Monday, July 30, 2012

New glider flights July 28-29

Maiden flight at Woodside!  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont
Well I went for it and finally got an Icepeak 6 as Niviuk finally certified the size 21.  As this is a step up for me and my first 2-line glider, I decided to take it easy by going to Woodside and one of my most familiar sites.  Thermic and a clearing day meant nice gentle thermals and moderate amount of wind later on, perfect for learning how this glider flies!

Didn't actually go XC on that flight but stayed local, figuring out how to thermal the glider properly and how tight I can turn.  A big issue for me is launching the darned thing...compared to my Avax it's much harder to launch and is very prone to the snake-dance.  Need to continue my kiting to get that dialed!

Once in the air the glider is definitely a step up in performance with awesome glide and speed in reserve.  It doesn't seem to matter how much bar I push...the performance doesn't seem to suffer no matter whether I use 1/4, 1/3, or 1/2 bar.  Basically how much bar do I dare?  So far I haven't tried past 1/2 bar :)

Fortunately the glider seems to be bomber in the LE which means less collapse prone, but I'm sure if/when it goes, it'll be big!  A bunch of kiting and inducing collapses has already shown me that much :)

After my orientation flight it was time to fly Pemberton and go on my first XC in stronger conditions.  I found the air a bit rough and windy but manageable, and after taking some time to get settled in the stronger air I doodled downrange to Copper, returned, and then crossed the valley to the Miller side.  Once again the performance of the glider shined as the Miller crossing was into a strong west wind, and I was able to cross no problem and fly up the hidden valley a ways before returning to a "baby" Whistler Express in the LZ.

So far the glider has treated me well and I've kept things under control.  I've had some anxious moments when the glider started doing something unfamiliar and wriggling a bunch, but I'm starting to learn what all that means.  It's a different language and I'm trying to learn it fast, but take things at a reasonable pace at the same time.  Trying to respect the glider, but at the same time show it who wears the pants in this relationship :)


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chelan XC Open results

When I last posted I didn't know if I had won the women's division of the comp...up to yesterday Kari (from Oz) and I had been only 6 points apart, and the last task was stopped while we were on glide together.  Turns out I got a few more points on the last day due to being higher (adjusted distance score on a stopped task is based on a 2:1 glide of your altitude 10 minutes prior to the stop time) so in the end I was 13 points ahead and managed to retain 1st place :)  Kari flew really well and I look forward to flying with her again.

Complete results are here; congrats to Guy, Aaron, and Andrew, our other Canucks who also did very well!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Chelan July 14

On glide for Sims.
We weren't sure we'd be going up the mountain but the pilots ultimately voted to head up, and up top it was surprisingly OK-looking.  Some big stuff in the mountains but the flats looked good, so a quick Sims-n-back task was called, in order that pilots would be down early in time for scoring and the party, and also in case the skies blew up into thunderstorms.

Since storms were forecast I was keeping my own personal close eye on the weather and it was behaving itself with all the big stuff keeping in the mountains and the flats staying human.  I was able to manage the crossing to the rim successfully as we all headed for the best sunny spot, had a good start, flew to Sims and tagged the TP no problems.  The skies were looking really good and level 1's all over, when all of a sudden it seemed like a light switch was turned.  All the small, nice-looking cu's all of a sudden started getting really big, and reports came in from Chelan of gusting winds and don't land here.  So Doug decided to stop the task and it was raining paragliders into Mansfield.  I was 2970m and decided to land asap so spiralled and wingovered my way down to the ground at 650m.  Those who had passed Mansfield on the way to goal turned around, and those just tagging the TP  boogied it to the football field as well.  It was kinda fun, once on the ground, to watch everyone come in and try to figure out the wind direction, as it kept switching as a storm grew to the north, with some entertaining butt skids and downwind landings.
The skies as we were waiting for the retrieve.

