Saturday, July 14, 2018

Chelan Nationals July 14

The final day of the US/Canadian Nationals!

I had noticed the day before that this was supposed to be a significant north wind day, and I had suggested to the comp organizers that they perhaps explore the option of moving the comp to Saddle Mountain for the day, since Saddle Mountain is a north-wind site and Chelan isn't.  However we ended up going to the Butte anyways...apparently the comp's liability insurance didn't cover Saddle Mountain (nor the north side of Chelan Butte since that's near the cell towers).

So anyhoo we were stuck at Chelan and it was blowing pretty significantly from the north, and we weren't allowed to launch near the towers.  So that left us with either trying to launch from Lakeside (NW) or wait for it some thermal activity to overcome things on the south side.

The task committee set a provisional task to Withrow-Entiat-Withrow-Waterville, pretty short at 51 km, and essentially zigzagging cross- and downwind.  So now we just had to wait for the north wind to abate...3pm and we were still on hold, so the organization decided to cancel the task, at which point a bunch of pilots launched from Lakeside.

It was stay-upable on the NW side and some pilots were able to get up high over the towers by flying to the north side and getting up over the Chelan Falls waterfall, but I don't think anyone got high enough to make the crossing to the flats to attempt the task.  I chose to get a ride down since my glider was already nicely packed from yesterday's landing at the soccer field, and I didn't really feel like landing at the junkyard or Lone Pine and packing up in sagebrush (yes I know it's not a particularly good reason!).

One of the first fires of the season, this one is near Wenatchee.
So the comp was officially over and the awards ceremony was later that same evening!  We ended up with 4 tasks which is pretty average for a Chelan comp, and this year we didn't have to worry about thunderstorms or fires.  However we didn't get to go far distance-wise which I think was a big reason why many international pilots showed up, after the last 2 comps where we've set the site/world record for a comp task.  I believe next year the organization is going to aim for a full-blown PWC which means it will potentially fill up quickly, so make sure to register early when the 2019 PWC season reg opens!

The 2018 Canadian Paragliding Championship winners are:

1.  JP Robert Vandenbegine
2. Andrew Berkley
3. Christian Grenier

1. Nicole McLearn
2. Kaylyn Gervais
3. Marina Lang

If you are looking for the US-specific or overall results you can find them here!

US winners.  Photo courtesy of Eric Ams.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Chelan Nationals July 13

When I saw the forecast for today I was pretty sure we weren’t going to have a task due to the winds (30-40 kph on the flats later this afternoon), but we tried!  The problem was stability, low top of lift, wind, and trying to fit 130 pilots in the air over the Butte in such conditions.

Initially on the Butte it wasn’t that windy but I suspected that was because the morning inversion hadn’t yet broken, and the task was called to Hartline, around 75 km away.  But the wind technicians weren’t staying up, or getting high, and we had to wait until it became more obvious that it was soarable (a couple of comp pilots actually launched to demonstrate it was stay-upable, and then top-landed for the final task briefing), at which point the inversion was starting to break.

You can see today's wind as well as the north wind tomorrow.

I suspected that once the inversion fully broke it would become very windy on launch and I was keen to be in the air already when that happened, so I launched very early in the sequence and got away from the hill and started slowly climbing in the broken lift out front.  It wasn’t too windy…maybe 15 kph in the compression zone, but I could see it becoming worse on launch as gliders were going all over the place and lots of blown launches.

As the inversion broke it became windier in the air as well, I was getting 25 kph now and thinking it was time to head out to land as it was becoming clear that it wasn’t safe to have a task, although free-flying was still OK.  At this point Eric got on the radio and said the task was stopped, at which point most of us in the air went out to land at the soccer field LZ, while those still on launch packed up, and a few in-air pilots decided to at least try the task for fun.

The wind was picking up steadily and I was getting 33 kph on the way into the LZ so I was glad to be on the ground as I saw the later landers coming in straight down or even slightly backwards in the gusts.  I could see a handful of pilots gale-dangling on the edge of the Rim as they ridge soared and waited for a thermal to come through so they could get on course line.  But most pilots ended up on the nice green grass and shade to pack up in!

Tomorrow is looking like north wind and I suggested to the organization and task committee to at least consider Saddle Mountain if it was going to be too north for the Butte.  However the logistics of moving 130 pilots to a new site 2 hours away, on the final day of the comp, is problematic and we may end up staying at the Butte and hoping the north isn’t too much to launch in (since the comp doesn’t have permit-access to the north side of the Butte with the cell towers).  

