Mexico winter trip December 2018

I like to go traveling in the winter every so often, to get away from the Vancouver rain/dark and get some nice sun and flying in.  Mexico is always an easy's close, cheap, and reliable flying.  But in the past I've usually gone to Valle de Bravo, and after years of doing the "same old", I wanted to try something different.

Flying over Tenancingo with the LZ to the far right.
Enter Sea to Sky Paragliding's Mexico Tours!  I have been to Tenancingo before but that was years ago and this time Alex and I thought it would be nice to have someone "take care of everything" this time around.  Guy's tours certainly fit that bill!  Besides staying and flying in Tenancingo, we also got to fly in Taxco (famous silver mining town), Iguala, and visit some ruins and caves nearby.  Back in Tenancingo, there are multiple sites for morning, mid-day, and evening flights, all within an easy XC of Tenancingo.

Bistro launch is the morning site near Malinalco.
Bistro is the morning site near Malinalco and boasts an easy run to the south towards the Monastery and the backside of La Malinche.  From there you can fly back and forth along the east-facing ridge, or jump to the east to the cliffs overlooking Chalma or the smaller hills overlooking Malinalco if you want to do a triangle flight.  You can also fly upwind to La Malinche, just in time for that afternoon site to start working, topland to wait for the evening glassoff, or keep flying towards Ixtapan if you like.

La Malinche launch is the afternoon and glassoff site with Tenancingo over the back.  Pilot accommodations are available in the orange-roofed building.
Down to the south are the flying sites of Taxco and Iguala.  Because you are dropping away from the Toluca volcano the further south you go, you start from lower down and it's a lot warmer.  Be prepared for heat and insects on launch, and keep long pants on so you don't get chigger bites!

Exploring the ruins at 
When flying Iguala one of the common flights is to launch and go over the back into the Buenavista valley.  An easy flight, and if the cloudbase is high enough, you can potentially fly all the way back to Tenancingo.  But during our time there in early December cloudbase was still a bit low for that kind of flight, so we did more local flights instead.

Iguala launch is near the top left on this peak.  Buenavista valley is visible to the very top left.
Tenancingo itself is quite nice, quieter than Valle de Bravo with less people, although just as much of a nightlife with a carnival in town, nightly food market, etc  You can land right in town, about a 5-8 minute was from Casa Del Piloto, and will almost certainly be surrounded upon landing by the local kids if it's a weekend!

Landing out near Chalma.
After 10 days in Tenancingo we caught a ride with Derek and Mike Miller to Lake Chapala, where Derek had rented a house for the winter (house rentals are insanely cheap in Mexico!).  Here the flying is less structured as there seems to be less pilots, and if you choose to base out of Lake Chapala you'll for-sure need a car if you are trying to fly solo.  Fortunately for us there was already a community of Canada-based pilots in the area so logistics were easy.

The LZ on a weekend market day.  The alternate LZ are the nearby soccer fields.
I'd been to San Marcos before but there is now a new lower launch in addition to the original launch, the lower launch is much closer to the turnoff and less driving required, and it's still high enough to get away from easily.  Also a good option if the upper launch is blown-out.

En-route back to the La Malinche ridge.
When it's blowing east we go to Tapalpa.  Both launches face NE-E-SE and are off a paved road, and there is pilot accommodations nearby and bus service, so you could theoretically get by without a car.  While we were there it was a period of high pressure so very blue, no clouds, and not the greatest XC conditions.  But when it's on you can very easily fly from Tapalpa to San Marcos and onwards to Lake Chapala.  Note: Tapalpa is quite high compared to San Marcos, so if you choose to base out of Tapalpa, bring warm clothes, as it can below freezing on the plateau!

El Toro launch overlooking Manzanillo.
If you want to warm up a bit, go to Colima (next to the twin-peaked Colima volcano, an easy paved cobblestone road up to launch), or head to Manzanillo if you want the full Mexican beach experience!  That's what we did...spent a week or so at the beach: flying the morning site El Toro, go swimming in the 28C waters, or fly Pelican Bay in the afternoons.

Ah, tropical air!....
El Toro is a high mountain peak overlooking Manzanillo and has an epic road up, during our time there is was very washed-out and several trucks were reportedly stuck at several times.  There is also a gate so you need the key to gain access...fortunately we knew of someone with a key and he also agreed to shuttle us up to launch, eliminating the need for retrieve!  Launch itself is placed just below the saddle facing the ocean, facing SE, and the W afternoon seabreeze will often shut the site down after 12pm, so you want to be on launch early and ready to take off, rather than having to pack up in the heat and hiking/driving back down.  We made that mistake one day after spending the morning cleaning up the site, only to have it blow down on us after we finished, gah!

