Saturday, April 30, 2011

Meh Woodside April 30

A very average day at Woodside.  It was raining in Deroche on and off for pretty much the entire afternoon, and there was very little blue sky.  Just a lot of wind and cloudsuck at about 800m, although it was very smooth once in the air.  Flew for about 1 hour and then decided to land before I got rained on, as the cell over Deroche seemed to be getting bigger.

Al, Martin N., and Martin H. flew as well, as well as Andrew Pugh on his HG.  Several others stood down as the cycles were quite strong and cross.  I heard a bunch of chatter over at Bridal so people were flying there too.  Tomorrow will be a much better day.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter weekend April 2011

Got out to Woodside late on Good Friday since Alex had to work, so missed the early window and the chance to fly with Al on his bigger triangle.  But launched at 3:30pm and still managed to get a 52km FAI triangle by flying to Dewdney and pushing out to the gas station, then up to just past Mt. St. Benedict, and then back to the Fraser Valley.  Up to this point it was easy to stay high and we were tag-teaming the route, but once back in the Fraser Valley it was shutting down and it was the giant death glide in the shade to see if we could close it.  Not quite close enough to get back to the peninsula, and we landed at the base of Harrison knob where Rob S. picked us up (thanks Rob!).

Given that it was the Easter meet weekend in Savona, and I've never really flown Savona (OK, once, but it was 10 years ago, 1 flight off the dump, and I don't remember much about it), we decided to head up-country to try the XC possibilities up there.  I knew we'd probably be missing another good day in the Fraser Valley, but I figured, we can fly the Fraser Valley anytime, but Savona is a bit harder to predict and there's gonna be a bunch of people there already, so let's go.

Saturday was a really good day in Savona (and Friday was too): Alex and I flew to Cache Creek and back to Deadmans, for a 50km out and return.  We had John McClintock with us for part of the flight and a few other HG's went XC too.  But we didn't actually take off until later in the day due to it blowing too much east earlier and it was over the back (but not strong enough to justify going to an east-facing ridge site).  So had we been able to get going earlier we'd have gone farther, but it was a nice introduction to the area.

Big party at the Pub Saturday night (it was John's birthday) which meant Sunday was pretty quiet as most pilots were nursing hangovers.  Alex and I had just done 2 days of significant XC so we were both pretty mellow and stayed local, getting high over launch but not straying too far.  It was actually pretty nice to just fly around without a set goal in mind, and just turn the XC brain off for once :)

(More pics are here.)

Back on the road back to Vancouver we watched the rain approach and then it was back to the wet coast for another week of rain.  But Savona was sunny and dry (and hot in the LZ...it felt like summer!), and apparently this was one of the few Easter Meets where it was flyable all 3 days.  In the end I was glad to have gone to Savona to try someplace different, fly with a different crowd, and get away from the FV flying for a bit.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blanchard Fly-in April 16-17

The weather was looking good for the weekend at Blanchard, and it was a fly-in (the first there in a long time) so Alex and I braved the border crossing and arrived at the LZ before noon.  Others from away had showed up too...Dave Norwood and Jeff from the dry side of the mountains (Baldy and Chelan pilots) had driven over, and some other Canucks (Ivan, Gary H., Wiley, and Karen) had driven down too.

It was quite cloudy at first and on launch it was light south winds.  But birds were soaring to the south so a few of us launched and were able to stay up in the light thermals.  Eventually the winds picked up and swung around more to the west, and it became easier to stay up (and a larger lift band too).  As it got stronger and more west more pilots launched, until at one point there were over 40 gliders in the air.  KomoTV was out and was filming, the parking lot was full of sightseers and their cars, and both launches were filled with set-up hang gliders and bunched-up paragliders.  No top-landing today!

