Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pemberton May 26

Tracklog is here.
More photos are here.

The day before looked epic but way too much north wind, but today we were hoping it had abated enough for us to take advantage of the drier airmass sitting over the lower mainland of BC.

Going over the back to Birkenhead Lake.
Once in the air it was definitely Springtime In Pemberton...very strong and abrupt lift: the kind that can rip a brake toggle out of your hands if you're not careful.  A bunch of us had planned on possibly doing the 100km FAI triangle, but with the strong wind I wasn't really prepared to fight a headwind through the no-mans land that lies between the Birkenhead and Pemberton Valleys.

We had hang glider action today with Mark, Doug, and Neil flying XC as well.  When I got to Goat Peak with Mark I started toying with the idea of doing a version of the triangle but in reverse instead, to take advantage of the tailwind it would give me instead of a headwind.
Looking north to Birkenhead Lake.

Fortunately I had a nice tailwind so I was able to basically glide right to Mt. MacDonald and bypass a climb on Sungod.  You really want to be high for this section, as the only "real" place to land (other than the snow-covered FSR)  is the small community at the south end of Birkehead Lake.  Otherwise it's a deep ravine until you reach the Birkenhead Valley where you then have the safety of the big LZ at Gramsons.

The Birkenhead Valley is full of 4 sets of high-tension powerlines which overhang almost all the possible LZ's.  The only places to land (this time of year) are the sandbars on the Birkenhead River, along with a few fields north of Gates Lake, and of course the (sketchy-looking) gravel pit at the Pemberton end.  So I decided to just stay high (3600m) and make sure not to need a LZ :)

Once I reached Lil'wat Mountain it was time to glide over and (hopefully) soar Mt. Currie!  I've done this a couple times in the past, and if the wind direction is just right, it's awesome as you get to soar the huge blocks of black rock that make up the north side of Currie.  Neil joined me for a bit but the west wind was picking up down low and it was time to land!

Nice overhanging cornices!
In the end I managed a 80km FAI triangle and got to explore some new-to-me territory.  Had the wind been a bit less I would have attempted to fly up to the north end of Birkenhead Lake and tag Scout Peak for the full 100km.

Other flights of the day...Alex did Hurley and return, extending his flight to Currie as well for something like 70km.  Fred, Pawel, and Andrew flew to Meager before adding a Duffy-and-return leg (115-130km OR).  Mark flew towards North Creek before returning to the safety of HG-sized LZ's for an ~70km OR.  And Neil did Hurley-and-return, followed by a Currie-and-return, for a nice 60km OR.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Woodside May 19

Today's flight was mostly an exercise in frustration.  I launched maybe 10 minutes after Al, but I was unable to get high enough to join him and Alex for the glide west to Sasquatch.  When I was finally able to get to 1650m and glide over there, they were about 30 minutes ahead of me and the west wind was picking up and it was stabling out.

I made my way to Big Nick and figured I wouldn't make the glide to stable-looking Dewdney into the increasing west wind, so I opted to jump back to Rose Mountain in the Norrish Creek area...it had a nice cloud over it while Dewdney had zip.  My hope was to get high enough there to jump over to McNab and skip Dewdney/Pattison entirely, and there is a nice LZ at the water treatment plant directly at its foot (with plenty of long weekend traffic).

I got up to around 1800m over Rose (cloudbase was around 2100-2200m) and tried pushing west to McNab to get over the saddle, but was shot down by the rotor caused by the west wind.  I tried this 2x, but I simply couldn't get over the saddle and into the Sylvester valley with the height I was allowing myself.  At that point I realized I pretty much had 2 options:

1.  Land at the water treatment plant and get a ride out with a local long-weekender.
2.  Climb higher, bust airspace, but get across McNab and into the Sylvester valley.

In the end I opted for #2 and climbed past 2000m, which allowed me to get high enough to cross the saddle and emerge into the Sylvester valley.  Once on the west side of McNab I was quite tired and frustrated, and decided to bite the bullet and just land while I was still ahead :) Went around the corner of Dewdney and landed at the Little Nick gas station LZ, where I got a ride back to the car.

Meanwhile Alex and Al had gotten away from Woodside earlier than me and had gotten around Dewdney before it stabled out, heading north to Stave Lake and Al's 100km triangle.  In the end they did do the triangle, with Alex opting to land at the Chehalis reservation and getting a ride back to the car, arriving at the same time as me.  In fact, our two rides knew each other!

Those that launched later at Woodside never got about 1200m and many did the Woodside-Bridal route, with Robin getting the top honours for the lowest arrival on Ludwig and getting out, while others were forced into the triangle LZ on the #1 highway.  Climbs to 2000m+ at Elk near the end of the day!

