Friday, July 29, 2011

Red Rocks Nats July 29

Q's building over launch.
Well the weather gods aren't with us this week...the moist monsoonal air is starting to move back in, and today it was close enough to create several storms and cancel our day.

Up on launch a task was set (to the north) but before the launch window opened, a large cell developed right on the courseline.  Launch was temporarily closed while we waited for it to dissipate and move off, but in the meantime several more cells started popping off in our vicinity and the decision was made to cancel the day.

The day was still looking free-flyable so many pilots, rather than pack up and drive down, opted to fly down instead.  I chose to drive down as it started raining and hailing so I hope those who launched late were able to land and find shelter before being pummelled by hailstones.

Since tomorrow is also looking sketchy for flying (monsoonal moisture finally coming in with widespread t-storms predicted, plus lots of meteo wind) the decision was also made to cancel tomorrow, making today the final day.  So, in the end we got 2 tasks in.  I'm sorry we didn't get to fly more, but we can't control the weather, and I had a lot of fun on the 2 tasks we flew.  I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of winds this week...I was imaging that with a launch at 11, 000' and flying at up to 18,000', wind would be a continual issue, but we've had light winds all week.  But I'm told it *can* get windy here, so we have been very lucky this week to not have to deal with it.  The t-storms are another matter...this has been a bad week for t-storms and I think it's usually drier and less t-stormy this time of year, but it's been an atypical year for pretty much all of western North America.

Party and awards tonight, and then people are scattering to the winds.  Some are staying for a few days for non-flying stuff; there's a PG comp on the east coast others are heading to; others are heading for flying elsewhere in the northwest.  Not sure what I'm doing yet...I"ll take a look at the weather on the route back north to see if there's anyplace worth stopping at.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Red Rocks Nats July 28

Getting ready on a sunny, no-TCU day!
New photos are here.

Given the propensity for the skies to blow up lately, the task committee wisely set a shorter task that would take us away from where the blow-ups have been occurring and have us on the ground sooner.  Task was 68.5 km north to Centerfield (when you take the cylinders out, it actually comes to more like 61 km), which is the same direction as task #1 but not so far.

Winds were pretty light for much of the flight; cloudbase was lower than on Sunday, just shy of 15,000'.  This time I was able to get past the Sigurd/Glenwood gap at highway 24 without wasting a bunch of time, flying with Jug and Bill Hughes for a while.  We parted ways for a bit while they ventured out front while I flew deeper, but in the end we rejoined with neither route showing a clear advantage.  There were plenty of clouds marking thermals out front this time, compared to Sunday when the only clouds were deeper in, so more people were flying the front route this time around.

I could see Centerfield in the distance between Salina and Gunnison, and had been keeping an eye on my transitions.  I had been getting 9-10:1 for most of the flight so I made a mental note that when I got a 7:1 glide to goal I would go for it.  I was with maybe 5 or 6 gliders when we topped up to around 11, 000' (goal at 5200') and went for the 10 km glide to goal.

Initially I thought I was going to make goal easily...I was maintaining the 9-10:1 glide and had goal at 7:1.  But then it happened...the air became super-sinky (see the last graph on my flight to see the massive sink near the end) and I watched as my actual glide disintegrated and my needed glide to goal started going up:  8:1, 9:1, 10:1, 11:1, and it kept going on and on.  Sh*t!  Everyone around me was falling out of the sky...some were getting slightly better lines and some were on comp gliders, but we were all in the same trouble: we were not gonna make goal.
Goal is in the cloud shadow to the center-right.

I made myself as pointy as possible and prayed for some lift in the final km's; often you get a floaty line as you approach the ground with people many times ending up too high over goal.  But not this time.  The awful sink continued all the way to the ground; I landed 1.3 km short of goal.  I could see the goal field with the windsock and trucks waiting for us, but I couldn't quite get the last 1.3 km!

