Mara Lake September 2

Labour Day was shaping up to be a fantastic-looking light north wind day, which is perfect for XC from Mara Lake.  We got a crew together and after signing in at the LZ (Little Green Ranch, there is a sign in clipboard), headed up.

It's been a while since I was last at Mara Lake, and most of my flights there have been SIV-related, so I was excited to go XC and try to fly back to the car parked at the Walmart in Vernon.  The cu's looked yummy, but the cycles on launch were very north and the corresponding lift was tough to find initially.  I was lucky in seeing a hawk coring up in front of launch and joining it to 2000+m, while most other pilots were forced to either wait for better cycles, or scunge around launch height in search of lift.

The skies are calling!
It was a bit more north wind than I was expecting but it was also helping get me back to Vernon quicker ;)  The rowdiest air I found was approaching the Enderby cliffs (which face west) where it was very turbulent and I needed to be on my A-game to keep the glider open.  Weirdly enough, despite the awesome-looking skies, I was barely able to break through 2000m so had to cross the Enderby gap a bit lower than usual.

However once on the south side of Enderby things started to change.  The climbs started getting easier and higher, but at the same time, the local airspace started coming down and I began to find myself approaching restricted airspace!  So instead of having to slow down for climbs, I found myself leaving lift in order to stay legal.  I could see Swan Lake in the distance with the Walmart at the south end and the lake was looking like light north wind...perfect for final glide and landing conditions.  Now just have to find a place to land...

Fortunately Walmart, despite not being landable itself (unless you spot land in the parking lot, avoid the long-weekend shopping crowds, and probably get a bylaw ticket) has lots of suitable fields 2-3 blocks away.  Perfect places to land and it's a 5-10 minute walk back to the car, easy-peasy!

At Swan Lake, on final glide to the Vernon Walmart (the large white building east of the highway interchange).  Kalamalka Lake on the left, Okanagan Lake on the right.
Meanwhile most other pilots had either landed at Little Green Ranch or in Enderby after failing to make the Enderby gap crossing, although Dan continued on to top-land at King Eddy.  I had plenty of height to to to King Eddy as well, but I needed to be back in Vancouver the next day, and with a 5 hour drive ahead of me, decided to land at the car and save the hassle of getting a ride back later.  I really enjoyed this flight, especially since I don't get to Mara Lake that often!

Mara Lake to Vernon Walmart flight.

King Eddy September 1

A much more calm day, skies-wise, so more people were at King Eddy today.  Even Tyler made an appearance, tuning his hang glider before heading to the comp in the US.

It was still a tough-ish day to get away, I landed near the Lumby Golf Course and a couple pilots made it to Lumby proper.  Thanks to Jackie for coming by to pick me up!

BBQ at Paraglide Canada that night and we made plans to fly at Mara Lake the next day, with the expected light north winds.

King Eddy August 31

With the weather not looking too good for the lower mainland over the Labour Day long weekend, I decided to get away for a bit to the Okanagan and the fly-in at King Eddy.

Big clouds forming to the west!
Despite the huge clouds around it was very light conditions in the air and most pilots sunk out.  Glenn and I flew around for an hour or so before going out to check out the bears resting in the corn fields next to the LZ.  From above they are little black piles of fur resting on the shady sides of the crop circles they created, hidden from everyone except birds and paraglider pilots ;)

Getting close to time to land!
It's a good thing we decided to fly there earlier than usual, since it overdeveloped and a nice fat rain cell with thunder and lightening rolled through later in the afternoon.  Initially I thought it may clear up in time for an evening flight, but a last-minute cell passing through right over launch nixed that idea!  I spent the afternoon on top of Mt. Middleton with a perfect view towards Kalamalka Lake and the approaching thunderstorms.  But it was time to take cover when they got too close...there's no shelter up there and besides, it's the tallest thing around, not a good place to be when there are lightening strikes going on!

Atop Mt. Middleton.  A lull between the storm cells.

Pemberton Aug 3-4

After last week's Canadian Nationals I was ready to do relaxing sightseeing flying!  We were forecast to have light-ish winds and from either the north or east...that usually means drier air and higher cloudbase, with little chance of an afternoon Whistler Express.

Sugarloaf Mountain
Saturday the north wind was a bit more than I was hoping, and the climbs were a bit ratty and all over the place, so I ended up turning around at Goat Mountain rather than continue over the Hurley Pass and to Spindrift.  But it was kinda fun to use the north wind to drift over the back at Copper and Goat, and not have to worry about getting too far back and not able to make it back out to the nice LZs!
Rhododendron Mountain and glacier.

Sunday the wind switched to very light east winds, which I find to be a nicer direction vs. north.  It was a bit of a late start however...I didn't launch until around 1:30pm and it took ~30 minutes to climb out, but when I did, it was to 2500+m and an easy glide to the Miller side of the valley.

Big climbs on the Miller side to 3000m and it was easy cruising over the glaciers and Sugarloaf Mountain to view the alpine lakes and the Pemberton Icefield.  I'm glad I was wearing my puffy pants and jacket as it was close to 0C that high (even though it was 30+C on the ground)!

Rhododendron Mountain, Mt. Miller, and part of Ipsoot Glacier.
Over on the miller side it was actually SE winds, which meant coming back on the Miller side would be into the wind, and it was starting to blue up on the Miller side (while there were still cu's on the MacKenzie side) so I jumped over to Camel Hump, grovelled there for about 20 minutes (until I found a climb I thought I might have to land out and thumb my way back!), then jumped over to Copper for the return flight.  Even though it wasn't a long flight, it was certainly scenic!

