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.

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!

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.

Bridal Falls May 5

An east-wind day, which usually means later starts at Bridal but higher altitudes.  I was hoping it would be one of those relatively-rare flights where you can get over the Cheam summit, so I wasn't really focused on getting a big distance number.
Harrison Lake plus Agassiz with the inversion.

It was actually much lighter winds than I expected.  Some places it was light N, other places it was light E, and other places it was light S.  The best lift was near the NW shoulder of Cheam where I spent most of the flight.  Was able to get to 2052 m at one point, which is still just shy of the 2104 m summit, agghh!

But it was really fun to play along the snow slopes on the NW side and the crows were having fun too, sliding in the snow and not trying to thermal at all.

Woodside and Bridal May 2

I suspected today would blow out like yesterday in the Fraser Valley, so after dropping Alex off at Little Nic for his hike-n-fly, off to Woodside I went to fly early before it got too windy.

It was remarkably quiet on launch, few pilots except for the load that Jim drove up, which surprised me a bit as it was a sunny spring day.  But hey, less congestion on launch!

At Bear Mountain, heading to Agassiz, with the incoming smog indicating the accompanying westerly wind.
The climb out was slow and painful at first, Kevin and I were trying to get high but couldn't really break past 1100m.  But I noticed some clouds forming over the antennas so I gradually faded my way back and got under them, at which point I was beamed to 1500m and onwards to Agassiz Mountain.

Alex coming in to land at the Bridal LZ.  The LZ was mowed a week ago and it's now dandelion central!
Over at Bridal Alan was reporting climbs to only 1400m which is not super-high for that side, and over at Agassiz and Bear Mountain I was only getting to 1200m.  For the crossing to Bridal, I like at least 1400m and prefer 1600m.  Today with only 1200m and zero landing options on the Fraser River (the river is about 1 month ahead of schedule for flooding!) I decided to bail on my idea to cross over, and landed in Agassiz instead along with Kevin.

Alex flying the Lynx at Bridal.
Our group reconvened at Bridal for a late afternoon fly...I decided to stand down and drive instead as I had a good flight earlier and was looking to chill a bit.  It was a bit spicy on launch and some pilots were getting hoovered in the elevator right off launch and reports on the radio were of some wind on the way to Elk.

Overall it turned into an OK flying day; if you were willing to take the punches you could get to 1500m, but the general consensus was that the air was a bit on the snarky side.

Dewdney Bench May 1

This was my first time at Al's new site in the Miracle Valley, I figured it would be the best option on an otherwise windy and north day.
Bench launch still looks a bit industrial but there is grass seed taking root.

Launch is quite low, around 300m, so you pretty much need to start thermalling right off launch if you want any chance of getting away easily.  The cycles weren't that frequent so I was patient for a good strong one, and was able to start turning right away over launch and no scratching needed.
The water level in Stave Lake is quite low, probably the dam was released a bit in anticipation of the mountain snow runoff coming in the next few days.  Lots of LZ's along the shoreline now!

Heading to Mt. St. Benedict was pretty straightforward although slow in places as the lift was a bit broken down low in spots.  If you could stay above 1000m you were OK, but once below you had to work to get back up towards cloudbase.  Once again the flats were working in addition to the mountains, and pilots were crossing west to the Steelhead side of things and then back.
Lots of marsh exposed at the south end of Stave Lake.

Cloudbase was low initially, maybe 1200m, but it slowly raised during the flight to around 1400m by 6pm.  But as cloudbase rose, so did the westerly winds, and by the time I landed at the Durieu school it was quite strong and punchy over the LZ and I expect the launch was blown-out.  I think the Fraser Valley sites may have been blown-out too as I didn't hear too much action at either Woodside or Bridal.
Al's new Flow Gliders XC Racer as the winds are picking up in the LZ.