My mistake today was not giving more consideration for a sinkier-than-usual line on the way to goal.  Usually when I have goal at 7:1 and I've been doing 9 or 10:1 up till then, I make goal no problem and in fact usually arrive too high.  This time however it was the opposite and 7:1 wasn't enough.  I heard stories today of people with 5 or 6:1 not making it, so it seems that today you needed somewhere around 4 or 5:1 in order to make goal comfortably.

Bill Hughes made it to within 500m of goal (landing a couple of fields further than me), while Jug got a slightly better line and barely made goal.  Many others dirted 3-5 km short of goal.  Other pilots tagged the end of speed section (10 km from goal center), and then returned to the mountains to try to find more lift to make the final 5 km's to the edge of the goal cylinder.  Apparently Bill, Hayden, and Nick were in a group that attempted this from quite low, with Bill marking a thermal at the last minute just before running out of altitude and landing, allowing Nick and Hayden to overfly him, catch what Bill wasn't high enough to catch, and use it to get high enough to tag goal.  Many other stories of pilots just squeaking into goal, or just landing short by a few km's in the awful sink in the valley.  Claudio told the story of being in the highway 24 gap when he was about to land in the only LZ around, spotting what he initially thought was a cow, got lower and discovered it was a bear, and then found the incentive to thermal back out of there and continue on his way :)

In the end about 10 pilots made goal, with numerous others like myself landing just short.  Most people agreed that the task was awesome however: a nice XC distance, no bad weather to speak of (just a few cu's with rain dropping out a looonnngg way away), light winds, and a good spread of pilots strung out along the course.  Once again the task committee called it perfectly, sending us the right direction and for a suitable length of time.  Thanks guys!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Red Rock Nats July 27

Photos are here.


Well I was a bit too optimistic about flying today.  We did indeed go up the mountain, and a 65km task was set, but shortly before the window opened a large cell developed on the courseline (to the south) and started dumping rain and shooting lightening out of it.

Being on top of the largest mountain in the area, next to a bunch of metal antennas, didn't seem like such a good idea so the call was made to head down the mountain and reconvene at HQ.

Back down at HQ it wasn't much better…another large cell was approaching and the day was pretty much done at that point, task-wise.  Around 3:30pm the skies opened up and poured rain and hail at us.  Vancouver storms have nothing on a good ol' Utah storm!


Daily wx briefing can be found here, courtesy of Chris Galli and XC Skies.


We try again tomorrow...




Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Personal rest day July 26

It was cloudy and raining in the distance this morning, so the day was cancelled due to afternoon thunderstorms and OD.  This looks like the last obviously cancellable day for the rest of the comp; drier air is now moving in and the next wave of monsoonal moisture is not predicted until the weekend (when the comp finishes anyways).  So tomorrow we will most likely be going up to launch.

I did pretty much nothing with my day except catch up on sleep from the long days and late evenings as of late.  Some people went to the hotsprings, others went to Capitol Reef National Park, and others did a reconnaissance of Mt. Edna which is an east-facing morning site (turns on at 9:30am).  Apparently up to quite recently you couldn't drive all the way in due to snow (launch is at 11, 700') but as of today you can get to launch.  So, we may end up using Edna at some point this week for a change of pace since this site affords an early XC day.

The town of Monroe put on a free chicken dinner for pilots this evening; we are all stuffed and ready to fly tomorrow!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bryce Canyon National Park July 25


The organization decided to cancel the day due to forecasted overdevelopment with rain and t-storms, but offered several activities for those of us wanting to do something with our day.  A bunch of us decided to take up the offer of a ride to Bryce Canyon National Park with Jochen as our tour guide.

The skies were indeed ODing as we drove south and when we arrived at the hike-in trail it was already thundering from a cell in the distance.  Personally, I was looking forward to the cell blocking the sun, since in the canyon it was mid 30's C and we had 4-5 hours of hiking ahead of us.  The plan was to hike up from the bottom to the rim of the main amphitheatre, traverse the rim, and descend back down for the hike back to the retrieve van.  (You can also drive to the rim on a paved road if you are not into hiking up; however at that point you have to pay the $25 entry fee.)