Pemberton July 28

The day after the comp finished and it was a beautiful day, not too windy, so I did a quick out-n-return to Goat Mountain and back, with a stopover on the Miller side.  Awesome clouds but I wasn't in the mood for a huge flight, just something to decompress with after the comp!

Over on the Miller side I found a climb on the hills overlooking the LZ, and was able to hang out there for a good 30 minutes, bobbing around 1000m on the west-facing clearcuts.

Tenquille Lake under a perfect sky.

Pemberton Canadian Nationals July 27

Yesterday was a cancelled day due to the forecast showing too much (30+kph) winds all day and at all altitudes.  And it's a good thing we didn't fly (even though the clouds looked awesome) since a pilot who hiked up Mount Currie reported back that it was blowing 50-60 kph at around 2200m!

Today it looked terrible in the morning: raining, low cloud base, everything was wet, and we had to wait an extra hour to even go up the mountain in order to deliver the gliders to a dry-ish launch, and any earlier and the shuttles wouldn't have even made it up the slick road!  But the rain eventually finished and up the mountain we went, an hour behind schedule.  It was forecast to be 20-25 kph from the SW, which is not great for holding a long task in Pemberton (if we had been free-flying we probably wouldn't have bothered even going up), but we hoped the wind forecast would be wrong and actually be a bit less, and if so, we wanted to be on launch, ready to go!

We had to wait an extra hour for the road to dry out, and we still had to push the shuttles through the first cross ditch!
We (the task committee) spent probably an hour going over options and building a task which would be safe, short enough to finish early enough to hold the awards ceremony, but doable by the majority of the field.  Guy also wanted (if possible) for the goal field to be at the Meadows Golf Course as he had permission for us to land on the fairways of holes 8 and 9, and had arranged for the Pemberton airport to be closed to all air traffic except us between 3 and 5pm since we would be transiting around that time.  So in the end we chose a 62 km task which would take us out to the Hurley Pass, back to the Barbor area, and then back to a large "wall" around Spindrift which could be tagged at any point along the wall's edge in case of too much wind along the mountain route.  We also put a control turnpoint in at the Cell Towers (close to upper launch) to force pilots to arrive back to Pemberton high (since you can't tag this turn point if you are too low), in case there was a Whistler Express happening underneath(which only extends to roughly 700m altitude on most days so we'd be passing overhead that) and then a goal at the clubhouse at the golf course.

As the ground dried out from the morning rain and the sun came out, the cu's were popping and it looked to be strong conditions out there, and the cycles on launch confirmed this as some rippers came though.  Several pilots were concerned about the strength of the cycles and whether we should shorten the task, or change it to elapsed time, or cancel it altogether, and after a brief meeting between the task committee, safety committee, and meet director, we opted to leave things as-is.

Tenquille Lake on a strong day!
Once the race times were announced there was the usual hoopla of pilots racing to get their gear ready and get into the air, compounded by the fact the cycles were quite strong, and pilots who were not on their "A" game were getting pulled up prematurely, dragged to the side, etc, until Launch Marshall Pete stepped in and had pilots hold for the strongest part of the cycles and only launch during lulls.  That worked well and pretty much all pilots were in the air, and slaloming around at cloud base with oodles of lift, by the time the race started at 3:05pm.  There were a handful of pilots who chose not to launch, which ends up devaluing the day by a small portion of point since a DNF is an informal way of declaring the task unsuitable for them, and thus shouldn't be fully valid.

The start was fast and furious, and in fact most of the entire course was fast and furious until some shade came in over the Hurley Pass for the slower pilots and they had to slow down from race mode to survival mode.  We did have 2 reserve tosses in the Barbor area, within 2-3 minutes of each other (I think the second toss happened before the first one had even landed), and both landed just fine in the alpine, and both (I believe) hiked to a better spot and relaunched and flew down, so no rescue was required for them.  As I was watching the first one drift down under reserve towards the lake behind Barbor I was a bit concerned in case he had the bad luck to land in that cold glacial water, but he missed it by a lot and landed on the scree instead.  I'm hoping he was thinking the same thing and was at least checking for his hook knife in case he needed it at the last minute!

Meanwhile the course was shading out near the Hurley Pass but most of us were beyond that and slowly making our way back to launch and the Cell Tower control turn point.  The SW wind was quite significant but the reports in the Pemberton LZ were of light winds, not yet Whistler Expressing, so it was "just" upper-level meteo winds.  Tagging the control turn point was a bit tough for me as it was windy enough that I was having to crab by it, and the radius was so small (we had left it at 400m) that I kept missing it and having to turn around, re-crab my way past it, and hope to tag it.  It took me something like 3 or 4 tries, while other pilots seemed to have no problems tagging it first time around and were passing me.  Annoying!

Anyhoo I ended up getting it eventually and then it was on to the golf course and goal.  The strong SW winds were quite significant over the airport and golf course, and Guy was advising pilots to tag goal and then land at the airport instead, rather than try to put down on the fairways.  It was also converging a bit over the runway (lucky me) which meant it was hard to get down, and there were maybe 6 of us who were on big ears but still going up.  From tagging the goal to actually landing probably took over 30 minutes, and as I was coming in to land the windsocks on the runway were actually blowing 15-20 kph from the east, completely opposite to the winds a couple of hundred feet higher!  It was hit that shear layer and discover that what was upwind was now downwind, and vice versa.  Of course about 10 minutes after landing things on the ground went back to the "usual" direction...