All the pilots still in the air were on the ground a good 15-20 minutes before it started getting really big north of Mansfield and it started thundering in the distance.  The only surprise was a sailplane coming in to land at the airstrip as it thundered overhead...turns out he was out of Twisp and opted to land where it was safest and deal with his retrieve later, rather than attempt the flight back to Twisp.

Doug did an excellent job of calling the day when he did; everyone was down and partially packed up by the time it got nasty.  He had parked himself on a high point on the rim where he could see the entire courseline and the associated local weather, and had volunteers watching the Butte, Lake Chelan, and the soccer field to also give reports, so all the local areas were covered.  Usually when a task is stopped it's actually too late and some pilots end up landing in wind or rain...it's always preferable to stop a task too soon rather than too late.  One pilot was heard to complain that the task shouldn't have been stopped as it was still OK to fly, but later on when it started to rain he changed his tune :)  I guess he's learned a bit more about flying in a comp during really unstable conditions, and trusting local knowledge!  It was very amazing to watch the skies change so quickly...within 15 minutes it went from nice and blue with small cu's, to large and menacing rainclouds.

So that's it for the comp...we will get results tonight and of course it's party time too.  All in all a really successful comp...we had really good weather for the most part and only a few hiccups due to wind and/or fires.  Results will come later.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Chelan July 13

Big skies early in the day.
Another disappointing flight for me today...east wind on the rim and landed out at the top of Farnham Canyon while others climbed out above me :(  A 3-hour wait for the retrieve van which never showed up, finally they sent a truck for me after realizing I still hadn't been picked up.  Meanwhile about a half dozen made goal (Sims then goal in Mansfield) with many others scattered in between Sims and Mansfield.  Alex crossed an hour early and flew to just past Mansfield before returning to land near Martin and Mia's house.

The day didn't start out very promising...big cu's and overdevelopment and we thought the day was done, but then it blue'd up nicely for the afternoon.  The strong east winds were problematic though...transitioning to the rim is harder when it's east vs. west.  And it was quick tricky on launch too...I launched early and heard that the later launchers were doing the Chelan Butte Shuffle as they tried to find the best place to launch.  And we had one reserve toss drifting towards the powerlines, slight injuries since he landed on a hard road vs. a soft moondust field.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Chelan July 12

Some neat clouds moved in late in the day.
A rather weird day with some people having lots of trouble getting above launch and others having no problems at all; lots of cirrus meant it was basically overcast and no shadows but there was lift anyways, dust devils etc.

We got stinkin' high over the Butte about 3500m so we figured it would be an easy glide towards Mansfield which was the first TP of the Mansfield-Douglas-LZ triangle (84km).  But gliding across to the rim it was super SE winds and we were dropping out of the sky.  I ended up making it past the powerlines no problem, but no lift to be found afterwards and I ended up landing shortly thereafter.  Bummer!

Pilots were raining out of the sky all along the courseline with people drifting back the wrong way in the thermals and doing death glides: nobody made goal...the furthest pilot was just short of Douglas.  The skies got more and more overcast until a bunch of altocumulus moved in, courtesy of the thunderstorms forecast over the next day or so.

Even though it was a short flight it was really cool to be so high over the Butte...usually we don't get so high and then leave for elsewhere so it was a treat to easily see Mansfield from over Chelan.  And the overcast conditions meant it wasn't as hot as normal so packing up in the moondust on the plateau wasn't the chore it usually is :)


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chelan July 11

A really slow start today as pilots appeared to be sinking out and nobody wanted to launch :)  But once over on the plateau it was easier going so long as you stuck with a group.  Our goal was to fly to Tonaskat for 112km due to the strongish south winds.

The going was slow though and it took forever to get to the edge of the plateau for the jump across to Okanogan.  I was flying with Bill, Arnie, and Dave W for most of the flight and we made sure to tank up to 3900m before diving off the edge.

The deeper line seemed to be best so a bunch of us committed to landing out if we didn't get up, and it worked.  Bill and Arnie went even deeper than me, but we ended up meeting up again at Omak so both lines worked equally well.  At this point we parted ways as they chose to fly the middle of the valley over the Omak airport while I opted to head for the SW cliffs.