It got quite busy on the west side, and there was a mid-air on the south side.  Both pilots were unhurt and flew away, with one glider the worse for wear with a couple of torn cells and broken lines.  A large storm cell was brewing to the east and the wind was picking up a bit, so I went out to land (I had flown for almost 2.5 hours by now and my hands were getting cold...I hadn't busted out my chemical heat-warmers) and managed to keep the glider dry (the field is quite wet...you want to land as close to, and pack up on, the driveway).  About 15 minutes after I landed it got quite gusty and strong from the NW, and lots of late-landing PG pilots got dragged through the water and mud as they came in going backwards etc.  Quite entertaining to watch :)

With the rest of the day blown out and too north, it was time to party!  Basecamp was at Jeff and Stacey Beck's house on the way up to launch, and they had a sweet setup.  Lots of space to set up tents, tables, a pig roasting, a bonfire set up (the wood was arranged in a statue of a PG pilot), and zipline.  The PG pilot bonfire was lit (to the cheers of the crowd), the food was served, and pilots warmed around the campfire late into the night.

Next morning was breakfast time (served by Jeff and Stacey) and then time to figure out what to do.  The winds were NW and we feared it was gonna stay that way, so initially Alex and I were gonna head to the Fraser Valley.  Some pilots headed home towards Tiger Mtn, while most others stayed at Blanchard.

Good thing we stayed at Blanchard!  The NW winds died off enough to get off launch, it was more sweet than yesterday!  Bluer skies and higher cloudbase, and it was XC time!  Alex headed east to Lookout Mtn, (east of highway #5) and back to Blanchard, while I opted to fly SE towards Concrete (I had read a report of a pilot flying to Concrete from Blanchard last week and wanted to duplicate the feat).

Cloudbase was 1700m in spots and it was strong NW winds aloft, and a nice cloudstreet to Sedro-Woolley at the mouth of the (I think it's called) Skagit Valley.  Arrived at the NW side and I had the tailwind (55+kph) and altitude to make it to Concrete, but I suspected it would be very windy there as the valley narrows into a mountain pass (a local later on confirmed this and said Concrete gets windy easily and often).  So I opted to turn around and fly back to Sedro-Woolley, where I landed on the outskirts of town where Alex picked me up.  A nice 33km flight, and a new place to explore on XC!

Turns out Steve Forslund had followed me and landed in the same area, so we went to pick him up too.  Meanwhile back at Blanchard it was still on, and ridge-soarable plus thermic, and pilots were having a epic time.

Photos of the weekend are here.

We had an excellent 2 days in Blanchard.  That place is a good option when it's otherwise skunky inland, especially this time of year when it's calling for 40-60% POP in the Fraser Valley.  Just remember to factor in the border wait if you are crossing via Vancouver!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Epic Woodside April 7-8

Looking back at Harrison Lake during the glide to Ludwig.
Well we had a good couple of days!

Yesterday we weren't sure it was gonna be any good with all the north wind around, but we gave it the ol' college try.  When we showed up on launch there was 1' of new snow and blowing super-cross.  It was deep and wet, which made it hard to run in.  But we were able to get off launch eventually and decided to try some XC.

Alex flew to Agassiz Mountain and almost back, landing on the logging road behind launch and hiking up for flight #2.  Al and I headed west.  It wasn't looking very good at Sasquatch; Al was low and eventually landed at the end of the bay, so I opted to try Harrison knob.  Got up over there to 1200m and then pushed west, flying over the river and nowhere near the mountains since all the good lift was over the sandbars and the thermals leaning away from the mountains.  It worked until I hit a blue hole at Deroche, and was shot down by the west wind which had kicked in at the lower levels.  Landed at the crescent field in Deroche. 
At Bear, looking at Ludwig and the Butterfly.  

Kevin was driving in from Abbotsford and picked me up and then back up to launch for flight #2.

It was now getting late in the afternoon, but cycles were coming straight in so we (Kevin, Alex, Al, Tom Chromy, and myself) opted to fly over the back this time around.  It was still very north at Harrison Lake, which is never great for Bear, but we were able to get super-high (1700m) which made the glide over to Ludwig easy (especially with the tailwind).

