Camrose May 15

No towing today as the skies were cloudy with rain showers in advance of the front approaching from the south.  Instead we went to Dried Meat Ridge, near Double Dam golf course, to play in the SE winds.

It was a bit too cross to fly the main ridge but there was a section that was doable.  So the guys hiked or kited their gliders over and played for a couple of hours.

Dried Meat Ridge on a cloudy day
At Miles in May, the hang glider pilots had staged at Daysland but the day was eventually cancelled due to the same weather conditions.

With the weather turning for the worse for the next day or so, and east winds forecast for the rest of our available days, we have decided to pull the plug on anymore XC towing on the Prairies and return home.  We had 6 days in a row of excellent XC conditions, and almost every day saw at least one pilot make at least 100 km.  We also had 4 pilots break 200 km, in addition to several personal bests.  All in all this was probably the most successful tow encampment we've had in years!

Camrose May 14

Similar day to yesterday but a bit more wind, so not much flying on our part.  I was the tow driver today so I knew I wasn't going to be flying anyways, but as the winds picked up most of the other pilots chose to stand down.

Andrew (left) and Al (right) tracks for today

Andrew and Al got away and flew north...Al stayed well east of Beaverhill Lake this time and landed north of Lavoy for ~150 km, while Andrew landed north of Daysland for ~80 km.

The hang gliders flying in Miles in May, meanwhile, set a task to the Chipman airport NE of Edmonton.  According to both Ross and Leif made it while a few more landed short.

The Miles in May folks have been having a fantastic week of competing with 4 tasks so far. Ross Hunter has a commanding lead with Doug Keller, Doug Hartley, and Tyler Borradaile competing for 2-4 places.  The final results will change a bit after the retrieve drivers get their average points for their volunteering days.

Preliminary results after 4 days of Miles in May

Camrose May 13

We had scoped out a tow road even further east than the Galahad one, east of Alliance, in order to get some more distance before bumping up against Edmonton airspace and the Rocky mountain foothills.  Cu's were popping and it was very windy, so much so that I wasn't sure I wanted to fly in those conditions.  However there were workable lulls so I towed up, unfortunately I wasn't able to get away and landed a few fields away.  Had a bit of a scare as I landed and a giant moose exploded out of the bushes next to me before running into the adjacent field and another copse of bushes.

Back at the towfield it was windy again and I wasn't feeling particularly excited about towing up in such conditions so I decided to bag my glider for the day.  Peter was still wanting to tow up though and on his third time he finally got away and was chasing the other pilots.

Today's flights on XC Find
Brett and I were following our group on XC Find and chased them all day, finally catching up to Alex north of the North Saskatchewan River.  He landed at 227 km after 2 hours of fighting to stay alive and far enough east to avoid Edmonton airspace, followed by 2 hours of finally being able to go downwind and munch some kms.  A new Canadian PB for Alex!

Peter, despite his late tow, took a more easterly route and also made it to near Alex for a PB of 218 km!  Congratulations Peter!

Al got blown downwind and ended up flying west of Beaverhill Lake before landing at the north end, but managed to avoid the Edmonton airspace by 2 or 3 km's ;)

Over at Miles in May, the hang gliders had another 80 km task to Tofield.

Another stellar day with 2 x 200+ km flights!  We are getting close to getting the magic 250 km open distance flight!

Camrose May 12

Today's weather was pretty similar to yesterday's except for more wind, so we went back to the Galahad E-W tow road.  With 2 winches it's possible to actually have multiple pilots in the local air at the same time; I was scratching out when Andrew towed up next to me and Brett was just towing up when we started heading west.  Then cu's started popping overhead around 2pm and it was on!

The winds had a touch of south so I flew north of Buffalo Lake instead of south like yesterday.  The going was pretty easy after the first 10 km or so as the cu's started popping, and the further west I flew and the later it got, the more abundant the lift became.  At times it seemed like the thermals were lined up parallel to each other, so that you could fly huge lines of thermic lift and not have to stop and turn; it wasn't just lifty lines but rather huge areas of lift centred over treelines and river valleys.

Cloudbase was around 3100 m and big lift over the Ponoka airport (you can't really go any further north at this point or else you'll hit Edmonton airspace), and then it was across highway #2 and west to Gull Lake.  At this point the clouds dried up and it was back to blue flying.  It was getting a bit late, after 5pm, and I was coming up to a section of treed terrain that I wasn't getting high enough to cross over, so I landed at the north end of Gull Lake at the 144 km mark in windy and gusty 30 kph SE winds.

Andrew and Brett at 210 km...a personal best for both!
Several pilots flew farther and managed to avoid the foothills by flying more north and avoiding Edmonton airspace as the winds turned more SE: Peter flew to 177 km and Andrew and Brett flew to 210 km.  All 3 were personal bests!