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Chelan Nationals July 12

Wow such a different day than yesterday!  If you were watching XC Find you would have noticed a whole lot of gliders landing at the first turn point...the task committee didn't want us attempting the crossing of the Rim too early, so they put a turn point at Forest Mountain, to the west of the Butte, and this ended up flushing a good percentage of the field!

It was a bit stable-feeling in the air over the Butte and I watched some free flyers head over towards the first turn point and get nothing and barely make it back, which didn't bode well for us.  And in fact when the start happened, I was too low to even attempt going over there (although a bunch of pilots went anyways, super-low, which I thought was a bad idea), so I decided to ignore the start and keep climbing before making the trek.  A group of like-minded pilots stayed with me and we all climbed to 2500m, well above our previous climbs where we had been getting to 2200m or so, and then we started the slow into-wind glide to the entry start and turn point.

The actual turn point edge of the cylinder was on the OTHER side of the highway 97 canyon into Chelan, and I saw many of the earlier pilots scratching low on the ridges, landing out partway down the mountain, landing out on the golf course, and landing out on Lakeside.  It didn't look good.  I guess I could have turned back and tried to get more altitude at the Butte, more than 2500m, and try this again, but I also didn't want to get too far behind and then have zero pilots to fly with.  The lead gaggle had managed to make it across the canyon to the other side and were at the turn point and turning in what looked like very weak lift, but were too low to make the crossing back without landing out, so I actually hadn't lost anything by waiting the extra 25 minutes before even starting the task.

You can see all the pilots who landed in the canyon where highway 97 goes through to Chelan.
The lead gaggle passed underneath me as I reached the turn point and then it was time to find lift, any kind of lift, as the wind was venturi-ing through the canyon and blowing apart all the thermals.  Pilots were falling out of the sky as I joined them in one of the several fields in the canyon, where it was actually not too bad for landing conditions so long as you were smart about keeping your glider in control as you came down between the canyon walls.

There must have been around 30 pilots who landed in the canyon while another 10 or so side-hill landed on the nearby hills and had to hike up/down to get to a road, or landed next to the lake or the golf course.  While I was bummed to have landed so early, I was also glad to have had a safe uneventful landing, and I felt better after hearing that some of the top names at this comp had landed out in the very same field only moments before.
Meanwhile, if you made it out of the canyon, you were pretty much assured of goal!
Oh well, an early finish to my day which meant I actually had time to go swimming and catch up on some other things!

Meanwhile those who managed to make it back from the Forest turn point were back at the Butte and crossing to the Rim to fly the rest of the task which was a giant triangle-shape to the edge of Banks Lake and then to Sims corner, before landing in goal at Mansfield.  It looked like if you could have survived the Forest turn point, you were pretty much assured of making goal!  When I last checked, there were lots of pilots in goal, so they will be very happy ;). Me, due to the scoring using FTV, this will be my discard day :)

Tomorrow looks blown-out and Saturday is looking iffy as well at this point, but sometimes forecasts change so we will see what happens tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Chelan Nationals July 11

After yesterday's rest day (too windy for a safe task, although some free flyers went 250 km!), everyone was ready to go today.  I thought we'd have some form of triangle or out and return, but with the north wind the task committee decided to go long downwind and fly to Saddle Mountain via Ephrata.

The north wind was making it difficult to choose a launch, but I was confident I could stay up so I launched quite early in the queue.  It was actually quite easy to get up, and I was glad to have launched early as I saw the hoopla on the 3 main launches as comp gliders were trying launch and failing in the light and switchy conditions.

The start today was an hour later than on other days, which allowed us to get higher than usual and cross over the flats for the remote start over there.  It was so nice to get over the flats nice and high and not scratch next to the high-tension power lines like we so often do :)

The north wind was quite significant so our gaggle was drifting too far out of the start cylinder so we had to keep an eye out to not get too far downwind too early.  But I was in an excellent position when the 2pm start happened and we were off!

The climbs were strong and plentiful on the flats all the way to the canyon and Palisades and Appledale, and on the other side it was also fast and furious all the way to where the plateau drops off to Ephrata.  And then it was a different animal!

