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!

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