The goal field under a strong SW layer of wind.
We did have one pilot tag the control turn point a bit too low and have to land short, but other than that, I think everyone who tagged the control turnpoint made goal and landed at the airport.  I was pleasantly surprised to get the task off...the day started off so unpromising, and turned on so strong later on, that I was expecting it to be untaskable.  Fortunately Guy had volunteers stationed all over the course line to give wind reports on the ground and keep all the competitors in the loop, and had several pilots call out their opinion on safety conditions "level 1", "level 2", "level 3" (it was all level 1's) before the race start.

In the end we had something like 55 pilots in goal, with another group landing at the Miller Beer Farm after getting shaded out by the Hurley Pass region, and a 3rd group of pilots who DNF'd and drove down.  So it turned into an almost fully-valid day, with no injuries, and 2 self-rescues, pretty standard for a Pemberton task, really ;). I was very glad to have gotten a task off successfully, but I was also fully aware of the difficulty of managing a safe task for everyone and also considering my own personal safely, and trying to reconcile the two.  It was a bit of a pushy task in terms of launch conditions, but once in the air it was actually quite nice, and after a week of windy-ish tasks, most of the competitors had become "used" to the idea of flying in wind.  Had we had those conditions on the first day things may have turned out differently in terms of a cancelled day or numerous reserve tosses.

Link to my flight

Photo courtesy of Sea to Sky Paragliding
Once everyone was back at HQ it was time to do up the scores, eat, and get the awards ceremony out of the way, so those pilots who needed to travel could get south of Whistler before the Ironman Triathlon shut down the highway.  Guy and Ricardo had several neat raffle prizes to give out (each competitor had one ticket with their entry fee, and each volunteer received one ticket for each day they volunteered, so the number of tickets in the raffle were skewed in favour of the volunteers, which is entirely fair since they were the ones doing all the grunt work this week!), including a Mt. Currie heli-drop, Mexican para-vacation, and a Belize sun vacation!

The winners of the various classes:

Photos courtesy of Sea to Sky Paragliding
Photos courtesy of Sea to Sky Paragliding

As the winner of the female class, I want to give a special shout-out to Claudia, who for the second time has come in second place and is keeping me on my toes ;). I'm so happy for Claudia (and her husband Peter who came in 2nd place in the sport class) as it's so nice to have other female pilots flying well in Canada.  I would also like to say well-done to Kaylyn as well as she hasn't flown in Pemberton much, so doesn't have "home ice advantage" ;)

Photo courtesy of Sea to Sky Paragliding

I also want to give a special shout-out to Guy Herrington, the meet director, for putting on a safe competition and dealing with all the issues that come up with being the Person In Charge, but still maintaining a smile and a kind word for any pilot who approached him with questions or concerns.  Guy you did an awesome job and I'm sure many pilots (including myself) appreciated your hard work!

Pemberton is a beautiful place to fly, with many pilots referring to the flying here as a "slice of the Alps", but it can be intimidating at times, especially in wind, and with the lack of infrastructure in the backcountry, if things go wrong you can be stuck in the wilderness for a long time before being rescued!  Many of the visiting pilots I spoke to raved about the scenery and the potential for long distances and vol-bivying, and many are keen to return next year, either for a comp or to free-fly!

Pemberton Canadian Nationals July 25

We had high hopes for today and had planned a long task which would end us at the Rodeo ground in Mount Currie, but the weather gods had other plans!

Guy and some of the volunteers!
Initially it looked like the cloud would burn off, and Canada RASP was predicting the same.  And it did start to break open, but the wind technicians we sent out to test the air reported very little lift, so we continued to wait.  And then the cloud reformed and it went from kinda-sunny to mostly cloudy.

We had a meteorologist on launch today, and he was explaining that the clouds were indeed dissipating as they dropped off the east side of Vancouver Island, forming a blue hole visible on the satellite images, but they were reforming on the upwind side of Howe Sound and creating the schmoo we were seeing.  South of Squamish it was beautiful (and Alex and James were indeed having an epic flight at Tunnel Mountain near Lions Bay, Alex landed in Coquitlam next to the Skytrain station, very civilized!), but north of Squamish it was cloudy, and not expected to dissipate until late in the afternoon.

This is the final version after 2 longer tasks were ultimately rejected due to deteriorating weather conditions.
Because of safety limitations in a comp, we can only push the task so far into the afternoon before we have to decide on a "go, no-go" time, so if there is an accident or incident, we have enough daylight to deal with it, but with the shortening of the task, we decided to push things to the last minute (in this case, 3:30pm) in the hopes of getting a task of some sort in.  We ultimately shortened it to a 45 km back-n-forth along the Owl ridge with a goal in Pemberton (no Whistler Express was forecast, and in fact free-flyers were reporting NW wind there instead).  And also due to the weather and the fact it was going to be tricky to get the timing of the task right, we opted for an elapsed time start, rather than a traditional race start, to give pilots the chance to decide when they thought would be the best time to get on course line.

There was a patch of sun approaching so a bunch of us decided to take advantage of it and launched and got barely to 1900m, and then we started working our way west.  Behind us the patch of sun had disappeared to be replace by yet more overcast, and the late launchers were basically on glide from launch.  We were able to keep up with the patch of sun to Fraser Peak, where it fizzled for pretty much everyone, and then everyone left in the air was scratching around on Owl Peak, fighting for every meter of altitude before pushing out into the valley to tag the CamelHump TP and then turning around to get some distance to the next turn point.