About to drop off the edge of the plateau.  Ephrata is to the left.
After tagging the Ephrata turn point we tanked up as high as we could since we were now transitioning from the strong, brown, and dusty plateau, to a lower, green, and much wetter valley, and I anticipated we would very shortly be slowing down and racing less.

I could see the gaggle ahead of me on a giant glide over the greenery and as I continued to watch them I could see they were getting not much, and the wind had switched from a north tailwind to a south headwind, yay!  Our gaggle spread out and went on a similar glide towards Saddle Mountain, which was about 40km away still, but we were getting nothing either, and pretty much everyone lawn-darted into the ground around the town of George, about 25-30km short.

A big change from the dry and dusty plateau!  Saddle Mountain in the distance on the left.
I was surprised that nobody was able to climb out of there out of our 2 gaggles, usually there is at least one lucky person who finds something and continues on, but this was one of those rare times when the entire gaggle goes down in the same area.  The lead gaggle had managed to somehow squeak through the Green Valley of Final Glide and around 10 made it to the Saddle LZ and goal.

It was a fun task despite not making goal and cool to fly over the plateau and drop down to the Ephrata valley, but I think it would be a good idea to have that task on a day with some more clouds north of Saddle Mountain, so we'd know that the green valley was actually working.  Also, had the wind stayed north once we were south of Ephrata (and not south like it turned out) I think we could have made it, as that would have made a huge difference in our glide ratios and we would have covered the green valley much quicker and made it to the brown hills nearer to Saddle Mountain.

We did have a reserve toss today near the Ephrata turn point but the pilot was totally fine and in fact was messaging and WhatsApping other pilots on his reserve ride down, so he must have chucked high!

94 km flight to George.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Chelan Nationals July 9

Another long task, this time because of the strong south wind we were heading north to Oroville and the US/Canadian border, about 133 km away!

Launch conditions were a bit better today with a definite east flow on the Butte so pilots were launching off Ants in a speedy fashion (unlike yesterday where it was quite switchy on launch and lots of aborts).  But it was tough to get high over the Butte…with the strong SE wind we were getting blown back over the lake and we weren’t getting more than 2000m.  But happily, about 15 minutes before the start, we all found a climb which took us to 2200m and then it was off north to the first control turn point of 15 km around Bridgeport.

The turn point radius was actually on the other side of the Columbia river so we had to cross the river twice, and once back on the “proper” side, it wasn’t the easiest going in the hills behind Pateros.  I saw a lot of pilots landing in this stretch, so I got as high as I could (2400m) and then dove deeper into the mountains where the clouds were beckoning and cloud base was around 3600m.  Despite being deep there were actually lots of roads and farms with large fields to land in, but given the wind strength I had a lot of incentive to stay high and avoid all that hoopla ;)

A bunch of us did the same thing, staying deep and high, which was a good thing since we were seeing groundspeeds of 80+ kph (one pilot reported 100+ km on bar!).  I did get very low one time on a low-angle hill with few landing options, and single digits of groundspeed, but I was able to dig myself out of there with Brett Yeates and then we were off again.

The conditions seemed to be getting better and better around Tonasket, with more and more generalized lift the closer we got to Oroville.  It was no longer necessary to actually thermal, but flying straight we were flying through oodles of light lift.  The predicted front was moving in from the west and was creating lots of clouds and lift but also lots of wind up high.  I could finally see Oroville, the lake, the Canadian border, and Osoyoos, I was 30 km away from goal at 2800m, so I decided to go for it.  I had a wicket tailwind as I came over the last ridge south of Oroville and then it was time to find the goal field.

The pilots who were ahead of me were reporting the goal field was a bit small with obstructions (powerlines and trees surrounding it), and given it was blowing 25+ kph at times, most pilots were opting to land either at the nearby running track or the baseball diamonds after tagging the actual goal field.  So it was a good thing I arrived high enough to tag the goal line, and then continue north another 1km or so to the baseball diamonds where it was plenty large enough to back myself into for a safe landing.

On glide for Oroville!
Between the actual goal field, the running track, and the baseball diamonds, I’d guess there were about 50 pilots in goal.

Back in Chelan it was still blowing strong and pilots were ridge soaring the Airport Ridge.  Tomorrow it’s supposed to swing to strong NW, so if we fly, I expect we’ll go out onto the flats and perhaps go long!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Chelan Nationals July 8

Day 1 of the US/Canadian Nationals and Pre-PWC!  With a light (for around here) south wind forecast, the task committee sent us to Mazama in the Methow Valley!  Not too many people have done this route so I was excited to try it.