In Pemberton there were big flights too with flights up to Birkenhead and return, as well as Meager and return.  For those doing the Birkenhead-and-return flights, make sure to stay high and stay safe!  Alex and I have reconnoitred that valley as a possible XC route, and the valley is filled with 4 sets of high tension powerlines running the length of the valley and overhanging pretty much all the possible LZ's, and it gets nasty windy in there.  There may be sandbar action this time of year, and there are fields and an airstrip at Gates Lake, so not every LZ is covered by a powerline :)

Reports of a reserve toss over the Pemberton airport as well (!!) by an acro pilot.  It was indeed a busy day for flying over the lower mainland.  Unfortunately I was unable to really partake, mostly because I was too late getting off launch at Woodside, and it cost me getting high enough, soon enough, for me to join Al and Alex on their journey.  And because I had to intentionally bust airspace in order to continue west, I screwed myself contests-wise since I can't post my flight, so no tracklog is available :)  Later on, upon reflection, I could have done a couple of other things:

3.  At Rose, glide back to the backside of Big Nick on the cutblocks and hope to climb high enough there to get to the Fraser Valley side, and fly back to Woodside.  The water treatment plant LZ is still available if you don't get up on the backside of Big Nick.

4.  Fly further north up the Norrish Creek drainage, and pop out near the Statlu river, joining up with Al and Alex.  The Norrish FSR was really busy with vehicles up to Dickson Lake.  Places to land on the actual Norrish Creek sandbars, or on the FSR where it widens out.  Past Dickson Lake not sure about LZ's as I couldn't see any further.

Had I been a bit more adventurous, I would have tried #4, but I was by myself and not in the best mental frame of mind.  Otherwise I would have tried flying the Norrish all the way north and skipped the Sylvester valley altogether.  Maybe a bunch of us can try this another day?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mt. St. Benedict May 14

Winching out of the snowbank.
Al and Alex wanted to fly Benedict today but I was thinking it would be a bit too stable for big XC, and I've had plenty in the past few days, so I decided to play shuttle bunny for them.

You can drive to about the 900m mark before you hit serious snow, and after winching out of a snowbank we started to hike to the launch at 1100m.  40 minutes later we showed up at Al's pond, once again showing how much snow is still on launch (see the 2 photos to compare years!).  Cross cycles from the north but the occasional straight-up cycle allowed them to get off and then it was time to drive down and start chasing them.

This is May 14, 2012...
Both SPOT's showed them landing at the water treatment plant in the Norrish Creek drainage behind Big Nic.  Apparently they crossed to Rose Mountain, didn't find anything, then crossed to the cutblocks on the west side of Big Nic but they weren't working either.

...and this is May 19, 2011!
The snow makes for a super launch though!
  Nice hike up and it was super-hot up on launch despite all the snow!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pemberton May 11-12

Tracklogs are here and here, and photos are here!

It looked like a high pressure was setting up which usually makes the Fraser Valley a bit too stable for good flying.  However this is when Pemberton usually turns on!

This time we persuaded Kevin Ault to come up and try the Pembie air...he hasn't flown here since 1997!  Sunny and warming up when we arrived at the LZ.  (BTW, it's best for all the vehicles to park on the north/LZ side of the road so local traffic can fit through.)  Light north wind from Meager which is always a good thing as it usually means no Whistler Express that day.

Didn't launch until just before 2pm but it was already good, and I wanted to do the Meager-and-return flight so I got going.  Heading NW was a bit slow since there was a bit of west wind up high, and the further north you go the more the valley bends to the west.  Plus the climbs were only getting us to 2700m in the good spots, and more like 2400-2500m the rest of the time.  Crossing north across the Hurley Pass was the crux for me as it's into-wind, arriving onto low angle terrain, with a Pass venturi, and low climbs on either side.  I've found the trick is to fly out in front of the Pass (not go deep) and use any climb on the other side to get up and away from the venturi area.  Once away from the venturi you can settle down and take more solid climbs.  Fortunately this time of year the Lillooet River is super-low (the melt hasn't really started yet) so there are oodles of sandbars to use as LZ's in case this strategy doesn't work :)
Spindrift Mountain and Mount Meager just on the other side.

Because the climbs weren't taking us past 2700m I found it wasn't worth the trouble to cross Spindrift Mountain to get to the 50km mark.  Usually the west wind is pretty significant here (even on light wind days) so trying to go around Spindrift is a bit of a pain with flying in the rotor and venturi around the corner.  Flying overtop is much preferred, but 2700m is not quite enough to do this...I prefer 2900m or even more, and even then you sometimes have to try it a couple of times.