...and a perfect place to pack up.  The sand is just below this grassy area.
And if the west wind blows in enough, go to Pelican Bay and ridge soar the beaches and cliffs to the south of Manzanillo until dark!  The launch is situated on an as-yet undeveloped housing development, and given the state of Mexican bureaucracy, it could stay undeveloped for years to come, providing us with a perfect spot to lay out gliders and topland.  Mind you, landing on the beach isn't so bad either, as it's only a few meters below the takeoff with an easy road back up to the top.

Alex trying out a new site at the condos.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip to a sunny destination, with lots of new sites but the same great food and people!  If you go to Mexico a lot for flying, and are getting tired of Valle de Bravo, and aren't afraid to explore some new sites which have less infrastructure than Valle, then definitely explore some of the other great flying sites Mexico has to offer!

Kiona Sept 28

Kiona hiking trail, road up, and landing zone.
I had never been to Kiona (next to Benton City in WA state) but was in the mood for trying a new site with all the north wind we've been having lately.

Kiona ridge looking east with the road access visible.
Kiona is an easy hike up (1 hour) or 2-wheel drive to the top (it's toplandable), and you can pretty much launch anywhere depending on wind strength and finding a sagebrush-free spot on the slopes.

Kiona ridge facing NW.
Wind was predicted to be on the stronger side, if not blown-out, but at the end of the day the wind dropped enough to launch safely.  There's about 6 km of straight NE ridge, and an extra ~2km of more N ridge next to the antennas.  Just pick a slope that faces into the wind!

Over-the-back is pretty flat and would make for interesting XC!
Once in the air you can see that over the back the terrain is basically flat...kinda like flying at Chelan, but without the canyon crossing!  I'm thinking that in a light north wind and on an unstable day it could be an interesting flatland XC site.

Pemberton Sept 3

Wow what a fantastic day!  We are in that time of year where we get good XC conditions again for about 2 weeks, when the days still are warm, but the nights are getting colder and longer, making for a good lapse rate.  It usually lasts until mid-September so whenever the weather looks good this time of year, you want to grab the last few XC days!

Winds were light SW so several of us headed out to Althelstan and return.  The run out was beautiful with a cloud street pretty much over the entire range at around 3000m.  We weren't dressed quite warm enough (the Rasp said -4C at 3000m) so we were all freezing, but nobody was about to cut their flight short due to a little cold :)

Crossing Hurley Pass.
Not much wind at Spindrift and the 50km mark so we continued on to Athelstan and the 60km mark. I stopped at Athelstan to admire the pumice cliffs while Alex and Greg crossed Salal Creek to the next bump before returning to join me, and then it was time to head back.

Athelstan Peak.
It was easy sailing until Owl Ridge, where I could see a bunch of shade on the ridge but since we were at 2300m at Barbour, we didn't think much of it since from 2300m you can pretty much glide straight to Pemberton.  But not today!  There was some funky SE wind on the Owl Ridge and it was an unexpected headwind.  That, plus the shade, meant we weren't going to make it back to Pemberton without possibly landing out at Riverlands, and nobody wants to do that and "be that guy" that lands in the restricted LZ zone.
You can faintly see the new road the loggers have put in which goes towards Meager Hot Springs.

Fortunately the Miller Beer Farm is right under Owl Peak and easy to land at, and there were already lots of pilots there from earlier in the day, so we joined them to warm up after our 4-5 hour freeze-off.  One of the last good XC days in the area, and it was epic conditions: fast, strong, high, and cold!  Just like March or April, only it's September!

Athelstan and return flight.

Big Johnson Sept 2

The Fraser Valley was predicted to be a bit too windy but fortunately Big Johnson in WA state is enough out of the FV flow to escape the wind.  Pretty burley in the air and felt like springtime conditions...I find that the first couple of weeks of September are often a short-lived return to instability (the nights are getting longer and colder, while the days are still warm) before the XC flying shuts down for the season.

Went over to Porter Mountain and it was rough and strong over there, cloud base was somewhere above 2000m and the Twin Sisters were poking out above the clouds, very scenic!

FAI triangle at Big Johnson.

Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

Woodside August 30

One of the rare times when we head out for a ridge soaring day and not a thermal day...

