Grouse Mountain September 22

 Probably the last good thermic day at Grouse for the season.  The shade was coming in and it was blowing a bit from the east, so Alex and James launched and actually soared the SE face of the Peak.  I opted to head to the Cut and get up over took a bit longer than I expected but eventually I was able to get to cloudbase around 1500m and fade back to the bailout cliffs to join everyone else.

I think we had maybe a half dozen pilots out that day, enjoying one the final days at Grouse Mountain before the mountain closed down their summer operations in order to prepare for the winter season.

Grouse Mountain August 22

A nice and mellow flight at Grouse Mountain before the shade came in and shut things down.  Alex, myself, and Brett Hazlett went up for a flight...Peter Graf was already in the air and Russ Fretenburg joined us later on.  Difficult to get to cloud base which was around 1600m, but the approaching shade made the landing conditions nice and mellow, unlike most times at Cleveland Park!

Savary Island August 19

Alex and I had heard about a flying site on Savary Island and with the winds blowing SE for the next few days, decided to make a trip up the Sunshine Coast.  Tom Gregg, who was on Cortes Island already, came over on his boat to fly with us for a few hours too.

The primary launch site on the south face of Savary Island.  This is private property so ask permission first!

Myself and Tom Gregg over Savary Island.  You can see how skinny the island is!  
Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont

Savary Island is not the easiest site to get to from Vancouver...2 ferries and then a water taxi to Savary, and then either a long hike (1 hour) or 15 minute taxi ride to the launch.  Fortunately the landowners were friends with a fellow pilot and offered to pick us up at the water taxi, awesome!

The alternate launch spot on the SW end of Savary Island.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

The landowners are lovely people and were quite happy for us to hang out at their property, even feeding us lunch and allowing us to camp in their backyard!  The actual launch is also in their backyard and takes a S-SE.  SSE would probably be straight-in, but with the orientation of the island in the Straight, SE is probably the more common flying direction.

Make sure to check the tide status as high tide hides most of the beach.  Much of the south-facing part of the island is treed and only a few properties have open spots over the ocean.  This launch site is one of the few suitable for PG...there is also a spot near the SW side of the island near the sand dunes where you could launch from as well, but you definitely want some beach to land on, unless you want to commit to top landing at the takeoff site.  Normally toplanding would not be a problem, but the day we were flying it was spitting rain and with the slightly-wet gliders, we didn't want to risk stalling them on a top-landing approach and opted to land down near the sand dunes and walk back.

The following day it was howling SE wind (~40 kph) and clearly not flyable, and with the rain approaching, we decided to get back to the mainland!

Savary Island flying.

Fly Hills August 15

 The forecast was looking pretty good for the Northern Okanagan Valley and the local chat group was talking about flying Fly Hills, near Salmon Arm, so Alex and I joined in since we'd never flown this site.

Entrance to Fly Hills trail to launch.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont

Fly Hills is a late-morning site facing mostly south.  The "main" LZ is not that great, full of bushes and surrounded by tall trees, and the alternate was currently in crop, but we were planning on going XC anyways :). The plan was to hopefully fly to Mara Lake and join up with the afternoon crew there.

It was looking a bit on the stable side with strong south wind aloft, and once in the air the thermals were a bit ratty and broken up, and it was quite difficult to get to 2000m.  Alex, myself, Dan, and Richard were able to get away and over the back to the antenna overlooking Tappen, and then it was a long glide across to Sunnybrae.

(Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont)

Until now, it had been blowing south up high, but at Sunnybrae it was actually blowing east-ish, so we were in the lee while trying to get up on the cliffs.  It was not working, so Richard backtracked towards Tappen to look for something more in the lee and away from the venturi coming around the corner.  It worked for him, so Alex and I joined and were able to get up to 2200m for the glide across to Canoe.

Gliding across to Sunnybrae cliffs.

Once again it was blowing south up high so the glide across Shuswap Lake was into wind, but as we dropped lower it became east and north again!  And the terrain we were approaching was quite low-angle and facing west...not a good combination for getting back up, especially as it was quite blue and stable over Canoe.  Richard and Dan were able to get a bit further but Alex and I ended up landing near South Canoe for a rockstar pickup by Robyn, Richard's wife.  Thanks Robyn!

Gliding across Shuswap Lake from Sunnybrae to Canoe.

After finding Dan and Richard it was onwards to Mara Lake for an afternoon session.  I chose not to fly and drove the truck down (it's a long retrieve otherwise!) while everyone else flew around for a bit before landing at the Mara LZ at Little Green Ranch (remember to sign in ahead of time!).  All in all a good day of flying at a new site with some XC!