What we had to work with in the end!  Notice the rain up by North Creek.
I was able to get the CamelHump TP no problem, and then it was a giant glide for me to see how far I could get to the second TP before having to bail to a safe LZ.  There were pilots ahead of me going for the mondo-glide, and they were going to end up in Riverlands, which is a big no-no.  With 2.5km to go to the next TP, I decided to bail and turn around to the safety of the Miller Beer Farm, since I didn't want to be "that person" that gets the comp in trouble for overflying Riverlands low and landing in the parts of their property strictly off-limits to paraglider pilots.

The Beer Farm was hopping with pilots, and it ended up turning into the unofficial goal field with pilots hanging out to have a beer before getting shuttled back to HQ and scoring.  I believe the most distance today was something like 28km (out of 45) and I was around the 18km mark.  The day will probably not be worth much, points-wise, but at least we flew!

My track log from today.

Today's results and overall results.

Pemberton Canadian Nationals July 23

Yesterday we were on launch for most of the day waiting for the conditions to improve enough for a task, but it stayed too windy and too south to be safely taskable, so the day was cancelled.  About half of the field chose to ride down, and half of the field chose to free-fly.  As I was with the film crew we chose to fly and get some additional footage, and the conditions away from the mountain were butter-smooth and big easy climbs to 2800m and a nice landing at the Miller Beer Farm, but it was windy close to the mountain and had we had a task, I'm sure there would have been tree-carnage due to some pilots' propensity to tree-surf in an attempt to stay in the game.

Today was lighter winds and the forecast was for it to shade over somewhat in the afternoon as a front was predicted to move in, so we set a task to take pilots past the Hurley Pass and to Zorah Peak so they could see some spectacular scenery, and then to a large TP near Barbour, with a final TP at Goat and then to the VanLoon's goal field at the base of the Hurley Pass road.  Once again the start gaggle was well-behaved with oodles of lift, lots of clouds, and no crowding or competing for start-altitude.  It was fast and furious to Goat Mountain, where pilot tanked up for the crossing to Zorah and the clouds were popping all over the place, the clouds were starting to get a bit big as the frontal system approached!

I got a bit low on the way back from Zorah and had to scratch around Pauline for 10 minutes or so, before getting high enough to surf the ridge all the way to Barbour, where I went from too low to too high quite quickly as the clouds over Barbour were growing quickly.  Tagging the TP I was on full bar with big ears, trying to stay below 3000m and the airspace penalties (mission accomplished!).  Other pilots around me were doing the same and it was full bar in smooth lift all the way to Goat, where it was a 180 degree turn into the valley and continuing pulley-to-pulley to the ESS.  Pilots were coming in way too high due to the late-day cloud suck and it was about an extra 30 minutes for me to actually land at the goal field.  And it was raining paragliders all over the place!  In the end we had something like 80 pilots in goal, and lots of personal bests from many pilots!

We did have 2 more reserve deployments, one from the same pilot as the day before, and they were rescued via helicopter again (after most pilots had landed in goal already, so no need to stop the task), and one more from a pilot near the goal field.  We watched him drift onto the mountain about 600m up and was able to be rescued with little drama by Hawaii Pete and Thomas Sloss since there was a road and trail very near him.  Neither pilot was injured and both were back at HQ by nightfall.  There was an additional pilot who got off course line (??) and ended up near Birkenhead Peak (nowhere near the course line we had set), he was also OK.

Results from today.

My tracklog from today.

Pemberton Canadian Nationals July 21

I'm in beautiful Pemberton for the 2019 Canadian National Paragliding Championships!  This is the 3rd time hosting it in Pemberton, and every year we get more visiting pilots as previous years' visitors rave about the scenery and flying and pass that information on to their flying friends :). It's so fun having visiting pilots experience the scenery and awesomeness of the mountains's just breathtaking with the ice, cliffs, and sheer prominence from the valley floor!

Pilot breakfast on Sunday.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.
As part of the task committee, it's our job to make sure the tasks are fun but safe for everyone, and given the range of skill level at this event (from first-time comp pilots to seasoned PWC pros), this can be a bit of a challenge!  We aim to make sure everyone is having a good time, to get a lot of people in goal, but make the race day short enough that if an incident/accident does occur, we have enough daylight/time to mount a rescue operation, so nobody is left on the mountain overnight (and these are big and remote mountains).  So we aim to have the races finished by 6 or 7pm, which gives us ~4-5 hours of race time available to us each day.

Forecast for today was for moderate south winds, reaching up towards Hurley Pass, which is a bit unusual as normally it would transition to west up at that end of the valley.  With this in mind, we set a 70km zigzag around Goat/Barbour/Camel Hump/Pauline area to keep us away from a possible Whistler Express and have goal at the Miller Beer Farm.

Also at this comp we are hosting a film crew from River Road Films, which is producing a TV series in collaboration with the Nature of Things and CBC on Wild Canadian Weather, set to air in Fall 2020.  For their filming in Pemberton, they are hoping to get some filming of paragliders thermalling up under a cloud, to illustrate the human equivalent of what raptors and other birds of prey do.  So for today's task, they were also in the air on a tandem (with Kevin Ault PIC) to film the start gaggle and part of the course line.

Film crew getting their tandem camera gear ready!
Nature cooperated and we had an awesome start gaggle at cloud base, right over the takeoff, with 100+ pilots milling about waiting for the start, and then we were off to Goat Mountain!  The flying was pretty fast in that downwind direction, and it wasn't long before we heard of a 2 reserve deployment, one close to launch, and one over the Owl lakes region.  The close-to-launch pilot was unhurt with their gear on the ground next to them, and were able to self-rescue and walk back to launch.  The Owl-lakes pilot was unhurt and hanging in a tree, so the task continued while the safety team organized a SAR helicopter to retrieve her, since there are no roads that reach that far in the Owl gap.

