Solstice flying June 21

Initially we thought we'd head to Pemberton but the wx there was looking a bit too cloudy for our tastes so we went to the Fraser Valley instead.  Woodside was looking good with a big cu perched atop it and pilots flying around when we showed up.

Looking west
In the air it was actually hard to get above 1100m but once through the inversion the ride to cloudbase got much easier, to almost 1900m!  This is really high for Woodside, and we were debating whether to use this altitude to head west for the 60km triangle, or head east to Hope.  Alex, Robin, and I opted for the east-to-Hope route (we don't usually get to fly to Hope but I wanted to do something different), while Al opted for a big triangle by heading west.

Over on Bear Alex got a climb to cloudbase and was away to Hicks while I was stuck on Bear and Robin was back on Agassiz.  Eventually I found a climb that took me to 1600m and on my way to Hicks.  It seemed to be north around the Harrison Lake area so I took the north line towards Squalik and picked up some climbs along the way, but nothing like the Woodside or Bear climb, and the clouds were drying up on the Woodside side of the river.

Dog Mountain with the gondola line on the left.
Passed by Robin who was at Hicks looking for a climb and joined with Alex who was stuck at Squalik.  This time of year with the river so high, there are few landing options along this stretch so we wanted to make sure we were high enough to make the glide across the river to the Hope airport if necessary.  Robin had found a nice climb off Hicks and crossed into Laidlaw to continue the flight to Hope via that side.

Eventually Alex dove over the back from Squalik to Dog Mountain and then it was my turn to be stuck on Squalik.  I wanted to be at least 1000m here in order to continue to Dog Mountain, but I could only get to 900m.  Eventually, after coloring in the terrain with my tracklog over Squalik, I found an anemic thermal which drifted me over the back into the rotor but was getting me over 1000m, so I took it and dove over to the cliffs on Dog.

I had never been to Dog Mountain before (most of my to-Hope flights have involved a final glide at this point and leaving the mountains) and I had an easy glide to the airport, so I took the opportunity to sight-see and be a tourist for a while.  I didn't know Dog had a gondola that goes to the towers at the top!  The cliffs were working nicely and I could have gotten back up and high, but the airport was beckoning and Rob S was reported to be on his way to pick us up (he hadn't been able to get through the inversion at Woodside and eventually landed).
Hope airport on the right.

Hoovered into the airport next to Robin and Alex and then off to Bridal to get Rob a second flight (thanks for picking us up, Rob!).  En-route to Bridal I received a SPOT message from Al saying he had landed out.  I had setup a shared SPOT page for Al a few weeks back, so I accessed it now and emailed the map and co-ords link to Jim who was planning on picking him up.

Back at Bridal it was glassing off nicely but I decided to be the retrieve bunny this time and told the boys to do a glide test from Bridal to Agassiz where I would pick them up.  Meanwhile over at Elk the hike-and-fly guys were whooping it up with a big Solstice party (apparently with nudity, women, and booze involved) where they were planning on spending the night.  Kevin flew over and joined them briefly but opted for his own bed at the end of the day :)

We had a scare on launch when one of the visiting CA pilots tried to do a Lindsay into the stumps below the rock, but miraculously flew away with a bunch of leaves in his lines and I'm sure soiled pants.

Picked the boys up at the school in Agassiz and then off for Indian food while we heard that Jim had picked up Al.  Ain't technology wonderful?  Years back, if somebody landed out by themselves, there could be a major search for a missing pilot, but nowadays if you have a SPOT, you can let people know where you are.  I fly with a SPOT as well (mostly for comp retrieval purposes) but I always find it comforting to know I have it in case I land out and don't have cellphone coverage.

Alex and I are off to Cortes Island for the next week, so no flying for us until we return!

Woodside June 16-17

Thought it would clear either/both days, but it never really did...Wednesday it was lightly ridge soarable and Alex and I were able to stay up for about 1 hour before we headed out to land and eat.  During this flight we were also able to do some performance tests between my XC3 and his new M4...I have a higher trim speed, but on bar he has me on glide.  We are currently flying at pretty much identical all-up weights (my heavier harness and carrying ballast equals his initial higher body weight) and flying similar pod harnesses, and we did the tests several times right next to each other, so the results are pretty reliable.

The rest of the day was pretty much sled rides since the winds died.  Next day was similar...sled rides and the sun never quite broke through.  I did do a flight on Alex's glider and agreed with him that 81-82kg is too light for the small unless you are used to flying gliders lightly-loaded.

Maybe Pemberton on Tuesday/Wednesday if the weather holds up next week.  It would be nice to get a nice XC up there, maybe the 100 km OR or triangle if we can swing it?

Eastern WA June 11-12

Alex and I decided to hook up with the Seattle crowd for the weekend as they were gonna be flying the desert.  Invited Al and Matt along and met up at Baldy Mountain which is in between Ellensburg and Yakima.