Launch was very light and fickle, so I was glad to have launched early and was able to stay cool in the air while I watched the lineup of pilots grow as the cycles were a bit on the light side for comp gliders.  In the air it was actually SE and not totally south, so we were drifting back over Chelan and having to work our way back to the Butte in order to not get too downwind for the race start at the Walmart.

I had a pretty bad start, frankly, since I wasn’t that high when the start came so I decided to keep climbing until I was confident I could make the glide to the hills behind the Walmart.  But once over there and established, it was easy flying along highway 97 until we got to Pateros, where we had to turn up the Methow valley after tagging the control turnpoint.

Once in the Methow valley it was tougher flying since there was quite a bit of wind down low in the various side valleys and the thermals were scrubbing along the sides a bit.  Some pilots had decided to fly directly down the middle of the valley, and were making it work, but I thought it would be better to stay in the mountains and fly deeper.  This worked out well with the group of pilots I was with until I got to Winthrop, where the valley turns again up to Mazama and my route was now somewhat downwind of the control turn point.  Oops!  I had to resort to soaring the small bump overlooking Withrop until I could get high enough to tag the turn point, and even then it was a stretch just to make it.

It was an impressive low save after getting the last turnpoint and running across to the other side of Winthrop where I could see some other pilots climbing.  With only a few seconds to decide if I was going to turn right or left before landing, I found a ripper right above the highway and beamed out over the gravel pit, at which point I knew I had goal, since it was only 17 km away and downwind with a series of nice SW-facing rock faces all along the way.

Lots of happy faces in the Mazama LZ as pilots kept coming in, I think in the end there may have been around 50 pilots in goal.  The Methow valley is certainly beautiful, and on a light wind day, is awesome to fly in, since there are oodles of landing spots and an easy obvious road to follow, and if you get stuck in one of the side valleys they actually have nice LZ’s and roads too.

Goal field in Mazama!  Photo. courtesy of Alex Raymont.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Chelan July 7: US Nationals/Canadian Nationals/Pre-PWC practice day

I'm now in Chelan, WA for the combined US/Canadian Nationals/Pre-PWC, which actually starts tomorrow.  Today was a practice day and launch was very busy with pilots getting their gear sorted and figuring the site out.  The Butte is very green for this time of year...usually by now the grass has gone all yellow and dried (if not burned), but there is plenty of greenery still on the Butte which indicates it's been a wet spring so far.  I did see one fire to the south near Wenatchee but nothing that should impact the comp.

Most pilots opted to do the usual cross-over-to-the-flats and fly to Mansfield or return, or Sims Corner and return, but a smaller group of us decided to fly back towards Lake Chelan along the mountains rimming the southern edge of the lake.

Lots of nice cu's in the mountain passes but not so many around the lake (the northern side of the lake had no cu's), so I didn't go too far.  Lots of lift out front and easy to stay up in the vicinity of the Butte.

Since we had to be in Chelan to get registered and waypoints downloaded etc, most pilots didn't go too far either, and landed at Chelan Falls LZ for an easy flight and no hassles.  There were reports of a pilot who landed in McNeil Canyon, and I'm sure several other pilots landed on the flats either in Mansfield or on the way to Mansfield.

There are about 24 Canadians here for the comp and tomorrow is looking very good weather-wise.  Fingers crossed we get a good task tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Mt. St. Benedict July 3

Mt. St. Benedict with both the upper and lower launch visible, as well as the Dike LZ along the river.
A surprisingly good day, super-light winds and in fact there was a touch of east or north up high (it was forecast to go very outflow the next day) just to keep things interesting.  The run up to Dewdney was fine and cloudbase was around 1400m initially, but by the end of the day it had risen to over 1600m.  Perfect conditions to cross west over to the Steelhead!
Looking up Stave Lake from over the Steelhead.

Beautiful cu's over the Steelhead bumps and the Stave Lake dam was very nearby.  Al and Claudia joined me and it was sweet flying...not too windy and high clouds made the flying very fun!

30 km FAI triangle

Looking into the Fraser Valley from the Steelhead.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Blanchard July 2

I think this is the latest I've ever flown Blanchard in a season...usually we consider this a spring site, and this time of year we're flying Pemberton or Chelan, but this season has been unusually bad for XC flying, with lots of slow clearing days which just happen to be the right recipe for Blanchard.