The crux for many pilots was the crossing from Goat Mountain to Camel Hump and back to Barbour, since Camel Hump had not much lift so it was a "tag and turn" kind of turn point, and many arrived back on the Barbour side of things quite low.  There was a lot of tree surfing below Copper before several thermals broke off and we were able to get back up to ridge height and continue the race, but many pilots were forced to land early in the fields below Copper.

I made a technical mistake on the final climb at Barbour before committing to my final glide to the Miller Beer Farm goal LZ.  I was watching my glide to goal ratio and when I had 3:1 I went for it, forgetting that that glide indicator was actually to the ESS part of the race, and not the actual goal field.  And since the ESS was 4.5km outside the goal field, that meant I was off by 4.5km!  Usually that wouldn't be an issue (3:1 is normally ridiculously conservative) and I would have just arrived at the goal field lower that I expected, but the south wind around the corner of Owl peak was creating enough of a headwind that going around the corner was more like 2:1!  So crap, I landed within the ESS zone, but 1700m short of the actual goal cylinder, along with about 10 other pilots!

The wing truck delivers your glider to launch, so it's ready to pick up when you arrive!
I wasn't too bummed out however, as we are using FTV of 25% which means I can toss out part of my worst day of the comp, so it's not an all-or-nothing competition where you are out if you mess up even a tiny bit.

Meanwhile the task was ongoing and was only stopped around 5:30pm when the SAR helicopter was en-route to rescue the Owl-lakes pilot and any remaining pilots in the air needed to land to give them room to operate (SAR had to contact and pick up one of their techs trained in tree rescue which took some time).  This was actually a great move by the organization as helicopters can sometimes take hours to mobilize, especially if the rescue-ee is OK and not in any immediate danger, so there's no point in stopping the race prematurely.  So in the end it was a very valid task with a lot of happy pilots in goal, and a large of slightly less-happy pilots just short of the actual goal field ;)

A great start to the comp and we're hoping to get some tasks out by Lilloet Lake when we have a less windy day so we can have a finish either at the rodeo grounds, or at the airport LZ to put on a show for the Pemberton townspeople!

Canadian Nationals Website with results and schedule

My track log from today.

Grouse Mountain July 9

A productive day where we were able to get 3 new guests orientated!  Cloudbase was not super-high, maybe 1800m, but we were able to fly around the Chalet and the Cut no problem.  The mosquitoes were out in full force so remember to bring your bug net!

Paddy invited everyone over to his and Jill's place for dinner so we had a mini-pre-fly-in party afterwards!

Pemberton Miller Ridge June 30

My first hike-n-fly to Miller Ridge for this season!  The forecast was for possible overdeveloping conditions so an early flight seemed like a good idea, so we took the 8am shuttle to the drop off spot and then it's a ~1 hour hike (400m elevation gain) to the actual launch meadows.

The mosquitoes were epic, and I resorted to putting my bug net on to at least keep my head and face free of mossies.  Wear long sleeves and pants if you are going up Miller!  It gets better once you break out into the alpine, but even on launch there were still some, so be prepared.

Looking towards Ipsoot mountain and the glacier.
It was blowing lightly from the east and occasionally shading out from the big clouds spewing over from the MacKenzie side, so I waited for a sunny cycle and was able to climb pretty much right away over the old hut.  Others climbed up over the end of Miller Ridge, and Vlad and Igor said they were flying south to Whistler.

Peter went into the Soo valley and reported low cloud base and some wind so I decided not to go there and stayed around the Ipsoot area, exploring the ice fields and crevasses.  Then it was over to the flanks of Sugarloaf and then the shade was full-on, and it was the giant glide to the Pemberton LZ while Alex landed at the Miller Beer Farm to get his first entry in the "Paragliding PubTag" game.

Igor and Vlad made it to Squamish and return, hats off to them for pushing despite the low cloud base and not great-looking conditions!

June 29 Woodside

Today was a hard day to predict, since the actual flying conditions didn't match up with the forecast and the opening-up skies was very delayed.  We were initially thinking of heading to Mt. St. Benedict (and a group did go there) but we eventually decided on Woodside instead with the overcast skies and the fact WS usually opens up first.

But it turned into a much different day.  A slow start at Woodside and also Mt. St. Benedict, and cu's in nonstandard spots, and unexpected rain cells.  Alex was able to cross the valley to Bridal by going straight over Rosedale, and I was able to fly west via Harrison Knob since Sasquatch mountain was in the shade.  The MSB pilots were just launching when I was crossing to Harrison Knob and we ended up meeting up near Big Nick, where Peter ventured into the Norrish Creek area and I poked my head in ;)

Then it started to rain on us, so Peter and I went on a giant glide to Kilby in the shade to land at Eagle Ranch.  Of course the sun came back out about 30 minutes later!

Meanwhile over at Bridal Alex got rained on a bit as well and decided to land in Agassiz.  The MSB pilots were also raining out of the skies over Woodside so there was a bit of carpooling to get everyone back to where their cars were.

Grouse Mountain June 25

Overdeveloping in the Fraser Valley but still fun on the coast, east winds up high meant the OD was slowly making its way towards us but lots of time to enjoy the scenery.  6 pilots out at the same time so we actually had others to fly with!
Grouse Mountain with coast range in the background.
Brett went over to Cypress Mountain and back while Alex went back to Dam Mountain, but the east wind made me not want to venture too far back and get caught back at Crown.