After turning around at the 45km mark it was a much faster flight back with a nice tailwind, even crossing Hurley Pass north-to-south wasn't an issue.  Landed just before 7pm for a 96.6km OR.  Alex did much the same flight, while Kevin turned around near North Creek for a probable 80km OR.  Meanwhile Allister had flown over the Duffy Lake Road to Lytton via Lillooet (130km), and Scott Watwood had flown from Lillooet (after vol-bivying overnight after a Pemberton-Lillooet flight the day before) to Cache Creek to catch up with Peter MacLaren. They plan to relaunch at Cache Creek and try flying to Mara/Revelstoke/Golden over the next several days!  A super day and not a cloud in the sky, not even looking inland to the Chilcotin region from Spindrift.  Looks like the entire southern part of BC is blue.

Next day I was feeling a bit bushed and not in such a gung-ho mood so I decided to stay a bit more local.  The forecast was calling for not-quite-so-good conditions but once in the air it was definitely as good as yesterday so my forecasting was obviously off :)

Duffy Lake Rd looking east towards Lillooet.
Mt. Matier on the far right, Duffy Lake in the distance.
This time I climbed to 2200m over the MacKenzie towers and jumped over the back to Lil'wat Mountain overlooking the Mount Currie Reservation.  There were a few gliders ahead of me but I caught up to them easily and then it was a gaggle of 4 flying Cassiope Peak.  Lillooet Lake was completely glassy, and it's low enough that there are sandbars available as LZ's at the north end.  This is good as once you cross south across the Duffy Lake Road to the Mt. Matier side, that's the only real good option, unless you count the cutblocks along Duffy Lake Road.  Once again the skies were completely blue, no cu's, but in the distance to the east I could see a huge plume of smoke near Lillooet, presumably the first forest fire of the year?  Mt. Matier was right in my sights with Joffre Lake (still snow-covered) at the foot of it, very impressive!

Partway down Lillooet Lake looking NW to Pemberton.
Gravell Peak and Mt. Currie on the left.
A couple of the other gliders chose to continue south to Twin Goat Mountain but I turned around at the peak just before as I didn't want to commit that far, and re-crossed the Duffy.  I was feeling a bit tired at this point and wanted to get back to town, so I tanked up before heading across to Gravell Peak on the Currie side and surfed the cutblocks over there.  I never really got high over there, basically scunged along the trees towards Pemberton, and decided to land at the airport just for something different to do.  Peyman followed me in and it was essentially no wind...we ended up landing in opposite directions and it didn't really matter!

Kevin had followed me to Lil'wat Mountain and then crossed directly to Currie, getting high enough to re-cross back to MacKenzie before doing Owl-and-return.  Several other pilots (Peter, Andrew, Frederic) had done the Spindrift-and-return flight, with Fred adding on a MacKenzie-Lil'wat Mountain-MacKenzie crossing at the end of the day to bump his flight to 118km.  Nobody went east on the Duffy Lake Road today and many pilots were happy to land in or near Pemberton and save on epic retrieves and hitch-hikings.

I'm really glad Kevin got 2 epic flights in Pemberton...I always enjoy it when Fraser Valley pilots show up and get good flights so they can see just how good it can be here.  When the FV is baked out, try Pemberton!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Woodside May 6

It was roughly 1 week ago that Lenami lost her life at Woodside and an impromptu memorial service was held yesterday in the cutblock where we found her body.  I chose not to attend for personal reasons.  But today I was ready to resume flying and it was also a chance to get Hardy some high flights before he heads to Europe.

After Hardy's morning flight the launch started getting crowded...tonnes of pilots showed up out of the woodwork that I haven't seen in ages.  It was a beautiful sunny day, a weekend, and I think many came out to think about Lenami too.  In any case, the skies over Woodside were indeed crowded today.  We even had a sailplane from Hope fly overhead a couple of times.

There had been a plan to do the 75km Samplonius triangle but once I got in the air I was feeling a bit distracted and "off" so I decided to skip that plan.  I spent the next few hours boating around Woodside, never getting super-high (maybe 1400m) and watching the launch crowds ebb and then re-form as the day progressed.  Eventually I flew over the back to Agassiz Mountain, mostly for something different to do, and did a short out-and-return back to Woodside.  Al was with me and took a different line back...he ended up landing at Harvest Market.

Meanwhile a bunch of pilots had gone on more massive XC's than me...Igor went up to Stave Lake and back, while Alex almost completed the Samplonius triangle but landed on the south side of the Fraser river so we had to go pick him up.  Rob made it back to Harvest Market after doing the Woodside-Bridal-Elk run.  And Peter did two big XC flights today, one at Woodside and the other at Bridal later on.  Martin on his ATOS flew up towards Benedict before returning to Mother Woodside...he had a "wardrobe malfunction" (his words!)  so he opted to land early.

A final sled ride for Hardy at the end of the day and then it was time to head home.  It was soarable from 11am until 6pm; the days are getting long now.  Soon we'll be flying Bridal until 9pm...