Bryce Canyon is indeed gorgeous...check out the photos I took.  Amazing red rock hoodoos inside the amphitheatre, surrounded by a perfect horseshoe of yet more red rock.  Caves and arches too, as well as many different hues of red, pink, and beige.  And dry as a bone...there were indications of washouts from flash floods inside the amphitheatre but nothing at the moment.

As we ascended the trails to the rim it got shadier and cooler which was much appreciated.  Up on top it was much cooler, maybe 15C, mainly because the wind was blowing from the thunderstorm in the distance and it was starting to spit very cold rain (almost hail).


As we traversed the rim to the other side we did indeed get wet...and the dry red dirt became red clay-y muck which was quite slippery.  But we all made it safely to the bottom with only a bunch of very dirty shoes and mud-spattered bodies...and it turned sunny again just in time to dry us out.

So it took us about 5 hours to do the entire hike from bottom to rim, along the rim, and back down...it was certainly a worthwhile trip and I would encourage anybody in the area to check it out.  Maybe go when it's not the height of summer and a bit cooler though!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Red Rocks Nats Day 1

Monroe Peak below me.
New pics.

Red Rocks website with results and live tracking.

Day 1 and it didn't disappoint!

I was keen to fly after not flying yesterday, so after the task was set (121 km north to Mt. Pleasant airport) I was all ready.  Denied initially since they pushed the start time back after I kitted up, but when the window opened for real I was 4th or 5th in the air.  I wanted to get a solid hour of flying in before the race started since I haven't flown here before.

I got my highest of the day, 17,300', right over launch and well before the start.  Of course this meant that when the start came 20 minutes later, I was way low and had a crappy start.

Heading north was initially super-slow, both because of a slight headwind, and also because the lift was very disorganized with slow climbs.  It took me forever to fly 20km, and by the time I reached the gap with highway 24, I was pretty much by myself.

This gap was a sink hole for many people, lots of sink and also lots of wind venturing through the gap towards Fish Lake.  Every climb was taking me deeper towards Fish Lake and the high plateau, and away from where I wanted to ultimately go.  At one point I had to make a desperate dash to a small hill in the hopes I would get out...otherwise it would be a long walk to the highway.  But the hill was working, and I was able to get back up and high with the help of Claudio and Szilard.

But by this time I had been pushed back along the "back range", not too bad a situation since there's lots of roads and LZ's back there, just very inconvenient to have to wait for retrieve in the blazing hot sun.  Every time I got below 8500' I could feel the heat building and was way overdressed (rare for me).  So I had a vested interest in staying high, if only to cool off!

Flying north towards Mt. Pleasant.
The reason we were sent north was to avoid some moisture coming up from the south, apparently there is a monsoonal flow setting up and this was the forerunner.  The moisture manifested as nice clouds around 16,000' and it was converging between Glenwood and Salina where I was stuck behind highway 24.  With my climb from the small hill I was able to get back to cloudbase, and essentially surf the convergence as it slowly moved north.  Since this was the direction I wanted to go anyways, I was quite happy to stay with it and not outrun it.

However the convergence seemed to stall around Salina and I had to leave it behind.  It also meant the wind had switched, and what was once a headwind was now a tailwind.  Finally I was able to make some progress!

The run from Salina to Manti was pretty uneventful.  I made sure to stay high and cross the canyons with plenty of altitude.  But now the problem was the time...the goal closed at 7:30pm, and because I had gotten stuck back towards Fish Lake, I was now quite late and it was gonna be close as to whether I'd make goal by 7:30pm.

It was approaching 7pm and I was at Manti, with 40km still to go.  I was pretty sure I wouldn't make goal in time given my current altitude (and the lift was dying), so I made the decision to go for the death glide and see how far I could get in my remaining time.  Glided in quite still air to within 16km of goal when I finally ran out of altitude, landing around 7:15pm.

