Sunday, May 29, 2011

Woodside May 29

A windy day, although it didn't start off that way.  But cloudbase was low (1100m), and it got windy enough, that going XC was tough.  Went over the back to Agassiz Mountain and it was more of the same there, so went to Green Hill where there was a bunch of clouds forming between it and Cemetery.  Was able to get to 1000m over the south end of Green Hill, which would normally be enough to cross to the Bridal side, but it was a bit too windy for my liking to do the crossing from that low and with the river at full flood (it's especially wide at that point!).  So punched upwind hoping to get high enough under the cloudstreet to cross a bit more west where the river narrows and there are more LZ's, but no luck and I opted to land at the Agassiz School where Kevin picked me up.

Meanwhile Alex and Al had crossed to Ludwig and reported getting scrubbed off the mountain in south winds, with Alex landing on the parallel road beside the #1 highway, and Al landing in the triangle LZ below Ludwig.  Matt had followed me and landed in Agassiz too.

Over at Brial Martin N. and Ihor were flying and reporting it was OK (earlier in the day).  By the time we reassembled it had picked up in the Bridal LZ and was looking like it would stay windy for the rest of the day, so most people opted to either head home, or wait for the end of the day in the hopes the winds would die down.  So not the best flying day, but there was a window of XC-ability, and the hang gliders at Woodside seemed to be loving it :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mt. St. Benedict May 19

Lots of snow still at launch!
A change of pace, given the probable stable conditions in the Fraser Valley.  Last time we hiked Mt. St. Benedict we had oodles of snow to snowshoe through; this time the snow was less, more packed, and we were able to drive higher before starting the hike.

Alex reached launch first, ditched his bag, and returned to schlep my bag the last 20 minutes or so.  Sometimes a boyfriend is handy :)  Up on launch there's still tonnes of snow which makes it really nice for launching (and top-landing) this time of year...no mud or twigs to worry about.

Quite strong cycles coming through but nice lulls too; Al launched first and was immediately away.  I was second and over launch soon afterwards.  Got my highest over Shotgun 1888m (the CYA limit is 1980m) and the winds were kinda funky...north at that altitude, but west lower down, and south once you got below peak heights.

Alex over Shotgun.
It didn't feel like a day to explore deep in the mountains...the lift was in weird places and sometimes you'd go on glide for a long time before finding anything.  So we opted to stay out of the back peaks, although Al ventured further east than the rest of us.  Rob had launched with a huge tangle that he couldn't stabilo out, so he flew out to land, not making any turns and still gliding to Evan's fields at the base of Dewdney (about 20km away).  He reported lift all over the place in the middle of the valley.

After exploring Shotgun, McKay, and other points to the north, I flew south over the powerline valley and found the south wind.  Easy flying to Dewdney where the wind gusts on Hatzic Lake looked 15-20 kph; Alex turned back and landed at Durieu School where it was much less (the further north you go and out of the FV flow, the less wind...usually).  The rest of us followed suit and were packing up by 7pm and then it was time to retrieve the truck.

More pics of the day here.

A beautiful day and nice to fly a different site and in a different air mass.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Woodside May 18

Not a big day for me, but since I had a such a great flight yesterday, I'm not too broken up about it :)

Cu's were popping but Woodside wasn't working that great early in the day.  I think it was still inverted above 1100m (XC skies had predicted this) so it was tough to get high.  Went to Agassiz with Alex and it was snotty there, but made the transition to Bear OK.

Alex opted to head for Ludwig with 1300m, but I wasn't comfortable with leaving that low, with no real LZ's on the other side, so I stayed behind being patient and hoping to get higher.  But despite the cu's continually popping over Bear, I was unable to get to more than 1200m.  But Alex had gotten a mid-valley thermal which got him to Ludwig OK, so when I got to 1200m I went searching for it.

It was there over the recently plowed field, but the south wind had kicked in, which meant it was drifting me the wrong way (back towards Bear).  All the height I'd gain in the thermal would be all for naught once I punched back towards Ludwig.  So after spending about 40 minutes surviving out over highway #7, bouncing between 300 and 800m, I landed at Seabird Island.

Took me 1 hour and 2 hitchikes to get back to the car at Eagle Ranch (pretty quick, actually), where Alex was just coming in from his Raymont Challenge.  Despite it being named after him, he's never actually closed the triangle by returning high enough to climb back out.  This time, after getting the climb at Little Mountain, he arrived at Woodside with 400m which is enough to climb back out over the south clearcuts.  We really should mark that Little Mountain thermal with a waypoint, since it seems to be pretty consistent!

Meanwhile, over at Bridal it was sounding pretty good.  Lots of pilots in the air and also some top-landings (crashes?) in the deep snow at Upper Launch.  It looked like it would have been soarable until 8pm.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Woodside Raymont Challenge May 17

Butterfly at 2000m
More pics of the day can be found here.

