Willi Muller XC Challenge July 30

Andrew decides to get a quicky in before the storms arrive. Cell building in the background.

The cell is building!

Thunderstorms today, plus many pilots were tired after yesterday's epic flights, so only a few local flights before the storms shut things down. I chose to forgo flying but went up to enjoy the view.

Hailing in town as the storm just misses Nicholson and passes behind Mt 7.

Triple rainbow!

Willi Muller XC Challenge July 29

It was a really good XC day, not classic Golden, but close. However a bunch of us almost didn't get to enjoy it, because we almost launched too early!  A bunch of us spent a torturous 90 minutes scratching in the washing machine between launch and Willi's Knob, at 1600m or less, while the later launchers climbed out and started heading downrange.

Finally I got high and was able to get moving, catching up to folks around Parsons and Harrogate. Cloudbase was high...3600m, and getting higher the further south we went. Airspace was going to an issue!  It was almost due west wind, but starting to turn SW the closer we got to Invermere, with a significant headwind by Fairmont.

The view from 3600m at Harrogate.

I stopped my climb at 3700m at Windermere, cloudbase was somewhere around 4000m and in the restricted airspace, and decided to forgo the glide to Canal Flats due to the strong headwind plus the building cloud which was shading out Columbia Lake. It was the only cloud in the vicinity that was growing, but was parking itself over White Swan and starting to spit out rain and grow vertically.

Mt. Assiniboine in the distance from 3700m.
Landed at the north end of the lake for 144 km and was able to get a quick ride with Timmy et al who had landed in Canal Flats. Meanwhile a few pilots had gone over the back at Fairmont and were shot down in the back range and the strong SW wind. Al landed in a remote area short of Premier Lake and had to hike and Ford a river before Vincene found him; Simon had the pleasure of landing at a back woods gun range near a logging road.

In the end there was something like 45+ pilots south of Radium and a dozen personal bests. Best PG distance of the day (in the comp, Will may have done more but no track from him yet) went to Peter with 192 km... he did a mini OR in the middle of his flight to rack up more points ;). And Ross flew partway down Columbia Lake before returning to Invermere for something like 175 km.

Some clouds are starting to grow by Canal Flats!
Pilots were scattered all over the place and littering the road from Fairmont to Parsons, but everyone was picked up and accounted for and returned to HQ before midnight, thanks to the live tracking devices!

Willi Muller XC Challenge July 28

A smaller chance of thunderstorms today, and there were some cells around. While we were climbing out on Mt 7 a cell developed to the SW and became quite ominous, and it started to rain out of it. Ahead of the cell it had shaded out the lower part of the mountain so those pilots caught low were stuck in the shade with approaching rain, so many bailed.

Those of us higher up were able to run back to lookout launch and wait out the cell there. I didn't feel there was much danger since the cell was tracking SE and with the NW wind, it would continue to track away from us.

Once the cell had fizzled we were away, about an hour later than we had hoped.  The going was tough as the lift was broken and it was a bit windy down low, but we managed to keep going, our group changing leaders every few thermals.

Onwards it was touch and go at Spur Valley, as I was unable to get high enough for the crossing for the Edgewater cliffs. Finally I decided to go anyways, trusting that I would be able to climb out on the NW flanks and avoid an inconvenient FSR landing with a hot walk out.

The last cell before our way was clear.  It had fizzled by the time we got to Spilli.
The others had caught a climb at Spur Valley and gotten ahead of me, and I could see some high cirrus coming at Radium. The shade was shutting things down, and those ahead of me were reporting having to possibly land due to it. I was able to continue to Windermere at 122 km while those ahead of me landed a few kms further or at Fairmont.

Getting shaded out at Invermere.
Despite the big clouds at the northern part of the flight it was beautiful and sunny the further south we went. Apparently another cell came through Golden after we had left but our course line was clear once we got past Parsons/Harrogate. It was unfortunate that one cell at the beginning shut so many down, in the end there was only a handful of us that got downrange.