Lots of cloud initially but it eventually cleared as predicted, but with the slight north wind up high it was not the smoothest air.  And with the overcast and big development further inland, it was not really a big XC day.  But we were able to fly around the north bowl and watch all the hikers summiting the cliff faces at the Oyster Dome.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Blanchard and BJ June 11

Forecast to be quite windy in the Fraser Valley, and possibly overdeveloped, so it was time to head to Blanchard!

It was pretty quiet on launch but Matty and Roger were already in the air and heading south...Matty was planning on flying to Tiger but we shortly afterwards heard him saying he had landed and was on his way back to Blanchard for another flight.

Despite the nice-looking clouds locally, it wasn't an easy climbout.  The good clouds were actually set quite far back, over Oyster Dome, and I decided to bail on my original plan to try to fly to the Skagit airport to the south, over the flats, which usually needs some clouds closer to the coast for that route to work.
Flying over Lake Whatcom.  Alex took the northern route; I took the southern route.  Photo by Alex Raymont.
Cloudbase was originally a bit on the low side, barely 1100m, but it was slowly going up and the overdevelopment inland was slowing drying up, so Alex suggested it may be a good time to fly to Big Johnson.  I have never flown over the back in that direction, in fact the only time I've flown over the back of Blanchard was to go to Sedro-Woolley to the SE, and everything I had seen of the first transition made me think it was not going to be a gimme.  As you go over the back over Lake Samish to Lookout Mountain there are not that many good LZ's if you sink out, and then the glide over Lake Whatcom is even more committing!

Alex and I took different lines over Lake Whatcom...Alex went north while I went south.  I chose the south route since it gets you to the steeper slopes on the other side, but with less fields to bail out into on the extreme south end of the lake, and I wasn't sure about the more shallow slopes to the northern end of the lake.  Alex's route to the north put him on the flatter slopes but there are more LZ's to choose from if you don't make it up.
Over BJ, looking back at the route from Blanchard.
Fortunately the clouds were drying up nicely and cloudbase had risen to to 1600m as I arrived on the east side of Lake Whatcom and was able to get high enough to see over the back, where I was greeted with the sight of large agricultural fields and a wide-open valley.  Phew!  At least now I was in the proper valley with BJ visible in the distance, and an easier retrieve now.

Toplanding in the cutblock above BJ launch.
One more jump across Comar to near Porter Mountain and then I was within glide of BJ, where I could see some pilots launching as the clouds were clearing above.  Alex had landed at the base of BJ after taking the northern route and missing a climb, and was on his way up to BJ for another flight.  I was feeling it was time to land, and after overflying BJ I realized the cutblock directly above launch was landable with a beautiful into-wind road to land on.  Drove down Tom's truck so he and Alex and Robert could get another flight in, while Matty had relaunched from Blanchard, flown to BJ, continued on to Black, and landed on his was back.

Meanwhile over in the Fraser Valley it was reportedly quite windy and raining and definitely not flyable, so I think it was a good choice to pick the coast for an earlier flight and stay away from the FV which can act as a firehose on strong wind days.

43 km flight from Blanchard to BJ.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Woodside June 2

Another beautiful day in the Fraser Valley, and since it was a Saturday, the crowds were out!

It didn't really turn on until closer to 1pm, but once in the air it was easy to get to cloudbase at the towers around 1600m.  Originally I had thought about going to Banjo, but Alex suggested the west wind would make getting back from there difficult so we crossed over to Sasquatch with Vlad.

The wind wasn't so bad at Sasquatch but it was definitely there and increasing the further west we flew.  Alex and Vlad were a thermal ahead of me after I missed a climb they had gotten earlier, and they were reporting quite windy and trashy conditions at Big Nic, and in fact had turned around on the way to Dewdney.  So I decided to turn around at Big Nic and return to Woodside, and once back there the west wind had disappeared, and I could just see it barely starting up on Harrison Bay.

Crossing back to Woodside from Sasquatch at 1800m.  High cloudbase!
Since there was still lots of daytime left and the car was now over at Bridal Falls Alex and I flew over to the Bridal side along with Peter Spear, who had already done a Woodside-Bridal-Woodside flight, and was on lap #2 (!).  The Fraser River was still quite high and no landings on the Bridal side except for the powerline triangle, but we arrived with plenty of height and the flying conditions were *much* nice on the Bridal side!