We had high hopes for the day but when we got to launch just after noon it was quite shady over Sasquatch and the shade was soon over Woodside too.

I didn't want to be waiting on launch for it to get sunny, so I took off just before 1pm.  It was indeed hard to stay high as the shade was shutting things down.  Sasquatch and the entire range to Mission was in shade, Woodside was mostly in shade, and Agassiz Mountain was in shade too from a big cu overhead.  Everywhere looked crap.  Al and Rob tried going to Harrison knob but no joy and had to turn around.

I had had enough of the air at Woodside so I went over the back to Agassiz, even though it was still in shade.  I was hoping the giant cu over it would be working, but when I arrived it was the same 'ol kind of stuff that we had a Woodside.  Not great.  Green Hill was in the sun and had cu's forming over it, so I decided to head over there.

Arrived quite low (I had never gotten up on Agassiz in the first place) and Martin N was just landing the RCMP detachment.  Since Green Hill was the only thing around with any amount of sun on it, I went into "survival" mode and hung out, finding little pieces of lift but never anything to get me to cloudbase.  Finally I found something with a bit of meat to it, and tracked it over the back towards Bear Mountain.

There was actually a lot of lift beween Green Hill and Bear, with lots of cu's forming and semi-cohesive lift.  The day seemed to be changing with the air drying out and things finally getting some sun (we may have just launched a bit too early for the day).  I finally found something that got me to 1700m which was plenty to get to Ludwig and finally on the Bridal side.

The day was turning on big-time now, so I switched from "survival" mode to "race" mode, and did the Ludwig to Gloria run with practically no turning (I only stopped at Cheam to tank up to 2000m 'cause I wanted to see the new avalanche activity on the north slopes).  Al was with me at this point, and Rob was doing his Sammy-altitude run.

I had heard Alan say he had gotten to 1900m at Elk and cloudbase was rapidly rising, so I was pretty hopeful we could get high enough to glide back to Riverside LZ and an easy retrieve.  But at Elk it was even better; I got to 2100m and was feeling pretty good about my chances.

Rob was with me and Al slightly below and behind when we left for the glide over the flats.  It was pretty quiet until just north of the highway when I saw Rob hit a bump and start sniffing around.  A thermal was in the area and we wanted it!  We were able to get 200m off that thermal before it petered out (I think it was from some recently burned fields just upwind).  Back on glide for Woodside with the extra 200m under our belts and the fabled "Little Hill" thermal spot was coming up.  And yes indeedy it was there and working, just east of the golfcourse and in the lee of Little Mountain!  This time were able to milk it for almost 300m of extra altitude.

Final glide to Woodside
Now we were at 1400m and almost at the Fraser River.  It was a good bet we were gonna make Riverside no problem, and a good probability that we'd make it to Woodside proper high enough to climb back out.  That would be especially sweet, and enable us to actually close the triangle.

And we did make the other side of the river with 530m to spare.  Enough to get to the clearcuts below the south knob, and it was still working enough at Woodside that we were able to climb out over launch.  Al topped up and went on glide for Sasquatch, while Rob and I started taking turns trying to top-land to drive Matt J's truck down (since he had given us the ride up in the first place).  Rob got in during one of his passes which let me tank up to push west as well.

Woodside from Harrison knob
Sasquatch was all in shade (it was almost 6pm by now) but Harrison knob was in sun, with cu's still forming over it.  So over there I went and played around in the light lift, and then decided I had had enough and time to land.  In the end it turned into a 57km FAI triangle.

Al, Rob, and I were super-stoked about completing the "Raymont Challenge" in it's entirety, and actually getting back to Woodside with enough height to climb back up to launch.  I'm not sure if any PG pilots have actually done this before yet?  If not, then it *can* be done, but I think you need:

a) a stinking high cloudbase at Elk
b) little valley wind
c) thermic help along the way via Little Mountain etc.
d) pilots doing the glide with you, to increase everyone's chances of finding lift

If you are missing one of these then I think the chances of making it back to Woodside, high enough to climb back out and not just land at Riverside, are much slimmer.  We ended up getting a combined 500m in climbs along the way, and it got us to Woodside with roughly 530m.  So, without any help along the way, you'd get to Woodside proper with 30m (in this case), which is not much altitude for climbing out on and you probably want to land at Riverside  :)  So better start really high at Elk, in case you don't find anything along the way!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Woodside May 12

Sandpiper golf course
It was on-and-off rain in Vancouver today with occasional hail, but the webcams in the Valley were showing much sunnier conditions so we figured to head out.  Didn't get on the road until noon or so, which meant we didn't get around to launching until 3pm.  There were big cells around, but the north side of the valley was looking much better than the south side at the time, so Alex and I opted to head west for a bit (Alex was looking at doing the 80km triangle).