Approaching the Omak TP just before my hawk attack.
This is where things got interesting.  I was thermalling away in the convergence between the two valleys at Omak, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I heard a screech and felt a shudder.  Looked up to see a hawk tangled in my right trailing edge where I had a broken cascade line from my launch.  Fortunately it was only his leg and not his wings, and he broke free before the glider could start doing any funky stuff.  He then proceeded to swoop my glider for the next 5 minutes, screeching all the while as I tried to shake him off, spiralling and wingovering and shouting at him to go away.

Finally he tired of dive bombing me and flew off.  I can't really determine why he attacked me in the first place, but he ended up in the exact spot where I had a broken cascade line trailing behind which may have attracted him?  After determining that he was indeed gone I continued on to the SW cliffs in the hopes of getting some additional lift for goal in Tonaskat.  Weirdly enough there wasn't any lift, despite the fact the cliffs face SW, are super-steep, and are into the prevailing wind.  Disappointed, I continued north as goal was only 20km away and I was doing 70kph with a 12:1 glide to goal and was trying to figure out where goal was...I could see the Tonaskat airport (which was supposedly goal) but my goal arrow was telling me to turn up this random valley to the west instead.

Got lots of sink and ended up landing 6.5km short of wherever goal was for 103km.  I was super-stoked despite not making goal since it was really close and given how bad the day started I was frankly glad to have made any distance!

Many pilots landed short and were wondering where goal actually was, but some pilots made the goal (a random farm field apparently) while others landed at the airport and ended up 5km short?  A really nice day of flying, and other than my hawk attack it was pretty uneventful once established on the plateau.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chelan July 10

Finally the winds changed to the "normal" SW direction and fairly light, so a straightforward out and return to Sims Corner (95km) was called.  Getting over to the rim on a SW day is much easier and less stressful so getting established wasn't much of an issue for me today, and I was able to connect to the clouds on the way to Sims and stay high for most of the flight.
On the way back to Chelan Falls, looking NW.

The winds on the plateau were actually very south which meant it was a crosswind both ways rather than a headwind on the way back.  Cloudbase was around 3900m and up there it was nice and cool, and actually a tailwind back from Sims!  Lower down it was a headwind, so I tried my hardest to stay high and avoid the headwind.

On the way back I saw a reserve toss just east of Mansfield and the pilot came down right next to the main road in a wheat field, no injuries.  Don't know why he tossed but the landing looked soft (as the wheat is 4' tall) and he was very convenient to the retrieve :)

The clouds also co-operated in that a nice cloudstreet set up just as we were coming back from Sims, and when the inevitable blue hole appeared near the edge of the rim, I tanked up to 3600m at the last cloud and was able to make it over the rim no problems and into goal with a bunch of other pilots.  PS the rim is actually higher than the plateau, so when you are trying to make it back over the edge to Chelan Falls, you have to take into account the fact that you are gliding into rising ground and adjust your glide ratio calculations accordingly :)


Monday, July 9, 2012

No fly day in Chelan July 9

The fire is growing as the day heats up.
We had wicked thunderstorms last night...camping at the tree farm we eventually smelled smoke but couldn't find any fire nearby to need to evacuate our tent, but the next day we discovered that the Butte had been hit with multiple strikes and was on fire.  A TFR while the fire crews fought the fire, plus the risk of additional daytime thunderstorms meant the day was cancelled so it was time to visit friends in Mansfield and go swimming at Summer Falls.  Another hot day with temps in the 100's!


Swimming and hiking at Summer Falls.
Update: we've been told the TFR is lifted so it's back to flying the Butte tomorrow!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Chelan July 8

Christine setting up with the fire in the background.
Task was pretty straightforward...a big 30km TP around Sims Corner then north to goal in Omak.  I'm not quite sure why a Sims TP was included as it doesn't add any significant real distance and there wasn't any safety issue needing to keep us on the rim that I could see.  Essentially that TP meant that we needed to fly to Omak via the rim, and given the wind conditions (like previous days, variations of east) I wasn't too happy about it.  I would have preferred a task that allowed us the option of flying to Omak via the west airport side rather than restricting us all to the rim.