Cloudbase was around 1900-2000m and pilots were all over the place at Cheam, the Lakes, Archibald, Upper Bridal, and Gloria.  There was practically no wind (the west wind hadn't yet arrived on the Bridal side) and at times my GPS actually said it was light east or north wind aloft!  It was quite the change from the Woodside side and it was nice to relax a bit and cruise the ridge at Bridal and not have to worry about recrossing back to Woodside.  I think many pilots did do the crossing, although I also heard some pilots landed at Seabird Island after getting too low to make the crossing to Bridal with any comfort.

Over on the Bridal side where the flying was much cruisier!
The west wind never really got to Woodside or Bridal and it would have probably been a good day to try flying to Hope and return!

68 km FAI triangle.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Woodside May 30

Yesterday was looking like an epic day with cu's all over the place, but it was way too windy for safe flying, so most pilots waited until today to fly the still-awesome skies.  It was a tossup between Mt. St. Benedict and Woodside, but given the amount of cloud to the north we opted for Woodside as it was in the clear and it looked like it could overdevelop in the Norrish Valley.

Up on launch it was quite busy with a bunch of hang glider pilots setting up and Dennis just top-landing after his early flight.  Vlad had tried to fly west with Igor already and got shot down on the crossing, so was back for flight #2.

On glide to Green Hill.
Cloudbase was already high (1600m over Woodside) and expected to go higher, and there were cu's in the middle of the valley, so Alex and I decided to fly to Bridal via Green Hill and the clouds that were forming over that mountain, and bypass Bear altogether.  This also allowed us to stay high as we approached the Fraser River, as it it super-high still and the only possible place to land in the Ludwig area, if you don't make the crossing, is the highway exit triangle.

We got a couple of nice climbs at Green Hill and then over to Ludwig, which was surprisingly "chunky" and a bit industrial.  But over at the Lakes it was a completely different was shady and hard to get up, I was stuck there for quite a while until I finally found something that got me to 1500m and enough to make it around the corner of Cheam and to the Bridal launch.

On glide to Green Hill.  Swollen Fraser River in the background!
There were a couple of pilots on launch but it was still shady there (there was a lot of overhanging cloud) and it was a slow climb out until cloudbase, which was slowly rising and was at 1800m by now.  But the day was getting better and better as the winds were still light and more sun was poking out on the Bridal side.  Gloria was ON as I got to 1900m and it was an easy run to Elk and back, by which point I was looking at my options for crossing back to Woodside.

Crossing back to Woodside from Archibald.
Alex had opted to run from Archibald and 2100m directly to Agassiz Mountain where he was able to climb out just outside the restricted airspace and get back to Woodside.  I had a worse glide...I wasn't feeling the love about reaching Agassiz Mountain legally (the Kent Prison CYR138 is below 1100') so I decided to land at Harvest Market with Mark Tulloch.

Meanwhile Al Thielman had flown from Woodside direct to Bridal and back, before flying to Lake Errock and back, and Igor had flown from Woodside to Elk before continuing down the Chilliwack Valley to land near William's Peak (I wonder how windy that was?).  Over at the Bridal side pilots were reporting getting above Cheam later in the day, so I wonder if I would have made the crossing back to Woodside easier if I had hung out at Bridal for an extra hour and left from 2200m instead of 2000m...

51.60 km FAI triangle.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Maritimes trip May 14-28

Alex and I just took a trip to the Maritimes to visit my parents plus do some paragliding in Parrsboro and PEI.  I grew up there, and learned to paraglide in Parrsboro, so going back is always a treat and it's nice to visit the old flying sites and reconnect with the pilots.

Joggins Fossil Cliffs

Lobster Boil on the beach!
We started off in Parrsboro for the annual Festival of Free Flight, while I was in HPAC meetings for a couple of days Alex and the free-flying pilots were out and about at Hidden Falls, Fox River, and Joggins, depending on the wind direction and tide levels.  I was able to join them and we had really nice flying at Fox River for a couple of days in the SW winds.  Lots of visiting pilots from Quebec, Ontario, and the rest of the Maritimes so a nice crowd!

Cape D'Or on a blown-out day.
Fox River during the Fly-in.  The tide is very low in this shot!
A lobster boil on the beach in front of Michael's house (which is also a flying site) to round off the flying in Parrsboro.  Many of the locals said it was the best fly-in they'd had in years with great weather and winds.