Meanwhile at the Miles in May the task was from Strome to Tofield: about 80 km.  Ross reported that 5 pilots made goal in the very-crosswind task.

Camrose May 11

More east wind today so we decided to look for a tow site further east to get some more kms before hitting the mountains and airspace issues.  On a previous day during retrieve, Will had seen a possible E-W tow road near Galahad, so we went back there, and yes it was indeed possible to tow from there!

Some of the farm traffic to contend with!
Initially the skies were blue but a few cu's started popping around 11:30am.  I think Steven was the first away as he climbed to a cu forming right above the tow paddock.  Most people got away with their first tow, myself included, and we were soon flying east.

I found the whole flight quite enjoyable even though I found the lift a bit scattered down low, although as I flew east it got better and better.  Climbs were to around 2500m and the cu's had dried up so it was a blue day.  No cu's meant I spent my glides determining my next trigger points on the ground, and in most cases I was right (treelines, boundaries between dark and light fields, perpendicular-to-the-wind bodies of water, tractors, etc).

Size comparison between modern farm equipment and Al's truck!
With the almost-directly east wind we had to decide how to get around Buffalo Lake, which was smack in the flight path.  Everyone decided to detour to the south since there was a tiny bit of north to the east wind, although once past the lake I found the slight north tendency actually turned into a slight south tendency, so our paths were actually arcing a bit by the end.

I was going a bit slow (it wasn't windy at all by Prairie standards, maybe 15-20 kph of wind at 2000 m) and by the time 5pm came I was close to the Nova Chemicals plant, just outside Red Deer.  The lift was dying and I was trying to get to the high ground surrounding highway #2 but I was unable to get there and ended up landing at 107 km.  Peter was behind me and managed to get a bit further, landing just outside Red Deer as well for 123 km.
Landed just short of the Nova Chemicals plant outside Red Deer (in the distance).

Brett and Andrew had the best flights, getting 155 km and 179 km respectively, good going guys, nice job on an east day!

Meanwhile the hang glider pilots flying in Miles in May had set Ponoka airport as their goal.  Ross was the only one who made goal; Doug Keller landed 4 km short.  Leif landed (home?) in Wetaskiwin.

Tomorrow looks like more east wind, maybe some more south to it, and stronger, so we'll see if we try the same tow road again!

Camrose May 10

East wind today!

East wind generally sucks, partly because it indicates dry cold air from the Canadian Interior, but mostly because it means we can't fly far downwind (ie west) before hitting some form of airspace around either Edmonton or Calgary.

Andrew and Alex
But we flew anyways.  I was the designated tow driver for the day (we have a rotation scheduled far in advance so it's fair to everyone) so I spent most of the day in the dirt or the truck, driving back and forth on dirt roads :)

Andrew and Al planning flying strategy.
Early tows weren't successful since it hadn't yet turned on yet, but a few pilots started getting away after 1pm.  Al made it about 20 km before landing and was back for more tries in an hour or so.  Will made it 26 km, and Brett made it 10 km.  Alex did the best with a 90+ km flight to west of highway 2.

The other tow group didn't get much flying in since their winch motor broke down, and by the time they switched to our tow rig the conditions had deteriorated and it became quite sinky on the tow road.  We decided to pull the plug after 4pm after it became apparent towing wasn't going to happen and it was time to start chasing the flying boys anyways.

Al setting up
Meanwhile over at Strome the hang gliders (15 strong) participating in Miles in May had called a 150 km task to Rimbey (west of highway 2).  Alex reported seeing some hang gliders in the air near Double Dam golf course.  Ross landed 26 km short and most of the other hang glider pilots didn't get a chance to get away since all 5 their tow winches broke down too!  Fortunately Ross says they are back at 2 or 3 working in time for tomorrow's task.
Al getting ready to tow
Tomorrow is scheduled to be more east wind so we are thinking of trying some tow roads further east, to get us a head start of 50 km or so, and perhaps get us far-enough away so that we can veer around the Edmonton airspace and continue west to the north.  We'll see what tomorrow brings!
Al just off tow.

Doing some repairs on Steven's winch.

Camrose May 9

After a beautiful drive through Jasper National Park we arrived in Camrose for a week of flatland towing on the Prairies!  This year we have 2 PG tow teams in addition to the Miles in May HG group.
A cold morning in Valemount!

It took me 4 (!) tows to get away from the tow paddock, by which point it was almost 3pm and probably the strongest part of the day.  When I pinned off my GPS was saying 40 kph of wind and my downwind glides were surpassing 85 kph.

Obligatory pose at Mt. Robson
The going was really quick but unfortunately there was a line of clouds with snow-virga dropping out and not an easy way around it.  I saw a small gap between clouds and threaded my way between but after that it was a solid wall of snow-virga and I was forced to land at the 104 km mark.