So in the end I made 105km, which I was quite happy with.  The speed section took 5 hours plus the 1 hour waiting for the start.  And the air was quite punchy but surprisingly average lift (I was expecting 6-7m/s but got mostly 2-3m/s).  This place has been described as a mix between Chelan and Owen's Valley, but today didn't really feel like either.  But a 6 hour flight, at high altitude, and with lots of active flying required, takes a lot out of a person!  I bet I'll sleep good tonight; if this is an example of the flying here, then it's gonna be a war of attrition to combat fatigue!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

BC/Montana/Idaho/Utah and finally in Richfield!

Well the marathon drive is over: 18+ hours of driving and 3 hours of sleep, and I'm now in Richfield, Utah for the US Nats.

Sunny and hot!!!  Low 90's predicted for the next couple of days.

Pics of the US Nats will be here as I (hopefully) add new ones daily.

After registration (somehow I ended up on the protest committee, along with Kari and Melanie) we all got together at the Cove LZ to head up for an evening session with landings just before the fireworks started (it's their Pioneer Days annual festival).  Cove launch is at 8500', and faces west, with a nice west and south launch, and a rather crappy north launch.  This site is ridge soarable pretty much every evening.  However, tonight it was blowing north, and the west launch was a bit too cross.  The north launch was working, however like I said before it's a rather crappy launch with lots of lava rocks and sage to catch lines on...I wasn't keen to potentially break one of my comp lines on this launch, the day before a comp, and it was rather cross on the west launch (although still possible to launch in the lee of the north side).  That, combined with my lack of sleep over the past 40 hours made me decide to not launch but rather enjoy the view.

One pilot ended up throwing their reserve on the west cliff wall at 12,000' after presumably flying into rotor but was OK...as of now he's still hiking out in the dark, with a flashlight fortunately.

Tomorrow is day 1; weather so far looks good!  We have a mandatory safety briefing in the morning regarding comp gliders, how to fly them, etc, that all pilots have to attend (even those not flying comp gliders).  And we had to do a videotaped interview saying we were aware of the risks of flying in comps etc etc etc.  All this because of the recent CIVL decision!

A rule rather unique to this area: due to the extremely high altitudes possible here, the organization is putting a ceiling of 17,500' (5334m) on the pilots to ensure we don't inadvertently bust 18,000' (5486m).  Anything over 17,500' is a 30% penalty for the day.  If you continue climbing and bust 18,000' you get a 0 for the day.  Everyone is memorizing or writing down these magic numbers on their GPS's :)

Like last week, I'll have my SPOT activated for those that want to watch.  Not as exciting as the X-Alps I grant you, but an additional live tracking option for those who care.   The US Nats website actually has all the SPOT owners listed under live tracking (next to the results tab) so you can watch a bunch of us at the same time.  Most likely tracking is anytime after 11:30am mountain time.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Golden July 22

Well it was not to be...another rainy day and we knew the sun was coming, it was just a matter of when and would it be early enough for a task today?  But no, kept clagging in and raining, so finally at 3pm we pulled the plug and cancelled the day.

With that news I was able to get going and start the drive to Richfield, Utah, about 18 hours according to Google Maps.  There is a fly-in tomorrow evening after the pilots meeting (the actual comp doesn't start until Sunday) that I hope to get to in time to participate in...provided I get some sleep between here and there!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Golden July 21

We figure there's a huge cell on top of this very-flat-bottomed base.
Well we tried again, but no luck!  Rain in the morning but we reconvened at 3pm when it got sunnier.  Up on launch we had a short window, but was watching a big cell come straight at us from the WSW.  Kamloops flight services was telling us "not to fly" due to impending t-storms coming our way, and Revelstoke was reporting icing conditions (snow, hail?) on the valley floor!  With all this activity surrounding us and the window closing by the minute, we opted to play it safe and cancel the day.

Will explaining what to do in a gust front.

Back on the ground and no t-storms or hail yet; but the evening is young :)  Tomorrow is the final day, and so far it doesn't look good for a task, but you never know...