Pemberton June 11 and 15

Cloudbase around 3000m under very cloud-sucky clouds!
Both were average days at Pemberton, I turned around at Copper Mountain both times since it was overdeveloping a bit and didn't want to get caught on the wrong side of a big cloud.  I think other pilots may have gone a bit further, North Creek etc, but most pilots were being pretty conservative.  One pilot got sucked to 3800m when cloud base was around 2900m and after some SIV maneouvers, eventually popped out with a very wet glider and a greater appreciation for cloud suck!

June 11th flight.
June 15th flight.

Getting a bit funky...time to land!

Trip to Oregon coast June 3-8

It's been a while since going coastal ridge flying and it looked like a stretch of good coastal winds coming up in the forecast, and it coincided with some time off, so Alex and I decided to head down to Oregon to check out the flying sites there.  Site Guide to Oregon Coast.

Oregon has oodles of coastal flying sites, but many of them work best just before, or during, cold fronts passing through.  When that happens the usually too-cross wind straightens up into some form of westerly, and all of a sudden a lot of ocean sites are available!

North side of Cape Kiwanda
We started off near Cape Lookout which is a big point sticking out into the Pacific, which means it will work even when there is a bit of north wind.  But not too much north wind, if that happens then it will be very difficult to get to the LZ in the sink, and given that there is no other LZ except the upwind beach, you will either go into the water (with tragic consequences) or you have to go over the back and attempt to land in the rotor/lee and whatever rocks/beach/whatever you can find.  It's a very dangerous site in summer when the north winds become more pronounced, and we were there just as the "dangerous" period was ramping up.  In fact we opted against flying there when we arrived since it was very north and the local pilots recommended against it, and to go to Kiwanda instead.

Cape Lookout at sunset
Cape Kiwanda is a sand dune which also sticks out into the ocean, giving a (small) playground in either south or north winds.  When it's busy there isn't a lot of room to play, but if you find yourself there on a quiet day, you have lots of room to kite up, do waga, practice your spin landings, and pretty much anything in between.  The south side is closed in summer due to dory launching, and the prevailing wind that time of year is north anyways, so go to the north side!

But if you are wanting more space you will want a bigger ridge or sand dunes.  We also explored Sand Lake (just south of Cape Lookout) and those dunes are certainly flyable in a westerly wind.  And since you probably have to walk out (it's also a motorized quad spot) you will almost certainly have the dunes to yourself.

En-route back to Cape Lookout and the campground (nice camping right at the LZ, tent and RV spots are available plus "warm" water showers we stopped at Cape Lookout and it was actually blowing more onshore and less north, so Alex opted to have a sunset flight while I took photos.  Cloudbase was pretty low and he reported having to make sure not to get cloud sucked around 1200' and it was quite strong in the air, but very smooth.

Oceanside is another flying site north of Cape Lookout.  It takes a SW wind and the day we were there it was too light winds so no flying but lots of beach walking and enjoying the super-low tides (it was actually minus numbers on the tide tables!).  Lots of other people were out enjoying the unusual access to the clams and mussels usually too far offshore to reach by walking out, and it was very atmospheric with the low cloud base and moody skies.

The tunnel connecting the beaches at Oceanside
Our last stop was at Fort Stevens near Astoria, right at the very extreme northern end of Oregon, where there are awesome sand dunes for 10-15 km and multiple access points.  Brad and Maren of Discover Paragliding run a school there, and they were very busy with both paraglider and Paramotor training.  You can access the sand dunes via Parking Lot B, or go to the Airedale shipwreck beach if you'd rather start from there.  Kite up in the venturi and you're good to go!  The dunes are very friendly with a gentle slope back, so getting dragged over the edge is not a big deal, and it's all sand and grass so no sharp or pokey bushes to brush against.  That site is a real treat, and works best in WSW winds of 15-20 kph.

Alex playing at the Airedale wreck site

Pemberton May 22-23

Alex and I went for a 2-day trip to Pemberton to enjoy the sun and heat and get away from the city for a bit.

Upper launch is now open, but this time of year it's often unnecessary to go all that way, lower launch will do just fine ;). Winds aloft were north so not much chance of a Whistler Express, but this time around there was a bit too much instability in the airmass so the skies clouded over and it was quite overcast.  Fortunately Alex and I were able to get off launch while the sun was still out, but the climb out was slow.  It took about 45 minutes to climb out to upper launch where the upper-launch-pilots were waiting for cycles.

Lots of shade came in to shut things down on Wednesday.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.
It was still lightly soarable in the shade and I went as far as Frasier Peak before turning back and heading for the LZ.  Alex made it a bit further before turning back as well.  There was quite a bit of Meager wind that came though the LZ later on in the day, I think a cell in Pemberton Meadows was pushing some wind out from it since it was very episodic.

One Mile Lake, I'm sure it's still cold since it's only May!
The next day Alex and I hiked up to lower launch while we got our glider bags sent up via the shuttle.  The hike is very nice with lots of open views and can be done in a very leisurely 2 hours (although I think the regulars do it in 1.5 hours).

Overdevelopment and rain near D'Arcy.
Once on launch it was just getting "on" and pilots were laying out, another unstable day with possible overdevelop although we didn't see any from launch itself.  However once I got high enough over launch I could see the OD back at D'Arcy and along the Duffy Lake Road, so it was another "not go too far and get stuck" kind of day.  There was as cell dumping rain at Wedge Mountain, and cells dumping rain to the north and east, but to the south and west it remained OD-free.