It was very strong on launch and we had to wait for lulls to safely launch in, but once in the air it was buttery-smooth and hands-off flying.  Lift to over 1000m and the lift band was very wide!

After an hour I opted to head out to Eagle Ranch since the car was there, but Alex and Tom went to Harvest Market instead.  Because of all the clouds shutting down the thermic activity, the landing at ER was not that bad, and only a little bit of rotor off Harrison Bump at the 500m mark.  Lots of people fishing on the Fraser River though!

Mt. St. Benedict Aug 27

A light north and remarkably high cloud base day!  Flew north to the bump before Salsbury Lake and got up to just below the airspace restriction of 1981m, then it was an easy run out to Dewdney Mountain and return.  An unexpectedly nice day for late August!

Pemberton Vol-Biv August 4-6

We had a good weather window coming up with light winds and no smoke, so a group of around 10 of us decided it would be fun to fly to Copper Mountain, top-land, and camp out overnight before flying back to Pemberton the next day.

I think that was one of the fastest flights to Copper...cloudbase was quite high and it was plenty lifty and downwind, so I was there in 2 thermals and getting low enough to top-land was hard!  Didn't help that there was a huge cu sucking pilots up into it directly overhead...I thought about waiting until it dissipated but I was also worried about it getting too strong as the afternoon progressed for top-landing at all, so managed to get it in on my 2nd try.

Top-landing spot at Copper Mountain

Sunset that evening was was a clear night with some high cirrus to the west which went from grey to brown to fire-red as the sun looked like the sky was on fire.  The bugs weren't actually that bad (all things considering), possibly because it was so dry and the nearest water was either the patch of snow on the north side of Copper of the cirque below.  In any case we very much appreciated the fact we were able to hang out outside our tents for hours in relative comfort!

The following morning it was forecast to get a bit windy from the SW, so we launched around 10:30am in nice cycles and were able to scunge along the Copper ridge to the Owl gap.  Most pilots opted to continue gliding towards Pemberton and landed at the Miller Beer Farm, but Alex and I crossed over to the Miller side, arriving high enough to climb up in the morning thermals to over 3000m.

Copper to Miller Ridge the next day

Anything about 2200m was pretty rough as the SW wind was on its way and already apparent at the higher levels, so we landed early for a swim and a proper meal ;)

It was a very fun outing and we timed it perfectly, as a couple of days later the smoke really came in from the BC Interior, smoking out pretty much all of western BC from Vancouver up to Whistler and Pemberton, with lots of new fires near D'Arcy and Lilloet to keep pilots on the ground.

Photo album of the trip is here!

El Nido, Clearwater July 27-30

This weekend there were 3 events to choose from: the Willi Muller XC Challenge, the WCSC Pemberton fly-in, and the Clearwater El-Nido fly-in.  Alex and I opted for the El-Nido fly-in since we've never flown Clearwater, and with the various smoke and fires around the province, it seemed like the best option.

Looking east at El-Nido with the North Thompson River below.
Willi Rens and his wife, Sigi, run the local PG tandem operation and do most of the upkeep of the launch and maintaining public relations.  You can see XSky Paragliding signs all over Clearwater :) The launch is an old, now-groomed clearcut, accessed by a high-clearance 2-wheel drive, very-well maintained McCorvie Lakes Forest Service Road.  And the LZ is the huge hay field just across the road from Dee's General Store at Birch Island, a perfect spot to grab a cold drink or ice cream after landing and packing up!

XSky Paragliding website

Looking at the El-Nido ridge with Raft Mountain in the background.
The launch faces almost due south, so it starts to work pretty early.  It's not high (1000m ASL, about 500m AGL) but plenty for getting up and seeing the potential of the area.  If you get high enough, you can easily cross north to Raft Mountain, or south to Dunn Peak.  And if you were feeling adventurous enough, you could continue north into Wells Gray Provincial Park or south to Sun Peaks Resort!
Sigi coming in to land at the El-Nido LZ.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

We had around 20 pilots for the fly-in this year (some came as far as from Smithers!), and much better weather than last year (when it was so smokey they couldn't see across the valley).  Lots of happy HG and PG pilots each night as we camped out at Willi and Sigi's place or swam in Dutch Lake or braved the colder waters of the North Thompson River.  Many thanks to Sigi and Willi for hosting us, and we'll definitely be back!

Sample flight at El-Nido.