July 28 flight.

Willi Muller XC Challenge July 27

Mt 7, home to mountain bike races. 

The skies are building!
More thunderstorms forecast this afternoon, so short, non-XC flights for most. A handful of pilots chose to challenge the weather gods and ventured south, landing at Parsons when the skies for too big even for them.

Time to land!
The afternoon was spent checking gear and measuring lines!

Measuring lines is thirsty work!

Willi Muller XC Challenge July 26

Possible thunderstorms forecast for this afternoon so we suspected it would be an early day. We were planning on a possible out and return to the north, but once in the air the wind was too strong to allow for that direction.

To the north it looked good, but too windy to reach. 
However to the south the storms were brewing so we couldn't go that way either. We were stuck between the NW wind and the southern storms so it wasn't going to be an XC day. 

To the south, not so great!
There were a few cells brewing nearby, one SW of us, and another about 20 km downrange, so after an hour I decided it was time to land.  Shortly thereafter it was raining paragliders into the Muller Flight Park as most other pilots decided the same thing. 

Packing up as the cell starts to spit out rain. 
We did have one launch incident with a hang glider tail hitting another pilot, causing the hang glider to mush into the ground below the ramp. Both pilots were OK with only a broken down tube to fix!  In the air it was a bit mayhemic as it wasn't that lifty, we were fighting to get to 2300m, and the thermals were a bit small.  So it was crowded and we had to keep our heads on a swivel to avoid any mid airs.

Stormy sunset.
A swim at Cedar Lake and some watching of the rope swing (we didn't go this time, it looked sketchy, and another person, not with our group, dislocated his shoulder falling into water).  Then a perfect apres-storm sunset to round out the day!

Willi Muller XC Challenge July 25

After yesterday's fatality today was designated a free-flying day and not a scoring day. Lots of pilots went for sled rides under overcast skies but a bunch of us went for a 4x4 adventure up the Blaeberry valley to the base of the Mummery glacier.

Lots of fun as we took the decommissioned road up, not realizing there was a perfectly 2 wheel drive detour!  Lots of river fording, mud bogging, and winching in the middle of a thunderstorm!

Album is here.

Willi Muller XC Challenge July 24

After a grey start to the comp everyone was eager to go down range on a strong sunny day. Cloudbase wasn't that high, 2700m near Golden, but enough to try for an out and return to Invermere.

However in the air things were a bit too strong from the WNW to realistically do the return so I changed my mind to open distance. I actually had the first 45 km or so to myself, as the gaggle was always a thermal or three behind and I was maintaining my lead.

Approaching Invermere.
It was at this time we heard about an accident near the peak of Mt 7, involving a helicopter rescue. Since we were downrange and nothing we could do about it, we kept flying. It wasn't until later that we learned the pilot had died from his injuries. Since nobody saw the actual cause, we don't really know what happened, but the helicopter extractions supposedly very efficient, partly due to the organization knowing exactly where he was, but also due to Danny's professional handling of the situation with SAR and the RCMP (who had just dealt with a mountain biker fatality on Mt 7 the same day).

The air was rough but not particularly useful, weakish climbs. So it was slow going downrange. 4 hours to get to Invermere. But cloudbase was going up and the day was still going strong so I pushed on to Fairmont.

At Fairmont peak I climbed to cloudbase 3400m, and announced I was final gliding to Canal Flats. As I was gliding along the lake, I could hear pilots behind me saying they were going to do the same ;)

On final glide from Fairmont peak to Canal Flats
Arrived over CF with about 1000' to spare and started sussing out the nice-looking LZs.  The usual LZ was brown and dry-looking, and there was a beautiful ball diamond in the centre of town with nice green grass.  An easy choice for me!

It was kinda funny to watch the following gaggle land facing every which way with the growing crowd of CF kids watching, as the wind was very light. Vincene and the Muller-mobile were waiting so we even had a ride back to Golden!