After getting Al's and Matt's site orientation finished and their waivers signed we headed up the mountain with a pretty large crew from Seattle (14 pilots in total).  Up on launch it was switchy with pilots launching south, west, and northwest.

Windmills at Ellensburg
The thermal off launch was one of the smoothest I've had in a long time for one of that strength (4-5m/s sustained all the way up to cloudbase at 2500+m...usually if it's that strong, I find the edges rough but not this time).  Given that it was my first real time going XC from this site, I followed the Seattle crowd who was heading north to I-90.  We had to avoid the US military's firing range airspace on the way there (and they were indeed using the airspace...we could see the puffs of smoke as they fired off missiles and bombs).  And the skies were looking fantastic to the east (some OD to the far north but nothing to worry about), but we weren't allowed east right away due to the airspace.  To the north is Ellensburg, which tends to get windy so you have to be careful to get high and stay high until you get out of the wind tunnel.

To the north we headed, and pretty much all of us sunk out either on Umtanum Ridge, or in Badger Pocket, with Dave Wheeler and Bill Hughes making it to Vantage where they reported landing backwards.  

I had a really cool retrieve from Umtanum Ridge, where I was hitch-hiking along the highway when a stretch limo pulled up and offered me a ride to Ellensburg.  It was a wedding party on their way to a wedding: the groom and his best man and a bunch of buddies, and they were quite happy to give me a ride to the turnoff to Baldy.  I felt quite scungy in my desert-dust-encrusted flying clothes next to their pressed tuxedos, and I made sure to keep my dusty gliderbag away from them too :)

Flooded Yakima River
Back in Ellensburg we decided the call would be Chelan for Sunday so that's where we all met up the next day.  There was quite a large turnout with 7-8 HG and maybe 15 PG pilots all setting up on launch.  The skies were looking good again but this time the clouds were showing southeast, which is an odd direction for Chelan.

Up in the air it was definitely SE, and after getting high we experimented with crossing to the rim, but once over there the thermals were just drifting us back over the river and back to the Butte side, so we changed tactics and decided to fly north along the airport side instead of along the rim.

I found the air a bit harder to read this day; the cores were not consistent and they would fizzle out in weird spots.  And there was huge sink in amongst the clouds.  But I managed to get past Brewster and partway to Omak before I got shot down at 57km.  At Brewster the plateau on the east side of the river drops down, and the east wind was really howling through there, so the cross-tail wind I had previously turned to a cross-headwind, and then a full headwind at times as I crossed to Brewster.  And there was some high cirrus moving in which was thickening up as the front was moving in (it was starting to OD to the west in the mountains).

Looking north from Chelan Butte
Given the wind direction it would have been nice to turn up the Methow valley when I got to that gap, but with the skies looking more threatening to the west it would probably have ended up with me landing and then getting rained on, and I don't know that valley well enough to know if it tends to get windy around Twisp.  The skies to the east were looking fantastic with no OD at all, but with the SE winds they were a bit hard to reach :)  In any case, it was kinda cool to fly north along highway 97 with an easy retrieve the entire way below you, and the possibility of flying even further north to the border.

Sunny and Hot in Pemberton June 5

Looking north toward Hurley Pass.
I was busy working yesterday so missed the flying in Pemberton, where I heard it was a bit stable-ish.  But after a week of work I wanted to get out so I opted to head up anyways and join up with Alex.

First thing in the morning Greg, Reto, and Jim took a helicopter up to Mt. Currie where they all flew off.  Over at MacKenzie it was sunny and hot, and a bit of NW wind.  Nice launching conditions but we never actually launched until sometime after 1pm.

I was flying Alex's glider since he was flying mine so it took a few turns to get used to the new brake pressure etc.  But got away from launch and up to the towers, and then turned north.  (BTW, there is still 1 patch of snow on the road to upper launch that is preventing pilots from driving all the way, but it's about a 10 minute walk from the last snow patch.)

The new launch still has snow on it.
Heading that way was slow due to the NW winds, and it picked up the further north I went.  At the gap it was significant and snotty feeling, so I decided to turn back towards launch.  In the meantime a sailplane had joined me and we flew together for maybe 10 minutes or so.  The pilot was actually very good about thermalling with a PG...he just made wider turns around me and we kept good eye contact.

Back at launch there were reports of a glider in the trees just below launch but the pilot was OK.  Then I watched another pilot spin their glider into the trees just on the ridge before you get into the south bowl, they were OK as well and hiked out within the hour.

Some company!
 The sailplane came back on another tandem flight and this time we thermalled (with Peter S. as well) over the new launch until they sped off to the east.  It was getting a bit boring so I flew across to the Ipsoot side just for kicks and then landed.  Pilots were still flying and there seemed to be plenty of lift, just not a lot to get you high and going places.  Dennis had monkey races going on today, to Pizzle and back, and a few pilots made it down there and almost back, so it was definitely XC-able for those who really wanted it.