It's 7:30pm and I'm just looking up at Mt. 7 from town...there's fresh snow on the upper launch and summit!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Golden July 20

Nice atmospheric shot near the end of the day.
Pics of the day are here.

Well we finally had task!  We had to wait all day for it to clear up and stay cleared up; all afternoon we'd get excited but then our hopes would be dashed by a cell moving in from the west.  Fortunately, all the cells in our area were t-storm-free and we basically just had to worry about garden-variety rain :)  The freezing level came down too...it was much cooler in Golden today and up top it was definitely brisk.  After a cell passed by Moberley and off to the east, we could see new snow on the peaks, around 3000m I guess.

We had a task set in mind if the wx co-operated...the classic "fishbowl" task we like to use when it's not conducive to going downrange.  This way we could keep everyone close and know what wx was coming our way with the west winds, and not have to worry about sending people to an area we couldn't physically see and keep an eye on.  Essentially the task was 2 laps between Willi's knob and the gravel pit, and then across the valley to the bench just west of Nicholson LZ, before landing at goal in Nicholson.

Once the rain cells stopped formed across the valley and moving over us, we had a nice time of sun, but then of course the wind picked up, so we had to wait for that to die down too!  By this time it was 6pm so it was gonna be close as to whether or not we would have enough time to finish the task.

In the air it was super-sweet flying, smooth and not rough at all.  Got to cloudbase which was about 2800m.  Flew most of the course with Will and Jim (on serial gliders), while Sandor and Brett on their comp gliders were in front of us.

We could see another patch of rain approaching from across the valley so it was gonna shut down eventually, so it was a race to see who could get the most around the course before we ran out of lift.  Nobody made goal; Sandor made it the furthest around with about 1/2 the task completed.

Task 1 results: click and zoom to enlarge.
Landed at the feedstore after I was unable to tag Willi's knob the second time...I could only get to within 500m and I needed 400m!  Not enough lift and ended up in the feedlot (the mountainside field is OK to land in...the riverside field is not OK).  Talked with the owners out on their quads who said they had just spotted a cougar over the hill, so I made sure to pack up quick!

A short flight for me and a low-scoring day (~200 points to the winner) but hey we got to fly!  Everyone had safe and enjoyable flights; it's just too bad the wx couldn't have let us fly an hour earlier or else we would have had enough lift to complete the task.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Golden July 19

Another rained out day!  Went up to launch in the hopes that if it cleared up, we'd be up there and ready to go if a small window presented itself (we had gotten everyone to program a provisional task into their GPS's so it would be one less thing to do up top).  But it never cleared up with rain cells moving through all day.  Finally cancelled the day at 4pm.

Several pilots have left for drier climes but I'll be sticking around regardless, at least until Friday, when I have to leave for Utah.  Good thing I have my mobile office!  We are crossing our fingers that we can get at least 1 task in this week...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Golden/Swansea July 18

Well we tried, but the weather gods weren't gonna let us fly Mt. 7 today, at least for a task.  There were windows of opportunity for sled rides etc but nothing taskable.

After canning the day at 2pm a bunch of us decided to head south, to go to the hotsprings in Canal Flats or to fly Swansea, whichever looked the most likely.  Stopped in Invermere where it had finally gotten sunny and we saw some sailplanes soaring Swansea (but still not taskable) and talked to Frank Karnik who had just flown and he reported nice launching and ridgesoaring conditions on the north side.  OK, so we're gonna fly instead of hotspringing!

Up on launch it was north winds and ridgesoarable.  There was a TCU to the southeast past the Beaverfoot range and moving further away, and the local skies looked good for the next hour or so, provided everyone stayed local and didn't try to fly XC.  I elected to fly last to ensure the new-to-the site pilots got off safely (it's a bit of a tricky launch with a HG ramp to avoid on the north side).  Everyone got off safely and were having quite a nice time ridgesoaring the peak, but their upwind legs were getting slower and their downwind legs were getting faster as time went on!  Veronica made the call to go land after about 30-40 minutes of flying, and I opted to stand down and drive down as the gusts started to come through launch at 30-35kph.