On final glide to Canal Flats, looking at the back route.
In the end we had something like 15 pilots in CF. It was a personal best for both Martin and Kevin, and everyone was glad to have made it on a rather difficult day.

July 24 flight.

Goal in Canal Flats with lots of smiling faces!

Chelan US PG Nats July 16

After yesterday's epic task, people were very slow this morning. It didn't help that it was overcast, raining slightly, and forecast to OD and possibly thunderstorm. But the organization was relentless and took us up the mountain anyways ;)

Today's task to keep us away from the OD
Eventually the skies cleared and the cu's started popping.  The issue was if it would go big when the sun heated the ground, so after an initial task around the lake, the task committee changed it to a flatlands task which would keep us away from the mountains and the highest probability of OD.

Lots of concentrating!
We had a reserve deployment just before the start; the pilot had an issue which resulted in a sustained deep stall which he was unable to recover, so he tossed and landed safely on the north side of the Butte, he on the ground and his glider stuck in a small tree. Zack and the safety guys were on it!

The clouds on the flats were nice and still small, but filling in with lots of shade, so I decided to stay high and slow down, as I could see other pilots struggling in the shade. Above 2000 m it seemed ok.  As we were approaching the Douglas TP our group met up with the group which had opted for the deeper, under the clouds line, so that route didn't turn out any faster.

Lots of shade.  Notice the dust devil at Waterville!
There was a small cell south of Waterville, and a larger one behind the airport and the final TP, so there were a few level 2s. I felt it was still ok but was keeping an eye on the airport cloud since we would be flying in that direction next. But the TP radius was 3km which kept us on the Rim and away from the mountains where the actual cell was sitting.

Fallout behind the airport.  Fortunately we weren't going that way!
Brett, Bianca, and I were getting our final climb over McNeil Canyon and yelled to each other that it was time to go to goal. Final glide was buoyant ad usual and mist pilots were arriving plenty high, with the exception of a couple of pilots who landed short and were forced to land in the Powerhouse Park parking lot instead.

Final glide to Chelan Falls park.
Lots of pilots in goal and the final task was a success!  A perfect end to the comp, packing up on nice green grass and shade trees right there, and next to all our cars so no retrieve needed ;)

Tonight is the awards ceremony and party at the airport.  Should be a good party!  When they are out, the results should be here.

Chelan US PG Nats July 15

A monster task was set to take advantage of the WNW wind. 224km to Fairfield, just short of the Idaho border, via Odessa.

Mega task today!
I was very ambivalent about flying the task because the launch conditions were a bit dicey...it was strong from the Lakeside launch and usually that means rough and turbulent air next to the hill.  As well the climbs weren't great, which meant that going over the back to the Rim could be an exciting ride. But after watching other pilots fly around it looked pretty smooth out front, so I figured if I didn't get high enough to fly over the back and avoid the rotor, I could st least land at the Lone Tree LZ.

Alien art near Odessa!
In the air it was surprisingly smooth and despite the late start (I had to wait an extra 15 minutes to get high enough to go on course) I was able to cross to the Rim with a few gliders.

Crossing the highway on a perfect day!
The first bit of the flight was low and slow, as I didn't really get comfortably high enough until Jameson Coulee and cloudbase at 2800m.  Then I was able to leave behind some slow gliders and speed up, catching the next gaggle at Coulee City.  Cloudbase was going up to 3200m and it was getting faster (I saw 82 kph ground speed at one point, and others reported low 90's), and things were going great!

Final glide just past the Forest Preserve.
There were some big clouds just outside Odessa and a couple pilots called level 2 (although one call was due to a broken speed system ;).  I was feeling good about the flatland conditions and kept going, and only got low at the Forest Preserve about 30 km short of goal.

I had to slow down to get high enough to cross this area of no roads, and then another slow and patient climb on the other side, and I was home free!  I could see Fairfield and the goal field, and lots of pilots ahead of me and lots still behind me.