I was quite surprised to get my highest climb of the day right off launch, to 1900m.  With that kind of altitude it was pretty easy to glide to Sasquatch, but once over there, it was definitely tougher flying.  The thermals weren't obvious, and with the strong south winds aloft (although it was dead calm on Harrison Bay all day) things were drifting us north.  It was a continuous battle to stay out front and not end up behind some ridge with no way back out.

The run from Sasquatch, when I finally got up and out, to Big Nick was pretty gnarly.  I found the worst spot was in the Deroche area, although Alex said Big Nick felt worse to him.  In any case it was not easy flying by any means with a lot of active flying necessary, lots of rough patches, and lots of searching for lift.  We'd fly for a long time with no lift, and all of a sudden find some strong stuff in inexplicable places.  It wasn't reliable or obvious at all.  The south wind didn't help any; in fact I think it contributed to the nastiness around the Deroche/Big Nick area, with all the ridges in that area and the fact we had to oftentimes skirt around ridges rather than fly over them.

At the confluence of Harrison Bay and the Fraser River.

When I got to Big Nick I wasn't interested in going further west so I turned back and did a quick run back to Sasquatch where I tanked up and crossed back to Woodside.  Alex was still gung-ho on the whole Bear-Ludwig-Elk thing, but I was pretty tired by now and not really in the mood for an uber-epic XC flight, so after I flew over launch to close my 40km OR flight I landed at Eagle Ranch.

Meanwhile Al had launched and flown to Dewdney and back to Eagle Ranch, and Rob S. had landed at the Squakum beach.  Alex did the crossing from Bear to Ludwig (no sandbars on the other side to land on, BTW, as the river has now risen), and then got shut down by the shade from a late-day-forming storm cell up Stave Lake way, which was blocking the sun.  He landed just north of the Agassiz-Rosedale bridge where I picked him up.

Some leftover cells on the Bridal side.
All in all, it was a pretty good day, for a defintely OD-feeling day with lots of storm cells to the west of us, but none in the immediate eastern Fraser Valley for most of the afternoon.  We were all watching to make sure one didn't blow up in the middle of somebody's XC path, and for this reason we all opted for smaller XC's so we wouldn't get caught on the wrong side of a storm cell.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Woodside May 1

Today was *way* better than yesterday!

But Alex and I were busy moving into our new place, and didn't get out until 1:30pm, by which point the early XC-ers were well on their way.  But it appeared to be a slow day at Sasquatch, as we watched a few pilots bomb out below and others scratch for a really long time before they finally got out of there.

Up on launch it was a gong show with all available launch space taken up, and people laying PG's out all over the place and the HG's in the back.  But the cycles were consistent which made it pretty easy to get the lineup going, and I was soon in the air.

It was some of the jounciest air I've felt in a long time!  It was rough and sharp thermals and they would drift in weird directions.  It was hard to maintain the core and tough to get high.  I could see a bit of west wind on Harrison Bay, and with the lame-looking conditions over at Sasquatch I decided to go over the back and do the Woody-Bridal run.

Agassiz wasn't much better with equally bad climbs, and I was only able to get to 1300m there.  Bear sucked as well but eventually got to 1400m for the crossing.  Fortunately there was zip for wind, so it was enough to get me to Ludwig with 600m to spare and an easy climb up to the Butterfly.

The air was soooo much nicer over on the Bridal side!   It was actually very south up high, so the entire Bridal range was in the lee, which made it interesting in some of the gaps, for instance coming from Jones Lake, between the Lakes and Cheam, and also in the Gloria-Elk gap.  Elk sucked big time and I went there only for the distance, and scooted back to Gloria where I had achieved 1550m earlier.  But it wasn't there anymore, and I wanted to get back to the Woodside side of the Valley, so I opted to fly back to Archibald, tank up, and head to Harvest Market.

1500m at Archibald and it was enough to get me comfortably to Harvest Market, due to the still-nil winds.  I actually had enough to get to Harvest West, and found a small thermal over Harvest proper which gave me an extra 80m, which I used to extend my track back to Woodside, before turning around to land at Harvest for a 51km FAI triangle.

Al was just packing up there, after his big flight to Benedict and out near Bear Mountain, landing at Harvest too.  Tom C. had followed me most of the way around the course and landed at Harvest too, and Rob S. followed about 30 minutes later.  Alex landed on the Bridal side of the river after he couldn't make the final glide across to Riverside.  And lots of others pilots did XC's as well...Robin to Big Nick and then Agassiz, Veronica to Harrison, and a score of others who went west past Sasquatch.  I even heard of some HG's in the St. Benedict area.  All in all it was a super XC day, despite it being not-so-great climbs in the FV, and definitely not a classic day.  Unfortunately the air was so active today, I didn't really get a chance to take any photos!