Down in the LZ I discovered only Greg and Veronica had actually made the proper LZ; the others had landed downwind in Windermere as the wind picked up on the ground too.  Eventually we found everyone and gathered back at Frank's place for an impromptu BBQ, so we never got around to continuing south to the hotsprings at Canal Flats :)

Invermere holds possibilities as an alternate launch in case Golden remains untaskable this week, since Invermere is almost always sunnier and drier than further north.  So if we think things look better down south, we may call tasks out of Swansea.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mt. 7 launch now has a windtalker

Mt. 7 launch has a windtalker on it now (next to the Willi and Chris memorial)...the website is here if you want to bookmark it.  A good alternative when you're in the LZ and the the windsock is not visible or you don't have binoculars etc.

Decided to skip flying today.  I had a good flight yesterday already, and today was predicted to be windier from the south, making XC in that direction a bit of a slog.  Going north was an option, and had I not flown yesterday, I probably would have flown today in that direction and dealt with the retrieve later on if I couldn't fly back.  But in the end I decided to chill out and enjoy the sun.  A bunch of pilots went up and I don't know how they are doing...they are still on launch so far as I know.

Mike Waddington hiked up to the summit and flew off with his SkyCountry Descent, taking only 5 minutes to get from the summit to the LZ :)

Edit: turns out the afternoon was pretty nice.  Lots of pilots ended up flying although most stayed local.  The south wind died off and actually turned east up high, and in the evening it turned north.  Go figure.  Fingers crossed for tomorrow!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Golden July 16

The last day of the HG Nats and they were all ready to go after several days of sitting in the rain and not flying.  I was ready too...it was sunny in the morning with SW winds aloft; Kamloops flight services was saying no chance of TCU's or cu-nims in the area.  But once on launch it shaded over (with regular Q's, not nasty ones) and kept opening up and shaded over in 20 minute increments.  Jeff Remple predicted that it would open up and stay opened up around 2pm, and it did!
The "7" is still visible...late-melting year!

The HG task was to Spilli and back, about 116km OR.  With the SW winds aloft I wasn't sure about doing Spilli and back, but I was gonna try Harrogate and back (90km OR).  Once in the air I made an interesting discovery...it wasn't as lifty as the skies would make you think!  The lift was all scattered and it was hard to get to cloudbase which was on the low side to begin with (2800m).  So it took me forever to get high enough for the glide to Pagliaro, and cost me some valuable daylight time.

Looking across to Pagliaro.
The winds were SW but not insurmountable, but combined with the low cloudbase it was hard to make progress southwards.  But cloudbase eventually rose all afternoon, and I was able to get high a few more times; my highest of the day was 3556m (11, 600').

The shade was threatening to come back and I was having to dodge shady areas, hanging out on one side of a gap while the shade passed on the other side,  or racing ahead of the shade.  Just past Parson I decided to call it quits on the Harrogate idea and pulled the plug, turning around rather than fly into the wind into yet another chunk of shade. 

Looking south from 3550m.
Of course the way back had a big shade cycle too...but I was doing 50-55km downwind and was easily outracing it.  I had an awesome boaty glide from the 25km mark all the way back to Nicholson LZ and arrived with plenty of altitude, but not quite enough to make the glide back to launch and properly close the OR.  But I didn't feel that bad when the HG's, on their way back from Spilli and trying to tag launch again for their final TP, couldn't get back up, and we all ended up landing in the LZ together.  So in the end I had a 70km OR instead of the 90km OR I was aiming for, oh well!
Racing the shade back to Nicholson



The flying today wasn't what I would call "Classic Golden"; the climbs weren't the usual yank-you-up but were all waffly instead.  But no incidents/accidents today, other than some broken downtubes in the LZ, and lots of smiling HG pilots in the LZ after finally getting a good day in!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Road trip!

