Pemberton March 30

50km Hurley-return flight.

Launch still has snow but drying out quickly.
After yesterday's flight at Woodside several of us decided to head to Pemberton to escape the stability in the FV.  The snow is melting rapidly, and you can drive to within a 25-minute easy hike of lower launch.  Launch itself still has snow but it's drying out quickly too.

It was remarkably stable-looking even to the north, crystal-blue skies, no cu's, and outflow glacial winds.  The Pemberton valley up near Hurley Pass still has snow in the fields; this is the earliest in the season I've been here flying.  Eventually around 2:30pm we figured we may as well fly, but weren't very optimistic about actually getting up and away (many comments along the lines of "maybe we can get 10km's so it'll count as an XC flight" etc).

Still snow in the valley!
It was certainly a struggle to get away from launch, and most pilots were stuck in the south bowl at 800-900m.  I was able to get to 1100m and occasionally to 1200m, but was unable to get above upper launch.  Finally as the afternoon slopes heated up I broke though to 1500m and was in the game, started heading to Owl peak with Alex and Peter behind me.

Lots of tracks down to Tenquille Lake.

The lift just getting better and better, and by the time I got to Owl I was at 2100m, enough for an easy gap crossing and the snowfields on the other side.  The Copper side was just amazing... snow everywhere...perfect for close-by flying since all the trees and rocks that normally stick out were covered in meters of snow.  Watched several avalanches in action as the snow warmed the SW slopes and even startled an Easter bunny with my glider's shadow as he bounded away to the nearest shelter.  Oodles of snowmobile tracks, snowshoes, ski tracks around the Tenquille Lake and around the Copper Dome.

A fantastic flight with all the snow still in the mountains and the fact it took some work to even get high enough to try the flight...we're the first to the do the Pemberton "milkrun" in 2013.  If the nice weather continues, the road up will be clear of snow shortly and the hike will be even less!

Copper Dome with Goat in the far right corner.
It was so buoyant that I decided to do a more-or-less straight glide back to launch from Copper, just to see if I could do it, just in time to land as the shade started to cover the valley floor.  PS the trail horses in the Alternate LZ are totally unconcerned with PG's landing nearby...unless you actually land on one they will completely ignore you, just keep an eye out for manure piles!
Mt. Currie in the late afternoon sun.

Woodside March 29

1600m at the Butterfly heading for the Lakes and Cheam.
Some Q's but no OD and looked like a nice day to try the 80km triangle.  A rather sinky glide across to Sasquatch but getting up on the other side was OK and then it was west to Big Nick.  But the west wind was coming in and cloudbase was still on the low side, so I decided to turn around at Deroche and quit wasting time, and get going on the rest of the triangle :)  Fred continued west and I think went to Benedict in the end.

Back at Woodside and a new crew of pilots was just launching, while those who had turned back at Sasquatch were ahead of me at Bear/Ludwig/etc.  So it was time to boogy over and caught up to Peter at Bear, and found Alex at Elk later on with Alan.  Al had crossed into Laidlaw and was able to get high enough to cross to the Butterfly, bypassing Ludwig altogether.

The day was starting to shut down and we still had the epic Elk-Woodside glide (16km) with airspace to stay under and a river to cross at the end.  Alex found a big of lift on one of the redneck sandbars (they were crawling with RV's and quads on this long weekend) and got back up at Woodside, while I found zip and was forced to land in Riverside after a scratch-fest flying along the highway at the base of Woodside (many car-honks urging me along!).

Al and Peter landed on the sandbars connected to Riverside and walked the rest of the way, so nobody landed on the wrong side of the river and required retrieving, nice!  The 80km triangle is a tough nut to crack, due to all the big crossings involved, low-ish wind needed, and the fact the final crossing of the day is the largest one, with the Fraser River to cross and not land short!  It'll be done on a PG, but it will take a special day!

70km triangle.

spring flying at Woodside March 23-24

50km FAI triangle on Saturday.
70km OR on Sunday.

The XC hounds were out in full force this weekend and we had several plans in place depending on how the weather shaped up.  Saturday started off with low cloudbase, around 1200m, but a bunch of us headed west anyways.  A bit of OD over the Sasquatch range while Harrison knob was in the sun, so Fred, Al, and I surfed under the clouds over the Fraser River until Big Nick, where I turned back after experiencing some cloudsuck while they continued to Dewdney and Stave Lake.