Moul Falls, one of the many waterfalls in Wells Gray Provincial Park.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

Pemberton July 26

I originally wanted to try flying to the Rutherford Valley since I haven't yet done this, but I had to change my plans after flying over to Handcar and discovering a lot of north wind and not much lift.  In fact, the whole Miller side of the valley wasn't great, I couldn't really get high, so I bailed back to the Owl Ridge side of things where it was *much* better!  So much in fact, that airspace was going to be an issue!

Cloudbase was somewhere around 4200m, although we are only allowed to 3810m.  I suspect many pilots flew higher than that today ;)

Out to Goat Mountain and back to MacKenzie was a breeze with the cloud base and it was COLD, since we weren't planning on getting that high and so hadn't dressed properly ;)

Lots of haze in the air from BC forest fire smoke!

Pemberton July 23

After yesterday's epicness both Alex and I were feeling a bit tired, and given that today's forecast was calling for possible thunderstorms in the evening we didn't feel like doing a huge flight.

Building cu's on Owl Ridge after most people had landed.
The winds were light again, but with a bit of south rather than north, and by mid-morning the cu's were already forming and getting a bit tall.  So it was time to launch early, fly, and land early before it got too good!  Once in the air it was definitely industrial-feeling with lots of abundant lift, but sharp and rough thermals on Owl Ridge, and it was feeling a bit on the edge since it was *so* easy to get high, and with the building cu's it would be easy to get sucked into one.

I wasn't impressed with the conditions at Owl Ridge so I crossed over to Miller Ridge with Alex, since usually that side of the valley feels "nicer" than Owl.  But not was just as rough and industrial over there as at Owl.  So I decided I had enough and flew out to land.

Most everyone in the air also landed early and I don't think many people who launched from Mackenzie flew very far, since we were so leery about getting stuck on the wrong side of a cloud if it went big while on XC.  After landing we watched as the many small cu's coalesced into several large cu's...the air was showing lots of energy today.  Definitely felt like a day where you wanted to give yourself plenty of outs and not tempt fate too much!

Epic Pemberton July 22

Today was one of those rare days where Pemberton gets a combination of high cloud base and very light (almost no) winds, and it fell on a weekend too, so lots of pilots were out enjoying it!

No wind and high lift!
As you can see from the day's RASP, it was light and variable winds with a touch of north, and the lift was going to be through the roof!

I dropped Alex off at the Rainbow hike-n-fly launch in Whistler (he had his own XC plans for the day) and I then continued on to Pemberton to meet with the scheduled 10am shuttle to upper MacKenzie launch.  My day was not starting off well...I forgot my instrument and radio at home as well as my extra clothes and sunscreen at the LZ (in part because we left the house so early and I was still tired from the day before)!  Fortunately I was able to use my backup setup...XC Track on my phone and my helmet beeper vario, and I was able to scrounge a spare radio from Guy.

I didn't actually launch until around 1pm but I think I could have launched around 12:30pm...the clouds were looking delicious but the earlier launchers were sinking out and the pilots at Rainbow were just barely climbing out (and they were at an earlier site).  But once in the air it was clear it was ON.  I beamed out to 2800m and then it was time to decide what I was going to do...I had previously decided I wanted to fly down Lilloet Lake and return, before doing the usual Spindrift-and-return run, but at launch Stefan had suggested flying to Whistler instead.

Wedgemount Lake coming into view.  Armchair Glacier on the left.
I have never flown to Whistler before since I have always been leery of the route with few good LZ's, and the horror stories I've heard of those who have landed in that valley mid-day when it's thermic and windy.  But once in the air it was clear there was practically no wind and base was high, so I decided to at least fly over to Handcar to see what the potential looked like, and decide from there.

Oodles of lift at Handcar and it was light north, so I decided I was going to get outside my comfort zone (!) and go for it.  Stefan and Miguel and I crossed over to Currie, where it was actually significant north and the thermals were scrubbing alongside the rocks, and we committed to flying south.  This part was slightly scary since the only places to land to the south of Currie are not that great: boulder fields, the riverbank next to the Rutherford River, or in random clearings next to high tension power lines, not the most comforting places to set down into!

After the first few climbs I was able to get to cloud base around 3200m, the north wind died, and then I was feeling good about my options since I was just so high and I could actually make the glide to safe landing spots near Green Lake in Whistler, even from this far out.  The scenery between Mt. Currie and Wedge Mountain was spectacular with many overhanging lakes and glaciers all over the place, all topped with puffy cu's.

