Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 20 Summer solstice party!

The gang on Elk on Solstice Day.
More photos are here!

It was that time of year again, when the Elk hike-n-fliers head up to Elk for an overnight stay before flying down the next morning.  Alex and I decided to join in the fun, but instead of hiking up Elk, we'd try to fly there from Bridal and top-land Elk with all our camping gear, saving the hike up.

As the upper shade moved in our plans changed from "let's fly Bridal a bunch and then eventually head over to Elk and top-land" to "let's try not to sink out".  Going to Elk was a long exercise in patience as the lift was extremely light and it was slight NE winds too, which made the almost-thermals drift in unusual directions.  When we got to Elk it was another patience-fest to not only avoid sinking out, but also getting high enough to top-land the meadows and not get rotored by the north wind at the same time (as the meadows face SE-SSW).

Alex managed to eventually get high enough to do a fly-on-the-wall on the Elk meadows but I was only able to get as high as the lookout, which is about 50m below the actual meadows.  I could see the meadows plus all the Elk hike-n-fliers cheering me on, but I was unable to get that extra 50m!  Arghh!  Finally, after over 1 hour of trying to get that extra little bit I bailed and landed at Eddy's.

Alex, being the very nice boyfriend  :) , stashed his gear and descended the trail so we could share the burden of getting my glider plus comp harness plus camping gear up to launch.  We arrived to find a bonfire already burning and Eddy offering up his famous calf liver stew, plus lots of alcohol already evident!  Music and stories as we watched the sun set behind the clouds and then it was time to sleep under the stars and await dawn only a few hours away.

Brightening skies this morning at 4:30am and launching from the meadows by 7am and then we were all back at the LZ for breakfast.  Another successful Solstice Day Party!  I had a really fun time despite failing to top-land and look forward to next year's :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Woodrat June 14

Tracklog is here.

Another high pressure day; this time no cu's.  It was already west wind up on launch and I was concerned about it getting windy in the valley later on (as it did yesterday) so I only did a short flight.  Found the convergence at Burnt (west down low and north up high) and used it to get high enough to cross to Rabies and then it was an easy transition to the Longswords LZ.  The winds did indeed pick up in the LZ but not as strong as the day before so there was less hoopla as pilots were actually coming in with forward ground speed this time :)

A bunch of pilots went up to mid launch for an evening flight where the north wind finally won out against the prevailing west wind so it was easy soaring on the north ridges leading down into the Hunter LZ.  I opted to skip that flight and drive a vehicle down so we'd all be down in time for dinner at the awesome My Way Cafe.  If you visit Woodrat Mtn, be sure to go here for lunch/dinner!  It is in the same parking lot as the Ruch grocery store and they do very good meals with local ingredients!

I am not staying for the Rat Race as I have other comps to attend this summer; hopefully they will have nice (and not stable like it's been for the past few days) weather and safe tasks.  Good luck to all the Canucks attending!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Woodrat June 13


Hiking Stein Butte.  Applegate Valley in the background.
Tracklog is here.

After skipping flying yesterday in favour of a hike up Stein Butte by Applegate Lake, we headed up to launch for a flight before it blew out.  Moderate north winds meant launching on the north side and then it was an easy glide over to Rabies and Mt. Isabella before heading west to Grants Pass.  The winds were picking up as we flew west and I turned back at Humbug Peak, before landing at Longswords LZ.  While it was strong north up high, down in the valley it was SW which meant at some point the air was going to get interesting!  Fortunately Riss radioed us the altitude of the switch and I was prepared for it and landed right in front of the tasting room where shade and wine was waiting.

Blown out for the rest of the afternoon but it was nice to get a flight in before the winds kicked in.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Whaleback June 11

Photos are here and tracklog is here.
Mighty Mt. Shasta in northern California

Down in southern Oregon for a few days to escape the rain and gloom of Vancouver.  Initially we were planning on flying Woodrat, but we got the word that a group of pilots were heading to Whaleback, in northern California, so we decided to join up with them instead.

Whaleback is a flying site right next to the Mt. Shasta volcano, east of the I-5.  The local club has recently done a bunch of work on the launch to smooth it out and make it larger so it is quite buff at the moment.  Both the launch and LZ are 2-wheel drive accessible, although the launch road still had snow in spots.  Launch is at 2270m!

Up on launch we took some time to enjoy the view of Mt. Shasta right in our faces and then it was time to fly!  Winds in the air were a bit on the strong side from the SW by Shasta but more NW by Herd Peak, which is another flying site just to the north.

XC over the back is possible; pilots have flown to Lakeview from here, and Klamath Falls is quite reachable (83km, although you have to land short to avoid Klamath Falls airspace).  The conditions weren't really conducive to over-the-back XC so a bunch of us decided to fly to Herd Peak and Sheep Rocks which are to the NW of launch.

I was able to get high enough at Herd to make it back to Whaleback while everyone else landed and went up for flight #2.  Fortunately for me :) I got to 3590m while they were driving back up, as a slight convergence had set up with the SW wind from the I-5 hitting an up-high East wind coming from Klamath Falls.  Something was definitely happening conditions-wise as clouds were starting to form, lenticulars as well, and I could feel the wind picking up in the air.  By the time I went out to land it was definitely on the strong side with pilots landing going backwards.  At the same time we observed a cu forming on Shasta, but shortly thereafter the winds died and it reverted to the "normal" wind (according to the locals) for that time of day.

Whaleback is definitely a very scenic flying site and there is excellent XC potential, so long as you are committed for the first hop over the back before you can connect with highway 97 headed to Klamath Falls.  But you have to respect the fact that it's a high mountain desert site, with wind, strong lift, and turbulence associated with such sites.  Best to connect with a local to make sure you get all the pertinent information.  Local flying information is here.