Goal margaritas!
Goal was a zoo with, in the end, something like 65 pilots in goal. Margaritas were being served, courtesy of Steve Forslund, and it was a goal party!  It was a personal best for me, distance-wise, and also average-speed-wise. It was also a world record for the longest completed task at a Paragliding competition!

I was impressed by the amount of organization that went into this task. There were lots of retrieve vehicles at goal, ready to take pilots back, and Owen was downloading tracks from our instruments right there (for those with limited or no data on our phones).

I'm glad I decided to fly today as the conditions were lovely once away from the Butte. We could have kept going; Matt Henzi decided to do just that and got over 300 km by dusk!  The scenery was amazing, watching the OD in the mountains to the north, and the palouse as we neared the Idaho border.  It was certainly a highlight of this comp for me!

Chelan US PG Nats July 14

A high pressure, blue, and windy day...not the best conditions, but hey it's a comp so let's see what we can do!  The task was to just outside Electric City, via an in-out-in TP at Withrow and Farmer.

Today's task.
Climbs over launch were not that great; we weren't getting much more than 1800m, which is *way* low for crossing to the Rim. But we went for it anyways, and it was amazing to see what happens when you throw enough pilots at a problem ;). We actually climbed out over the canyon.

At the top of the climb a bunch of us decided to go for it, and across the flats we ventured. But it turns out my gaggle was composed primarily of Enzos...and they climbed out while I sunk out in a moon dust field. I should have waited for a group of M6s or P4s instead!

Watching pilots struggling just past the Rim.

As I was packing up it was raining gliders all around me...the wind was picking up and the climbs so close to the rim were too low to effectively get on course. In fact a good portion of the field landed either before the race start, or shortly after, with only a handful still battling the wind as the afternoon progressed. Reports were of climbs that took pilots away from the TP, and by the time they pushed forward and had to start the entire thermalling process over again, they had barely made any progress.

Excitement of the day has to go to Brad.  I watched as he and (I think it was) Andy flew into a dust devil at around 300', Brad's Enzo did an incredible loop/inversion as he went over his glider, but he kept the lines taut and rode that dusty out of there!  But the "thwack" was very loud from my vantage on the ground ;)

This is what happens when you land in ankle-deep Chelan moondust.
In the end I believe there were 7 pilots in goal, an amazing feat considering the combination of wind and blue thermals today. Congrats folks!

We have a very full bus from the Rim!  And there were more to pick up!

Chelan US PG Nats July 13

July 13 task.
Really nice looking skies today and not too much wind, so the task committee decided to mix things up a bit and send us north. First we had to fly partway up Lake Chelan to 4th of July peak, then head to Omak via the Chelan airport. This would allow pilots the choice of flying the mountains or the flats.

Heading up past Manson.
Flying up the lake was fantastic with a nice gaggle to share the thermals with, and things were going well until the airport. I got a bit low and was in the south wind, so I had to slow down.  Scunging along in weak broken lift I got myself to Pateros where I was able to semi-establish myself at 1300m and continue scraping along the foothills.

Approaching 4th of July peak.
I had company for a lot of the flight and my gaggle of mostly Peak 4's made our way along the foothills until about 20 km from goal. There I lost them as they got a climb I missed, then I was solo for the last bit of the flight. I could see Omak but didn't have a visual on goal, so I made sure to top up before flying over the river and city before I could see goal in the far side.

Goal in Omak was the baseball diamonds to the left.
Time on task was just over 4 hours, quite slow, but I was glad to have been slow and steady as it looked like a lot of pilots landed short tafte getting low in the valleys north of the Methiw valley.  Those that took the flatland route were a bit quicker but it looks like the majority of pilots took the mountain route!
Lots of pilots in goal!
Results, when available, should be here. And tracking can be found here here.

Chelan US PG Nats July 12

The forecast was calling for some big clouds and possible precipitation, but we were hoping to get a quick task in.  So a short 53km task along the main roads to Mansfield and Farmer was called.