Well I'm on the road for the next 2 weeks...the Canadian Nationals in Golden, followed by the US Nationals in Richfield (Utah) the week after.  Pulling into Golden now (Friday), it's cloudy but the forecast for the next day or two are looking good sun-wise.  With our luck, the practice days will be the best of the entire PG comp :)

CIVL's decision to recommend banning comp gliders in cat 2 comps is still having ripple effects...Canada and the US have decided (for now, at least), to allow comp gliders in their upcoming Nationals.  Some other countries have decided otherwise.  It's a total mess!  Fortunately I'm flying serial now so I don't have to worry about what glider to fly...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bridal July 9

Didn't get out to Bridal until later but heard it was OK at Woodside but starting to get windy.  A pilot had just tossed their reserve at Woody, landing in a cutblock next to the road and no real rescue necessary...not sure why he/she tossed.  A few pilots tried to cross to Bridal but got flushed due to the south winds coming over the top at Bridal...this is the third or fourth time I've heard of a Woodside-Bridal crossing being unsuccessful due to south winds flushing pilots arriving low at Ludwig off the mountain (it happened to me once this year and to several others too).  Something to put in the ol' toolbox of Fraser Valley XC tips.

Over at Bridal it was kinda shady at first but the clouds eventually broke and it became very sweet.  Windy at Ludwig but otherwise uneventful...Alex reported seeing a speedflyer really high at Killarney and a helicopter in the area beforehand so we figure he must have launched from Cheam when the clouds broke.

At Upper Bridal, looking at the forest fire on Harrison Lake (click to enlarge).
Somebody pointed out what looked like a forest fire on an island on Harrison Lake...I watched it grow all afternoon and didn't see any helicopters fighting it...maybe they won't bother since it's on an uninhabited island and can't really spread too far?

Toplanded Upper Bridal and had a nice siesta watching the gliders come up from Lower Bridal.  At one point I was searching for the memorial propellor from the plane crash a few years ago...I eventually found the top 3" of it sticking out of the snow...the rest is still buried.  Lots of snow still behind launch!

Nothing epic XC-wise or altitude-wise (1700+m)...just a nice "regular" Bridal flight during a typical summer day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

World Championships cancelled

Well it's official and the FAI has cancelled the rest of the comp and the two tasks flown thus far will count as the official results.


Open-class PG's are currently banned from FAI category 1 competitions.  We are not sure how long this ban will be in effect for, or what this will mean for FAI category 2 comps (eg. the Canadian PG Nats coming up next week).  PWC's are not affected by this decision.


I have conflicting emotions about this whole thing.  After the events of 2009, and with the mandatory inclusion of certain harnesses and helmets at FAI category 1 comps, and with the current political climate of the FAI, I opted to decline my spot and skip the Worlds this time around.  Now from the sidelines I'm watching things devolve into a shit-show as the FAI appears to distance itself from the whole thing.  The deaths of Francisco Vargas and Eitel von Muhlenbrock are tragic and thought-provoking...were their gliders part of the equation, or was it more the mentality of comp pilots in general (eg. full speed whenever possible, among other things) that contributed?  These questions and more will be dissected in full over the next few days and weeks, I'm sure.


About the cancelling of the rest of the comp: a few days ago I didn't think this would happen, if only because too many pilots and organizations had invested so much into it.  But I was wrong.  Given that so many pilots are there already, many with sponsorships and donations to make their attendance possible in the first place, some sort of memorial, non-FAI comp may take place.  But  I imagine a significant number of pilots may just go home.  If I were there, what would I do?  Honestly, I don't know and I'd have to think about it a bit more.


My thoughts are with our Canucks there: Brett, Keith, and Claudio.  Whatever you guys decide to do, stay or leave, I am behind you!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bridal July 4

Despite all the flying I've done on the Bridal side of the Fraser Valley this year, it's all been originating from Woodside and I haven't actually flown *from* Bridal yet.  Today was actually my first proper Bridal flight this year.

