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!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Nicole for taking the time to blog - wish I was there!
    Jack

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