We also checked out the flying sites near Lawrencetown Beach.  Several S and SW sites but the most obvious one is the MacDonald Tea House right next to the kiteboarding and surfing spots. We learned that if the kiteboarders were out, it was probably too windy for us, and vice-versa, and the surfers prefer little or no wind, so it's rare for all 3 groups to be out at the same time.

Halliday Bank on the south shore of PEI, takes a north wind.
While in Parrsboro we had met some fantastic pilots from PEI who invited us to visit their sites, so we decided to head up for a 3-day mini road trip.  We discovered that PEI has pretty much flying sites all over the southern coast, and a significant chunk of the northern coast!  Just driving along the southern coast we could see red sand banks all over the place, and it was just a matter of driving out to ones with the proper wind direction and pulling out the glider.  We must have found a dozen flying sites, taking a wind direction anywhere from SE to W.  The great thing about this side of the Island is that the farmer's fields behind all the sand banks are great places to lay out and top-land at (no trees, just flat ground) and they actually don't plow and seed the last little bit before the actual coastline, so you get a buffer zone of around 100' between the sand banks and the actual field that's perfect for prepping for flying.
Thermalling out over Halliday Bank and the golf course.

Ross' Ridge, another site on the south shore, takes a west wind.
After 2 days of flying on the south shore the wind switched to north, so we headed to the north shore of PEI to fly the sand dunes there.  There are fantastic sand dunes at PEI National Park, but since we don't yet have permission from that specific park to fly them, we headed to just outside the park boundaries and found some other dunes (not inside the park) that a local pilot had recommended we check out.  Once again another flying sites, this time for NW to NE!  The dunes are all shapes and sizes so you can play around depending on the wind strength and direction, and they are gently sloping on the backside so if you get blown back it's not sharp rotor or hard trees to get hung up in, just gentle grass.

Hampton Beach on a west wind day.

Natural wind direction indicator!
I think PEI has fantastic potential for visiting pilots.  There is pretty much a site for every wind direction and so long as you have a car, you can access pretty much all of them.  PEI is so small that driving times are tiny compared to most of the rest of Canada (you can cross from the south side of PEI to the north side in around 1 hour), so if the wind changes, you can jump in the car and hit up another site easily.  And the meteorology of the place is pretty easy to understand as one of the local PG pilots put it, there is no micrometerology on PEI.  It's so small and so flat, that the wind at one end of the Island is likely to be similar all over the rest of the Island, so with the airport readings, the marine forecast, and observations, you can read what's going on and choose the right site.
Sand dune action on the north shore of PEI!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mt. St. Benedict May 11

Mt. St. Benedict is a great mountain to fly from, but the upper launch is too high for early-season flights as the road is usually still snowed-in until mid-July.  So a few years ago Al Thielman initiated a project to create a lower launch in one of the recently-created clearcuts on the same road up.  At that point we had a "burn party" where we burned the stumps and cleared the old brush from the spot he had selected, and then the area sat fallow while other projects came up.
This spring Al had the opportunity to finish the new lower launch and today was "opening day" for a few pilots to test-fly the launch and suggest improvements!

The new launch sits at around 600m and overlooks the powerline valley, and the dike LZ is an easy glide away.  It also sits at a known house thermal as we have often climbed out from this area while on other flights from the upper launch or elsewhere, and there are always birds thermalling there too.

Looking out from the new lower launch.  The dike and LZ is visible to the left of launch.
After setting up some temporary carpeting we got ready and then it was time to fly!  We had suggested that Al go first to christen the site, but he was sans glider, so Alex had the honours of going first.  I went 2nd and by the time I was over the road I was already climbing out with the birds!

It was north wind up high, but it was less rough than we were expecting and cloudbase was around 1400m.  Easy cruising around the peak of Benedict and over the powerline valley and then it was time to land in the dike LZ as we had another engagement.

Looking out over Stave Lake.
The new parking for the dike LZ is NOT the pullout on the side of the road, but rather at Cascade Falls Regional Park, which has a nice waterfall, washrooms, and picnic tables to hang out at while waiting.  To get there from the LZ, you simply walk along the same dike, but back towards Mt. St. Benedict instead (so the opposite direction from the old parking).  Danny Virtue has asked all pilots to park there instead, the walk back to your car is ~10 minutes, but well worth it to keep things amicable with the landowner.

The new parking situation at the dike LZ.