Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Epic Woodside May 1

81km FAI triangle


Salsbury Lake (melted) and Kenyon Lake (still frozen)
After yesterday's overdevelopment, today was actually a bit stable in the Fraser Valley.  The cu's were small and set quite far back, so we knew it was time-sensitive to get away before it baked out too much and escape to the big mountains where it was more unstable.

Stave Lake with Judge Howay and Robie Reid

After getting established over Sasquatch it was basically flying under the clouds all the way to Big Nick, making sure to stay under the magic number of 1981m (our airspace limit).  It was a bit funky at Dewdney, which we didn't really expect; it seemed it was quite north in spots and this was wrapping around Dewdney as well as coming down Norrish Creek.  But we were able to get out of there and once hitting Pattison and Gregory it was now a real effort to stay low, as there was lift everywhere.  No big cu's, just areas of widespread lift and we were all watching our GPS's to make sure to stay legal :)

The 5-6km of unlandable terrain just past Blinch.
I haven't flown north of Shotgun so it was a real treat to get up to Salsbury Lake and then Kenyon Lake up near the north end of Stave Lake.  Judge Howay and Robie Reid were right there and it was totally possible to glide across to the Judge, except it was very unlikely to get back and the only landing is the beach and a long wait for a boat or floatplane to possibly come by in the next few days :)

Looking up the Statlu.






Kenyon was actually the crux for me, as I was so paranoid about staying below 1981m that I actually got too low on the crossing, and arrived so low I didn't really have a proper LZ as a bailout.  I could have landed in the snow next to the still-frozen Kenyon Lake, but then it would have been a multi-hour posthole through the snow to a road and possibly a night out, and I wasn't really into that.  So I made up my mind to climb out of there, and managed to get back up to peak height and some breathing room while I still had some semblance of a road below me.
Banjo and the Chehalis River.  Woodside in the distance.

The next section (what most people would term the actual crux) is about 5-6km of unlandable terrain...no road, no cutblocks, and no retrieve.  It is soooo tempting to get really high to cross this stretch easily, but nope, 1981m is all you're allowed once coming back from Blinch.  So you have to climb high but stay legal, and keep surfing along until you reach the Chehalis drainage and a retrievable road becomes within glide again.  This is not something you want to do low, or on a too-unstable day (since if you get shaded out by OD, you're in trouble)!

Gliding towards Woodside.


Once arriving over the Statlu area it becomes easier as the valley actually flows downhill from here so you can, if necessary, just keep gliding and you'll make a cutblock.  But if you want to fly back to the Fraser Valley, you have to keep going and aim for Banjo!

No LZ's this side of Woodside...heading back to Chehalis LZ.






Alex and Al were at the bump just SE of Banjo but not climbing out, and reported they were going to land at Harrison Hot Springs.  I decided to see how close I could get to Woodside and then land at the Chehalis native reservation soccer fields; for the XCanada contest, you have to get to within 5% of your start to get the triangle bonus and Harrison Hot Springs isn't close enough ;)  It was actually quite easy to glide to the north side of Woodside, and had I been higher I may have been able to surf the north side back to launch and properly close my triangle.  But I turned around 4km from launch so I could make a safe landing, and the very friendly folks at the soccer field offered me a ride to the car right away!

Chehalis LZ with Woodside in the background.
It was a very special flight, but it's not something to do every day...you need light winds, the right amount of stability (the almost-becoming-too-stable-days at Woodside seem to be best), and most of all, it's best to do in a group for safety.  Landing out in the Blinch/Statlu areas would be full-on and it's best if you fly with a SPOT.  And keep an eye on the sky...it would be really unfortunate to reach the unlandable section just as the sky milked over (for example) or a big cu blew up and blocked your way back to civilization.  And watch your altitude if you want to stay legal and post your tracklogs...it's easy to get too high!

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