There was a nice cloud street set up from Goat Mountain all the way to Athelstan, but I wasn't too enthused to fly underneath (or alongside) in case it decided to go kablooey like some other clouds and already done, so I turned around at Goat Mountain.  We were keeping a close eye on the OD but it was staying nice to the SW (and where the upper wind direction/weather was coming from).

More OD and rain east of Lilloet Lake.  To the SW it stayed nice though.
I got a super-high climb to almost 3600m right over upper launch, and I pulled out of the climb since cloud base was still way above me and I didn't want to stray into restricted airspace above 3810m.  I could see into Gates Lake and Birkenhead Lake easily, and it was still stormy back there, and there was some nice storm clouds brewing down Lilloet Lake/Mt. Matier, so I opted to land.  However it was going off over the valley and I spent about 30 minutes bopping between 1100 and 1300m, before finding a patch of sink and coring the sink to land.  Alex came in shortly afterwards and then on the drive back the Sea To Sky Highway we saw all sorts of OD behind Whistler and to the east (it sounds like the Fraser Valley OD'd as well).  Some awesome lenticular spaceship clouds came in later on as the next front moved in from the West.
Dusk at Porteau Cove.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

Bridal Falls May 19

Didn't time this day very well; got up to launch very early (1pm) and I figured I'd wait for a bit while some others launched, then the clouds came in from behind launch and shaded everything out.  By the time a sun patch came through and I got off launch, it was in the process of overdeveloping behind the Bridal/Cheam range and raining at Jones lake and the Butterfly.

Scratched around for a bit until finding something substantial, then it was all of a sudden too good and everyone was wanting to land.  So it was a short flight although the rain held off on launch itself, and Tom Clarke was able to do another round with this students later on.  Later in the afternoon it also overdeveloped over in the Norrish Valley.

View of the clouds brewing over the Norrish Valley from the Bridal Falls LZ.

Mt. St. Benedict May 5

This weekend was the Woodside fly-in but the flying was looking better at Mt. St. Benedict so a bunch of us went there.  The flying out to Dewdney was a bit bumpy but the air at Dewdney itself was lovely, with lots of immature bald eagles to fly with; they were very inquisitive and would come up close to check us out.

Peter went to Hatzic Lake while a bunch of us crossed over to the Steelhead hills, but it was very lee side over there (the west wind had kicked in) and several pilots landed at the Durieu school.  Claudia and I managed to make it back up in the lee and back to the Virtue LZ, where it was very lifty as it usually is in the afternoons.  Nice dip in the Cascade Falls Park river and then back home before dark, very civilized!

Woodside April 24

Today was a tough day to go places and get high.  Even though I only ended up in Agassiz, it took me  over 4 hours to eventually get there!   Cloudbase did eventually lift to 1600m, but only in certain spots, and with the Fraser River water level quite high, the crossing over to Bridal was not a gimmee. I opted to land at the school in Agassiz and get some A&W onion rings instead :)

Pemberton April 20

First trip to Pemberton for 2019 and it turned into a really nice day; lots of pilots showed up!  The snow in the valley bottom up Pemberton Meadows had just melted as the sun was now high enough in the sky to shine into the valley, but the Pass itself was still fully snowed-in.  Light north winds made the run out to North Creek easy, but it was cold even though we were only getting to 2700m!

The Hurley Pass FSR is still fully snowed-in.

Meanwhile the snow has finally melted in Pemberton Meadows.
Had a nice low save over by the mountain bike parking lot and made it back to launch to top-land and drive Paddy's truck down.  The snow on the road is almost gone, there is just a few patches left which the trucks will make short work of in a week, then we can drive all the way to lower launch!

Mighty Mt. Currie at the end of the day.

Woodside and Bridal April 15

It was an awesome-looking day with beautiful cu's, but there was a bit of north wind forecast, and you could see it in the slightly-bent-over clouds in the Fraser Valley.  But we were hoping it was manageable and would allow us to fly XC (usually north wind in the Fraser Valley means XC won't be as good, or rough).

The new launch carpet looks fantastic and covers pretty much the entire launch area, many thanks to the crew who installed it last week!

It was cold up at 1300 m (cloudbase at 12:30 pm) and the first people to fly west to Sasquatch mountain reported it was very rough and turbulent, as well as windy from the north, so it didn't sound too fun.  But a few people braved the roughness and flew to Dewdney or Mt. St. Benedict and back, while I turned around at Harrison Knob to slowly climb back up over the construction site and back over launch.  Cloudbase was slowly climbing, but the north wind wasn't backing off, in fact it seemed to be strengthening, so I imagined a run to Agassiz Mountain or Bear Mountain would be as rough as Sasquatch Mountain was.

But cloubase was getting higher as the afternoon went on, and with the north wind we realized that we would have a pretty easy flight to Bridal, direct, simply by getting high at launch and pointing at the Bridal launch.  Finally got to 1850 m over Woodside and did the direct line to Bridal launch with Alex and Peter, while a crew drove over to Bridal to join us.

Mighty Mt. Cheam with a coating of fresh snow.
Upon arriving at Bridal Alex reported a hang glider on launch (!), shortly thereafter he launched and flew down to the Bridal LZ, where he clipped the windsock and bent/broke a downtube.  Apparently he is a novice HG pilot from Agassiz who had heard of HGs flying from Bridal back in the day, and found the launch after some wrong turns on the logging roads up.  It's too bad there aren't more HG pilots locally for him to learn with and he's more-or-less forced to DIY.  Even flying with the PGs would be useful for him.

