide what to do now...continue to Hope, or cross to Bridal.  Due to retrieve issues and a potential headwind to Hope (it was still outflow up high) we opted to cross to Bridal via Ludwig.

The crossing wasn't that great...we left at 1550m, had a tailwind for the first half, but then encountered a south headwind the rest of the way, to arrive at Ludwig at 800m.  It wasn't as lifty as the Woodside side of the valley and we weren't really able to get high (we never got back above 1000m), and scunged along to the Lakes to arrive around 500m.  Greg had landed on the highway median below the pumphouse and Robin and I were trying to reach the Popkum interchange, and the Lakes provided us with the crucial 150m we needed to make it that far.

Several pilots flew to Green Hill and landed at the base, while Rob was able to make it almost back to Harvest Market to meet up with Alex.  

It was shading over and shutting down on the Bridal side, so we landed at the Popkum interchange in light west winds and the occasional spit of rain.  Alex was able to retrieve us, and on the way back to Robin's car we could see it raining in Chilliwack.  Flight was just over 2 hours and 29km.  I think we would have been OK flying to Hope, as that side of the valley stayed nicer for longer, and with the abundance of sandbars we would have had plenty of options if we had gone down between Ruby Creek and Hope.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mt. St. Benedict March 23

I didn't plan to hike up Mt. St. Benedict.  When we met at the Husky gas station in Dewdney, it was blowing hard from the east about 20-30kph and clearly not flyable in the Fraser Valley.  Al seemed to think that the outflow wouldn't reach Benedict and it would flyable there.  But due to the snow level it would be a 2.5km hike through deep snow, and I wasn't keen for that, especially as I didn't bring snowshoes.  So I figured I would drive the truck down after getting as high as we could.

But on the way up the truck was swerving a bit in the wet snow and I wasn't sure I *wanted* to drive it down at that point, so I was pretty much committed to hiking up!  Going up was pretty slow for me as I was breaking through the snow every so often (up to my hips) while the rest were snowshoeing up.

As I got to the last ridge at the powerline valley I could hear the north wind howling through the gap, but it was blowing up at launch, and the smoke in the valley below was showing light inflow (see photos).  Rob and Al got to launch first, and Rob turned around to bring me Al's snowshoes at the 2/3's point (thanks Rob, it was a big help!), so I was able to pick up the pace and make it to launch after 2:20 of hiking (they did it in 1:30).

Launch has 10-12' of snow, and about 14' in the hollow.  Perfect for top-landing, not so great for launching!

Al had just launched and appeared to sink out, but we later on saw him scunging around at 600m or so towards Dewdney.  Jim was next, and then it was Matt's turn.  We had tramped down a runway so we wouldn't punch through during our launch runs, but Matt went through anyways and almost aborted, kicking a tree as he swung through the pendulum and flying away.

I went next, and was soon in the air and climbing.  The air was ratty and leeside up to about 1200m, and then it smoothed out as the mountains fell away.  Smooth up to 1600m, and then bouncy again up to 1700m.  As I flew south the wind direction was almost directly due south up high,  but got more east as I flew towards the Fraser Valley.  There was very little north wind up high.  At Dewdney it was very east and I was actually flying up the Norrish Creek side of things, and it still looked windy in the Fraser Valley so I turned around to land someplace in the Sylvester Valley where it would probably be nicer conditions.  I was still high so crossed the valley to the Mission side, lots of lift over there, and eventually landed at the Durieu School LZ with Rob S, after 2:13 in the air.

Al had landed in Mission, and Matt had done an out-and-return from Dewdney and back to the Dike LZ.  Jim landed just north of Allan Lake.  All had great flights and lots of grins in the Durieu LZ where we all met up.

I talked with Kevin Ault who was at Elk, and later heard that he flew to Cultus Lake after getting to 2000m over Elk.  So it was a good day, so long as you weren't in the Fraser Valley!

If you are going to hike Benedict, bring snowshoes!  There is tonnes of snow still and will take a long time to melt.  There is another obstacle at the bottom of the road up...another burned out car.  You have to drive in the bushes to get around it, as they parked it directly in the middle of the road before torching it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Woodside March 6

After over a month of no flying since Colombia, I got to fly today!  It was just a local flight at Woodside, but I got to go over the back to Agassiz Mountain and then land at Harvest Market for a small 14km XC.

It was friggin cold though!  After the shorts-and t-shirts of Colombia I felt like the Michelin Man.  Fortunately I was wearing my chemical heat warmers in my mitts, so I was able to stay up for over 2 hours and no frostbite.

There's lots of snow on the Woodside road...we got as far as the 4km mark in Al's truck and had to hike the rest of the way in (20 minutes).  The snow is still thigh-deep in places but there's now a well-trod path so you don't have to posthole it anymore.