How much $$ sitting in the back?
The clouds were building so it was going to be marginal as to whether the task would even run or not.  As I started my climb out over launch I kept an eye on the clouds over the flats...they were building fast.

The skies around 10:30am
When I finally had a chance to get on the radio to alert the organization that it was starting to drop out along the course line and it may be a good idea to cancel things, Matt got on the radio and announced that the task was cancelled due to rain on the course line. I was glad, as the clouds were building at an incredible rate and flying into that building mass of clouds did not sound like a good idea.
The skies at 12:45. Task cancelled!
About 20 minutes after landing, it started thunder and lightening from the cell sitting directly on the rim over Farnham Canyon. Everyone in the vicinity was down safely, and those still in the air ran either east towards Mansfield and then north to Bridgeport, or straight north to Brewster.

The skies at 1:15, everyone is landing ahead of the incoming storm from the south!

Chelan US PG Nats July 11

A much better-looking sky today!  The task committee gave us a 162 km task to Davenport, via a TP to the south of Dry Falls. Cloudbase was around 2800m on the Butte, and with the WNW wind it was an easy crossing.

Today's task to Davenport.
Flying south was initially easy, but as we kept heading SE the wind direction changed to a strong SE, 25 kph, so our progress slowed to a crawl. Single digits on ¾ bar!

As we neared the TP there were 2 reserve depliyments.  The first glider was in a spin when he tossed, and he landed safely under reserve in a moon dust field. But it was so windy he was getting dragged by his reserve and couldn't pull it in. The second reserve ended much the same way, except the pilot managed to cut his reserve away after a shorter dragging session.  

Meanwhile we had finally gotten the TP and it was time to turnaround for Coulee City. Unfortunately it was still a crosswind flight, and I was kinda low. Another pilot and myself were forced to ridge soar the cliffs at Dry Falls until a thermal came through...at one point I was below the ridgetop and fully inside the Coulee!

Yummy skies!
I finally got out of there and was flying over Coulee City but couldn't find enough lift low down in the wind-swept thermals, and landed just outside Coulee City. Many other pilots landed on the way to Davenport, and I believe there were about 6 pilots in goal.

I think the strong SE was unexpected to the task committee, we certainly didn't expect it in the air!

Chelan US PG Nats July 10

More unsettled weather with more clouds and rain than yesterday, but less wind. The models were showing a drying trend so even though it wasn't taskable initially, we stayed on the Butte in case this happened sooner rather than later.

Setting up one of the sun and rain shades.

Cells came and went, the wind picked up and then dropped off, over and over again. Things kept changing every 20 minutes!  A few pilots flew while we waited for taskable conditions, launching Lakeside and flying a mixture of ridge and thermic lift, then top landing to wait out the next approaching cell.

Watching cells up the Lake.

Eventually the task and safety committees decided it wasn't worth staying on the Butte any longer, taskable and safe-for-all-pilots conditions simply weren't happening, and the day was called.

Line of cells on the flats.

A few pilots stayed behind to free-fly but the vast majority of pilots opted to drive down with the thought to perhaps go back up later in the evening if/when things had calmed down. I ended up driving Brett back up for a late evening flight and several others were already in the air, it looked strong but doable. But apparently it wasn't that nice over the Chelan Falls LZ, ad a new cell had formed over Lake Chelan and was dumping rain and wind, and wrapping around to make Chelan Falls a nice washing machine of air. A few going-backwards landings later and everyone was safely on the ground in the LZ, maybe a change of underwear required for some ;)

Brett getting ready for an evening flight.

A few pilots made it to the flats and even Mansfield but I was glad to be on the ground. It's tough on these maybe/maybe not days...if it was raining steadily that would be an easy decision, and if it was sunny with ok winds that would be easy too. But it's days like these where the task and safety committees have their work cut out for them ;)

For those interested in watching the live action, the tracking is available here.  Look for the tracks starting around noon (Pacific time zone) each day.