It was still north wind at Bridal but a tad less rough vs. the Woodside side.  Cold though!, and spending hours at 1600+ m and my (admittedly expired) hand-warmers stopped working about halfway through the flight.  Cheam was spectacular with the fresh snowfall and the trees still had snow in the boughs, it's still winter in the mountains!

With the return of spring comes the return of bald eagles mating and finding spots to nest.  There are lots of juveniles out this time of year and they are very curious and will come right up to you when thermalling if you remain predictable.  An immature bald eagle joined me near Archibald and we were wingtip to wingtip as we thermalled up to 1800 m.  I actually had to fly a bit faster than usual to keep up with him/her but it was great fun to be banked up, going up, with a friendly eagle only a few feet away.

There is still plenty of snow above 1000 m!
Finally after almost 5 hours I was pretty cold and tired and ready to land, and Paddy's truck was on launch, needing to be driven down since we didn't have a driver, nor a retrieve vehicle arranged.  Both Alex and I looked at top-landing, but with the strong NE wind it was tough to come in low enough over the rock to make the landing...we kept getting boosted up at the last minute by the abundant thermals coming off the cliff face.  You needed to come at it almost from below launch and use the lift to pop up at the right instant.  Unfortunately if you get it wrong you're in the trees or cliff, since doing a top-landing approach

from that direction involves coming over a sheer cliff instead of more friendly trees if you are coming in from the traditional side.  So after a few tries we gave up, at which point Peter did a few tries and managed to get it in (not prettily, but it did the trick), saving us a walk up to get the truck.  Many thanks Peter!

Mt. St. Benedict March 30 and 31

What an awesome period of weather we just had!  Usually when we get several "sunny" days in a row, it actually stables out and becomes less good after day 1.  But this time it stayed unstable, at least in the Miracle Valley, for 3-4 days.

Saturday we had a bit of overdevelopment deep in the backcountry, but nothing too serious out front, so it was a good day to work out the kinks and look longingly to the north.  Really stable out in the Fraser Valley, you could see the haze and inversion as soon as you left the Miracle Valley.  Cloudbase was somewhere above the legal airspace limit of 1981m, so it was tough to stay below that if you weren't careful!

Sunday was The Day however.  Similar conditions to Saturday, but no OD in the backcountry, and the winds remained light, and the cloudbase was somewhere around 2300m.  This time I resolved to head north and explore some of the more remote peaks.  Fortunately because it was a weekend there was oodles of traffic on the backroad FSR's...I could see lots of quads and trucks and bikes, so if I had to land back there I had a reasonable chance of getting a ride back to civilization.

Looking down at Hemlock Ski Resort on my way to the Chehalis FN community LZ.
Heading north to Statlu Peak I had Kevin, Claudia, and Rod Frew in tow, but after getting low on Statlu they opted to turn around (I think Claudia headed to the Norrish Valley to join up with Peter).  But I was hungry for some more north-action so after topping up I jumped even further back to Jasper Peak, at which point I was beyond the lower airspace limit, and allowed to legally get higher than 1981m.  I took full advantage of that by going to 2300m under cloudbase and then headed east towards Chehalis Lake where I could see a steady stream of vehicles heading in and out of that recreational area.

The clouds in the Norrish Valley were getting a bit large, and once getting to Chehalis Lake the 1981m airspace restriction kicks in again, making it tougher to successfully fly west back to Stave Lake.  Flew over the Hemlock Ski Resort and a nice landing at the Chehalis First Nations community, where Martin N offered to retrieve me.  Many thanks Martin for doing that!

Meanwhile Alex had flown to Mt. Judge Howay and return for his own epic flight, and Igor flew halfway up Harrison Lake before returning to the Fraser Valley to close his 100km triangle.  It was an awesome day at Mt. St. Benedict, one of the few where the winds and cloudbase conspired to give almost-perfect conditions.

March 31 flight.

Woodside March 23

The winter in Vancouver has been long and the snow has stuck around for quite a bit, so the launch access has been delayed a couple of weeks while the snow melts.  But today was the day to get some XC in!  It was a sunny weekend day and it was so nice to see everyone out after a long 3 month hiatus.

But flying was calling and it was tough to figure out where to go.  Cloudbase was going to be quite low, something like 1300m at best, but it was also going to be very light winds, which is always nice when you are trying to make valley crossings from low down.  Also there are lots of sandbars to provide flatland thermals, and LZ's if need be ;)

Coming over Harrison Knob with Woodside in the background.  Lots of sandbars are available now!

Going west to Deroche was OK but the low cloudbase made thing challenging, although coming back via Harrison Knob was a nice touch.  Going over the back to Agassiz Mountain was easy, but there was some NW wind which made getting up at Bear difficult for those who arrived low...if you arrived above the bench you had a much better chance of getting up.  Lots of people crossed over to Ludwig and then Bridal/Gloria/Elk/etc, but I decided to go to Green Hill and try it out.  The clouds were cycling there so it was a nice challenge to stay alive between cycles.  I eventually got high at the Bear end, high enough to re-cross back to Agassiz Mountain, and then ride the spine back to Woodside, just squeaking over the ridge behind launch and into the 15 kph headwind.

The day started off quite shady but by the end of the day, it had blued up nicely and was possibly flying in the bigger mountains.  Cloudbase never got above 1400m so well done to those who flew to Bridal and back to Woodside successfully!