Monday, June 13, 2011

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.



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