We had a visiting pilot from Germany flying Bridal for the first time, so I made sure he got off launch safely before launching myself.  In the air it was a bit punchy and the glides were punctuated with a bit of turbulence; it was hard to stay on the bar for long periods of time without getting jostled around at some point.  But there was plenty of lift and easy to do the Bridal milkrun from Ludwig to Elk.

At the Lakes at 1850m, looking west to Cheam
Got my highest at the Lakes on the way back from Ludwig...1850m.  This climb was different from any of the others I had experienced yet today; it was very strong and smooth (most others were a bit broken) and it was so different-feeling I looked up wondering if a stray cloud was forming (it was a blue day and the only clouds were in the back ranges although I saw one near Lady Peak behind Cheam).  No cloud but it was the nicest climb of the day!

Some pilots had toplanded at Upper Bridal but I opted not to (reports of muddy spots on the front of launch where the snow has melted off) and did a run out to the Agassiz bridge.  I was curious to find out how low I could return to the soaring knob and still get back up; Rob has done it from 250m and I've done it from 300m.  Today I got back at 260m and wasn't able to do it :( so ended up landing at the LZ.  Oh well, now I have a new challenge to do at the end of the day...can I break 250m?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Grouse July 2

Back to Grouse and this time there were a few more solo pilots flying...Mark Tulloch was out with his HG, Doug Wakefield taking photos, Bill, Miguel, Dave, Brent, and the tandem guys.  Got up top around 4pm and Mark was waiting for an up cycle amongst the cross east cycles.  There was a huge lineup for the gondola ride down (despite them running it every 4 minutes, which is their fastest rate when they're moving passengers and not freight), almost to the lumberjack show (= a 1 hour wait) so flying was definitely the better option today!

Up in the air it was quite windy from the south and the thermals were rather snarly and violent at times.  It was definitely a day to practice active flying, and keeping your hands on the brakes (no photos!) for the occasional jerk up (or down). Cloudbase was very high today...I got to 1700m easily and I think Mark got higher at times (the CYA ceiling is 1800m).   Lots of lift but equally lots of severe sink too.  I had wanted to fly back to Crown and beyond, there was plenty of lift for it, but the strong south winds made me think twice since pushing a headwind back to Grouse in those valleys can be not nice sometimes!

On the radio I was able to talk to pilots flying at Bridal and it sounded like good flying there but possibly getting windy, with reports of windlines showing on Cultus Lake.  Did it ever get blown out at Bridal or did it stay good?

I eventually noticed a band of shade moving in, and decided to take advantage of it for landing, since the Grouse LZ can be a handful before 6pm when it's sunny and thermic.  Total airtime just over 1 hour.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Canada Day at Grouse Mountain

The snow makes launching really nice.
Canada Day which means it's time to fly Grouse!

Up on launch there is still tonnes of snow, which makes the launching super-nice...a huge area to lay out on with no mud or sticks, and the snow also covers the boulders so you can lay out way to the east if you wanted.

Eye of the Wind

In the air it was feeling east; cloudbase was about 1600m.  We'd get bands of sun and use this to get high.  At one point it got very shady and I had to go into "survival mode", hanging out over the west cliffs and their residual heat until the band of shade passed and the sun reappeared.  I stayed in the air for about 1h:15min before heading out to land.


Looking out over the city.


On the way out to the LZ we had Whistler Air fly by us in their seaplanes; they were taking the shortcut from Whistler to Vancouver Harbour via the Capilano valley and popped out right at our altitude.  I saw the first one (Whistler Air sports bright yellow on their aircraft) below me but the second one was right behind and higher, so I was able to wave to the pilot as he flew by (after doing a hard spiral to show him where I was).


Dave Merrick being patriotic.

 The North Shore Paragliding tandem guys were operating in full force today; they expect this coming week to be busy for them.  Lots of happy tandem passengers in the LZ this afternoon!