Anyways, the east wind meant the rim was lame and many pilots arrived low and ended up scunging north...some made it high enough to jump the powerlines while others (me included!) never got high enough for the powerline jump and ended up landing in either Farnham or McNeil canyons.  I spent over 1 hour below the rim edge, trying to get high enough to at least think about jumping back to the powerlines, but it wasn't gonna happen and eventually I got so low I had to head out to a safe LZ.

Back at HQ now and many pilots have landed out near Brewster or Bridgeport so retrieve is busy finding them.  The good thing about landing next to the main road in McNeil canyon is that I got back early and was able to get 2 swims in.  Silver lining and all that :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chelan July 7

Another hot day in Chelan, and it was a late start and stable-feeling.  Getting up on the rim was quite tough and a bunch of us tried for 45 minutes.  We could have committed to flying to the powerlines and onwards to Mansfield, but our motivation level was low due to no official retrieve if we landed out and the need to be back early enough for the pilot's meeting :)  So after festering on the rim edge we landed at the Chelan Falls park LZ for a nice leisurely packup and swimming.

Some pilots battled it out to Mansfield and apparently it got better as the afternoon went on.  The past few days it seems to be better later: something to keep in mind until the next weather system moves through and resets things!

Chelan July 6


Getting up to cloudbase near Brewster
We thought it was gonna be lightish winds from the south but it ended up being quite significant from the SE, which made crossing to the rim harder than usual.  A bunch of people opted to fly the airport side north, while those of us who crossed to Farnham canyon had to scunge along the rim pretty much all the way to Brewster where we finally got 3400m.  Alex and I were team flying up to this point, but as we dove off the edge of the rim at Brewster we got separated as he opted to take the middle-of-the-valley route while I crossed to the east side of highway 97.

The lift on the other side wasn't very good and the SE winds kept blowing me off the rim; it was hard to stay established over there.  I finally got a bit low at which point the valley breeze kicked in and I ended up landing just south of Okanagon at around the 75km mark with a Seattle pilot.

Those who had taken the more in-valley route had a much better line and were able to stay higher and out of the valley breeze and keep going north: to Omak, Tonaskat, and Oroville.  Alex made it to Oroville for something like 140km, and several pilots made it to Tonaskat at 125km.

Many pilots landed very soon after going on glide from the Butte, but those that went back up for a reflight ended up getting a much better #2 flight.  I was pretty happy to not have bombed out like yesterday :) but it would have been nice to keep going until at least the 100km mark.  Since I was in front of the small group I was with, the other pilots were able to watch my line and take a different one if it seemed to not be working…sometimes it doesn't pay to be in front :)  Also note to self…when it's SE and blowing off the rim, once past Brewster it may be better to fly the middle of the valley rather than committing to either side.  A few years ago on a similar wind direction day those pilots who flew the middle of the valley got the furthest…I think by catching the east-side thermals as they lean over into the middle of the valley.  If we have another day like today and we end up going north, I may try that line!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chelan July 5

Forest fire SW of Chelan, with the launch Butte on the right.
Well I sunk out on the rim and had a long (2+ hours) hike out over hill and dale before I found a ride to the Chelan Falls LZ.  But I'm OK with it since I'd rather get my sinking-out-on-the-rim over with now, rather than do it next week during the comp!

Heard Martin and Mia on the radio as they were towing at Mansfield.  Alex was with me on the glide to the rim and was a bit higher; he got away and is currently on his way to Reardon.  He hasn't landed yet but I imagine he will land at Reardon to avoid the Spokane airspace (we checked the charts before leaving Canada!) for his new personal best of something like 160km!!!!  I'm now on my way to pick him up...

Forest fire to the SW of Chelan just started up today; hope it doesn't get too big or shut the flying down here.  It's sunny and hot!