Wedge Lake and Wedge Glacier.
I was continuing to see single-digit wind speeds even at 3000+m, which is extremely rare in the Whistler/Pemberton area, and I was staying high as I crossed above Blackcomb and Whistler and the Peak-to-Peak gondola CYR between the two mountains.  I could see Black Tusk (the remains of an old volcanic plug, the rest of the volcano has eroded away) on the next mountain south but this is a tough one to reach normally (so I've heard!) since it's a long glide out and there are zero LZs...just a sea of trees and volcanic boulders and canyons all the way to the highway and Daisy Lake.  In fact Stefan had just reached it and turned around, and Simon and Miguel had previously turned back at Whistler.  But I was feeling confident and continued to push south under the big clouds forming directly over the actual Tusk, overflying the Tusk at 3100m.

Crossing from Blackcomb to Whistler Mountain.  Black Tusk and Daisy Lake in the distance.
I could see Howe Sound and the ocean, and there were much less clouds in Squamish, so I decided now would be a good time to turn around.  Once again the negligible wind at altitude was my friend as I recrossed to Whistler and Blackcomb, and continuing back to Pemberton was easy-peasy, and Wedge and the Armchair Glacier were doing their usual spectacular routine :)  I briefly considered crossing east to Lilloet Lake via Wedge (we've looked at this route before on a map), but there were actually quite a few clouds on that route and it was looking a bit shady, and I didn't want to push my luck by flying into a shady spot on my own.  So I continued on to Currie where I beamed up to 3700m and was shivering with cold.

Crossing to Black Tusk under a cloud street.  Mount Garibaldi and Howe Sound in the distance.
Up until now the thermals had been broad, silky smooth, and a joy to fly in.  Not the case back at Owl Ridge!  It was rough, sharp, and all of a sudden the almost-zero wind turned into 15 kph of west wind...WTF?!  I could still fly in it no problem, but it was like night and day compared to the Whistler route, and very much less enjoyable that what I had just flown.  But I continued on to Hurley Pass to get some more distance in and there will still a couple of hours of usable daylight left.

It was getting late, around 7:30pm, the sun angle was very low on the slopes past Hurley Pass and many of the ridges out towards North Creek were in shade. Given the time of day and slowness of the climbs, and the fact that I've never landed out at Hurley Pass and I wasn't about to start now (!), I decided to turn around and run back to Pemberton in the fading daylight.  As I overflew Copper Dome I could see a group of pilots who had landed for an overnight vol bivy on the ridge.

The Pemberton valley was starting to get dark, so even though I was in sun, the lower slopes were in shade, so if I got low I was unlikely to get high again.  Fortunately the slopes felt much like Bridal at the end of the day, where you can just contour along and there is enough light lift that you don't really need to turn.  I started my final glide from Copper Dome at 2300m, 20 km out, and arrived at the LZ with 1100m to spare :)
About to pass over Black Tusk.  Panorama Ridge, Garibaldi Lake, and Mount Garibaldi in the background.
The LZ was actually in shade when I landed just after 8pm so I had used up most of the flyable day, which is always a nice feeling to have.  I had flown 140km in around 7 hours (the first hour or so I spent climbing out and feeling out the conditions above MacKenzie so it more like 6 hours of actual distance-flying) and I was tired!  But my day was not over yet...Alex had just landed back at Rainbow after closing his 212 km FAI triangle and was needing a pickup!  Two happy pilots that night as we camped out at the base of Mt. Currie to sleep off our flights ;)

140 km out and return.

Mt. St. Benedict July 21

Some north wind up high but not enough to really worry about.
Tom Gregg was heading out to help Al install the new outhouse on the lower launch so I tagged along, the day was looking good for a local flight!

A weekend so lots of boats on Stave Lake!
The actual flying was quite nice and cloud base was around 1800m in spots, so after tanking up at Gregory I headed over to the Steelhead to cruise around over there.  There was some west wind coming through and I did get low (I thought I would have to land at the Durieu school) but I found a scrappy lee side thermal which got me back to cloud base and back to launch where Al's students were still doing laps.

Making the base for the outhouse between 2 stumps.
Greg had launched and we flew north to MacKay lake and then the front side of the Davis lake bump (there was lots of lift around Davis bump!) before it was time to land and then get to work installing the outhouse.
View from the outhouse!
Lots of black flies and we also discovered a nest of nighthawk fledglings as we were creating the trail to the outhouse.  But in the end we got it installed and it has a nice view of Davis and Stave Lake.  Many thanks to Al, Tom, and WCSC for the donation of the outhouse!
Just need to put the roof on!

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.

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).  

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!