View towards Hope.
Time to top-land at Woodside to recharge and get ready for flight #2, this time over the back for the 50km triangle.  Nobody else on the Bridal side except Alan, and the clouds were shelving from the south, shading out the mountain range so it was tough to find lift down low.  I finally tanked up at Gloria back up to 1770m and then it was time to glide home, making sure to avoid the sliver of restricted airspace just north of the highway.

Initially I thought I was going to have to go into Harvest Market or possibly one of the connected sandbars and walk the rest of the way, but was able to get some sandbar thermals at the end of the day, an extra 200m, which was enough to get me around the corner of Mt. Woodside and back to the car...the IP6 excels at those long end-of-the-day glides!  Meanwhile Alex had done Hope-and-return, the first PGer to ever accomplish this (so proud!), almost claiming Martin Henry's bottle of scotch (although the challenge had been to also top-land Woodside after returning from Hope to claim the full prize).
Fraser Valley crossing: final glide from Gloria back to Woodside.

Sunday started off pretty cloudy and shady, and many of us were wondering if the day was actually going to shape up to anything.  But we lobbed off anyways and after about 30 minutes of scratching several of us got high enough to flop over the back to Agassiz Mountain, just for something to do (we still didn't believe it was going to get that good).  A few pilots landed at Harrison beach or the base of Bear, but Fred, Andrew, and I were still in the game.  Andrew opted to cross to Bridal while Fred and I continued east since it looked sunnier that way.

It was actually NE winds up high which meant flying to Hope was actually upwind.  Slow climbs but we eventually got to Dog Mountain where we finally got to 1700m and were able to see into the Fraser Canyon and up the Coquihalla Hwy.  By now the shade had largely disappeared and the climbs were strengthening.  It was fully outflow winds in Hope with the airplanes taking off and landing to the east, so the return flight was actually mostly downwind!  My low save came at Hunter Creek, a notorious wind tunnel on "normal" days, but this day it was 0 wind and I climbed out above a small fire and then it was pretty much ridge running, downwind, all the way to Bridal.  Even coming around the corner at Ludwig, another wind-tunnel area, was easy.

The final shade of the day as a band of cirrus came through and it was late enough that we went on final glide from Bridal launch height towards Agassiz.  We actually could have made it across to the Agassiz side, but the fields next to the bridge were very wet-looking so we opted to land in Rosedale instead in light east winds.
Staying warm in early spring means bundling up!

The day was incredibly light wind-wise; I don't think I've ever seen it so light (or east) in Hope in the afternoons.  It was a real treat to do Hope-and-return after Alex did it the day before!  Early spring is the best time to try these flights, when the  Fraser River is low and lots of sandbar landing options, we have light winds, and we have higher cloudbases to work with.

Woodside March 9

My first XC of the season since getting back from Valle de Bravo almost 2 months ago!  Dressed for the weather and was toasty warm for the whole flight.  Oodles of pilots out so launched early (12:30) just to avoid any launch lineup hoopla.

Low cloudbase around 1200m over Woodside meant it was dicey to fly west, especially since the two times I tried it I kept getting 2.5m/s down, so I gave up on that idea and headed east instead.  Lots of air traffic at the powerline project at Agassiz Mountain: I passed over a heli just spinning up on his log platform heli-pad, and one of those huge tandem rotor helicopters passed by twice, plus several floatplanes heading up Harrison Lake.  Note to pilots: keep eyes and ears peeled when crossing from Agassiz to Bear this spring!

Cloudbase was marginally better at Bear (1400m) so crossed to Ludwig, arriving at 700m and a comfortable climbout on the windy corner.  But it was quite shady on the Bridal side, only Alan was flying that side, and the clouds were doing that coming-over-the-back-and-spreading-out thing, creating a shelf of cloud and shade that extended over the highway.

Still some deep patches of snow to get stuck in :)
My tentative plan was to get high enough to fly back to Agassiz, but the shade was getting worse and the lift nonexistent west of upper launch, so Alan and I landed at the Bridal LZ.  Meanwhile several pilots had landed on the sandbars at the base of Ludwig while others landed at Seabird Island.  Al flew west (!) trying to fly home but got stuck at Deroche and turned around.  Martin on his ATOS flew to Benedict and back.  One tree crash as a rusty pilot had a spin-stall-spin-surge-dive event just behind launch, going into the last row of trees in the cutblock to the SE.  No injuries and he had a tree rescue kit, but last I heard they were still working on getting the glider out of the extremely tall tree.

Unfortunately, despite having plenty of time for in-flight photos, my camera battery died due to the cold.  The only one I got while the battery was still warm was on launch of the obligatory stuck-in-the-snow truck ;)