Shut down by the snow-virga!
Meanwhile Alex had taken a more southerly route, hit the same schmoo, and landed around the 101 km mark.  Andrew and Peter had more straight easterly tracks and landed just outside Wainright AFB.

The Hang Gliders start their Miles in May tomorrow so they were practicing today with Doug getting 110 km and Ross 140 km, in roughly the same direction as us.  Tomorrow is looking like east wind which is not the best (because it pushes us towards Edmonton airspace), but we'll see if the forecast is wrong, and if not, we'll have some local flights back to Camrose.

May 2-3 weekend

So far the XC season has been pretty thin for us on the West Coast...mediocre weather for the most part.  But that all changed this weekend with both Saturday and Sunday looking quite good.  Saturday looked like the better of the days for clouds, but was forecast to be windy, whereas Sunday was forecasting less wind.  So it was Woodside on Saturday and Pemberton on Sunday!

Heading across to Sasquatch on a strong day.
Woodside on Saturday was working quite early; I launched just after noon and was soon at 1500m heading west.  The plan was to head to Benedict and return, and then do the Raymont triangle if time permitted.

Heading to Dewdney was a bit tougher than we originally anticipated; the west wind kicked in around Deroche and getting around the corners of Deroche, Big Nick, and Dewdney was a bit tricky.  Fortunately there were plenty of cu's to help us along; cloudbase rose throughout the day and by the time I was on my way back from Benedict, it was somewhere above 2000m and well above our airspace restriction of 1981m.  I kept pulling out of climbs at 1700m just to be sure not to bust, as some of the climbs were so strong that if you waited until too late, you'd find yourself too high and no way to escape in time!

Alex and Peter decided to do the Hammer triangle and return to Woodside via Kenyon Lake and the Chehalis route.  Kevin and Martin N turned around at Big Nick so they could return to Woodside quicker and do the Bridal part of the run sooner.  By the time I got back to Sasquatch I was quite tired (it was quite active air and took a lot of concentration to fly) and decided to land at Eagle Ranch.

Meanwhile over at Bridal Kevin was reporting very "spicy" conditions at Ludwig for those crossing over, and back at Woodside launch most people were standing down since it was just too strong to launch safely.  Peter and Alex made it back to Woodside: Peter by sneaking back to Sasquatch and doing the crossing the usual way, Alex by popping out at Harrison Hot springs and returning via Agassiz.

In the end it was quite the day with lots of strong climbs, windy mid-day, and one of the first  real "spring" days of the season.

Flight to Mt. St. Benedict and back.

Sunday was a bit of a different cu's and visually stable-looking with forecast high cirrus later in the day.  Off to Pemberton to escape the Fraser Valley stability!

Looking up Hurley Pass.  The road is still snowed in so little (if any) traffic is getting through yet.
Lots of pilots opted to launch from the upper launch but our group decided lower would be sufficient and yes, it was easy enough to climb out and join the rest of the pilots in the air.  As usual, I found the MacKenzie basin air to be a bit rough and rowdy, and as usual, the air got a lot nicer once past Owl and the gap to Barbour!  Climbs to 2500m under blue skies and I was feeling really good about flying out to Spindrift and back as the Lilloet River is still quite low and provides lot of LZ opportunities if you sink out past the Hurley Pass.

Met a few pilots returning from Spindrift/Athelstan area and I was getting to 2800m now.  However the high cirrus was moving in and it was getting late in the day since I still had to fly home!  So I decided to stop at the lee of Spindrift rather than fly around to the windward side for the even 100km, and started the trek home.

Crossing Hurley Pass on the way up to Spindrift.  High cirrus moving in!
There is a new logging operation just south of North Creek on the bench around 1200m so if you need to land out in that area, you may get a ride or communications help from the folks there.

With the west wind the return home was relatively quick; I got back to Pemberton in less than 2 hours.  Lots of smiling faces in the LZ as pilots were coming in from Athelstan and up the Ryan River valley.  We had a scare at the very end of the day when Guy, who had a small (10%) cravatte on his left wingtip and was successfully flying straight and level with it for 1-2 minutes (not sure what put it there in the first place), did some small turns, induced a spin on the cravatted side, tail-slid, and threw his reserve.  Now this all happened in final approach to the LZ, which put him directly over the road (and powerlines) at ~100'.  Fortunately, during the tail slide he flew backwards enough that when he threw his reserve (at tree-top height) he ended up back over the other side of the road and over a backyard.  As the reserve came to full extension he was below tree-top height and at first I thought the pendulum of him swinging under the now-extended lines would slam him into the ground.  But the swing-through happened just high enough to land on his feet, in a small space too small to land anything but a vertically-descending round parachute, right next to a tree, the road, and powerlines.  Guy was unhurt and very lucky!

Flight to Spindrift and back.