Lots of new snow on Cheam!
The Bridal run was uneventful (there's tons of snow on Cheam, and the road to Bridal looks snowed in too) and Alex opted to glide back across the valley from the Upper Bridal area (1400m), landing at Harvest Market.  Al got to 1700m at Elk and glided to the sandbar just short of Riverside, walking the rest of the way.  Tom Chromy landed at Mt. Thom where his sister picked him up.

(I should mention that Tom had never flown over the back of Woodside before, let alone a Bear-Ludwig crossing, so it was a day of firsts for him.  Congrats, Tom!)

Kevin and I couldn't get high enough for a glide back across the valley, and Tom's ride was coming by to get us, so we opted to stick around the Bridal side and play around for another hour, exploring all the areas we hadn't been able to since last fall.  Landed at 7pm and it was still working!  For me, it was a 50.04km flight, and a nice treat, coming so late in the day, and after my earlier XC to Deroche.  Al was super-happy with his flight and almost-landing at Riverside.  And of course Tom was over the moon with his inadvertent epic over the back from Woodside!

Today (Friday) was less epic, but only because a bunch of cirrus came in early and shut our down plans for a big XC.  It was certainly soarable all day at Woodside, and later on the cirrus dissipated and the cu's popped and it got windy from the west, which all combined for an epic late-day ridge/thermic session.  A bunch of us got high and flew west, although I eventually bailed (I was test-flying the new lines on the Aspen3, and hadn't adjusted the speed bar lines from my customary XC3 setting) and turned around, after getting an epic thermal over the Harrison bridge (it was super-windy so it drifted us back over the Harrison river).

Al, Alex, and Matt got up at Sasquatch and then flew back to Woodside, eventually landed at Harvest Market.  Claudia flew to the foot of Agassiz Mountain, landing near the road to Harrison Hot Springs.  And I heard that Nickolai went over the back (and perhaps some others too) and was last heard in Laidlaw, after crossing to the Bridal side.  And the hang gliders looked to be having a very fun time and got high too.  Once again, this all happened late in the day, with Woodside working until late in the afternoon and possibly into the evening hours too.

On the Bridal side, cloudbase was just over the peak of Cheam, so it was at least 2000m over there.  Had anybody flown that side of the valley, it would have been sweet!

The next few days look wet, so I'm glad we got our 2 days in, and it looks like a bunch of others played hooky today too (don't any of you people work?!).

Monday, April 4, 2011

Woodside April 3

I wouldn't usually go out paragliding on a day with a rainy forecast, but I wanted to install a new lineset on the Aspen3 using Eagle Ranch's facilities, and when Alex and I arrived, it was still dry and cloudbase had just lifted above launch.

The windsock was dancing around a bit, and Lucas (visiting HG pilot from Kentucky) had been in the air soaring around for a while already.  So Gerry, Alex, Wiley, and myself went up to launch to find Claudia, Peter, et al.  There was a raincell over Chilliwack but it didn't seem to be coming closer (in fact it was dissipating).  It looked like it would stay dry for a while longer so I launched lickity-split.

Idiot lift everywhere and the lift band extended way out towards the river.  Max altitude was 1061m.  A few other pilots got off before it blew out on launch, but it was smooth and fun in the air.  After about 1 hour or so we all headed out to land, and the lower we got, the windier it got.  Most of us opted for the Ranch but I think Peter went to Harvest Market instead.  It then proceeded to get very windy up high and on launch: Jon Orders with a HG tandem had to stand down, and those who had just driven up were denied as well.  So we got to fly in the brief window before it blew out, and later on that afternoon (as Alex and I relined the glider in the barn, a very time-consuming process!) it poured rain.  It was a fun flight and a nice change to have a smooth ridge-soaring flight this time of year.