Fly Hills XC to South Canoe.

Gliding across Shuswap Lake from Sunnybrae to Canoe.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

Grouse Mountain August 12

 With Covid-19 affecting regular Grouse Mountain operations, we actually had a really pleasant experience!  No lineups at Guest Services to get our ticket, no lineup at the gondola, only 5 people on the gondola, and the staff turned on the Peak Chair for us to save the hike up the last part!

Heading out to land as my hands were getting cold!

It was pretty strong in the air and Capilano Lake had catspaws and gusts showing, so no landing for the next little while!  The cu's were big but slowly shrinking, while in the back, and in the Fraser Valley, it looked like it was overdeveloping, very dark, and possibly some rain in spots.  But cloudbase was around 1800m and it was easy to get high (and cold!) around Dam Mountain.  Alex and Greg went back to Crown Mountain but didn't stick around that's a long glide back if you get low in the shade back there!

It was a pretty quiet day at Grouse with only 4 pilots (the day before was 10) so we were able to social distance quite easily in the LZ.  And as per usual,the LZ was active and with the trees getting taller each year (and we're not allowed to cut them!), the landing zone feels smaller and smaller each time, necessitating good spot landing skills whilst handling thermals, wind, and turbulence.

Grouse Mountain Aug 13 flight.

Deadman's Savona July 21

Another road trip, this time to the Savona/Cache Creek area, for some desert and heat!

This area is smoking hot and dry this time of year, so you have to be careful about where you park (not on dry grass, for example), and we are always looking for swimming spots.  Launch was its usual dry spot, and we came upon the Sea-to-Sky Paragliding school on launch with some students.  And over on the HG launch we could see a few hang gliders set up.

The forecast was for north wind up high, switching to east, and in the air it was definitely north!  It was scrubbing down from the Deadman Valley, making the thermals hard to track, and they were very spotty and broken up.  It took a very long time to get high enough to push north, and there was lots of sink in between the lift.

Sunset at Deadman PG launch.
To the north of launch are several small lakes up on the plateau so that's where I spent most of my time, since I had decided I didn't like the conditions enough to want to go XC.  But I was able to get to 2900m (cloudbase seemed to be maybe another 100m higher) and keep an eye on Simon and Alex.  Several times I considered toplanding in the upper meadow, but with the north wind (actually going east as the afternoon went on) and the slopiness of the meadow, I wasn't sure it would be an especially good idea and decided to eventually land at the International LZ and the car.

The International was very active with moderate east wind and the S2S folks were over at the Dump doing kiting and waiting for the east wind to increase enough to fly.  Off to pick up Simon and Alex, and then it was time for a swim since the temperature was near 35C!

Bridal Falls July 13

While Alex and Brett H were hiking and flying from Mt. St. Benedict, I decided to hike up Bridal and meet them there.  Lots of fellow hikers on the road up, and the salmon berries have been replaced with thimble berries!

Up on launch it was nice cycles, and after drying off I took off and immediately beamed out to the saddle area.  Decided to fly east first, with Tom Gregg following me, and we climbed up to cloudbase around 1800m in front of Cheam, at which point we parted ways as I continued east to the Lakes.

There was quite a bit of west wind already (it was forecast to be windy from the west) so I didn't want to go far east, so I turned around and back to launch, where there were a bunch of pilots "knob-bobbing".  Onwards to Elk Mountain and on the way I saw a few hikers on the Gloria lookout, and some pilots already returning from Elk.  Strangely enough, it was less windy at Gloria/Elk that it was at the Lakes, despite the nearby Chilliwack Valley being a wind-funnel, so the going was actually easier than I thought.

Now Alex and I had planned to topland at Upper Bridal to do some maintenance, and invited some other pilots to join us, but it was quite strong toplanding conditions on Upper Bridal.  Alex and I were the only ones to make it in.  The trees on the "usual" toplanding approach to the east are getting quite high, and the trees below launch will be a problem in a few years too.  But launch itself is still quite usable and bare dirt and rocks for the most part.

Upper Bridal launch.
After a hour or so of maintenance we relaunched and it was still quite strong flying conditions and easy to stay up, but very smooth out in the Fraser Valley.  All in all a very nice day with a nice hike and a nice toplanding!

Osoyoos and Oliver July 8-11

Time for a short roadtrip to the Southern Interior, where it's dry and hot!  There is a small collection of flying sites in the South OK which Alex and I have never flown, and with the lightish winds it seemed like the place to be.

After making plans with the local pilots we rendezvoused at the Ripley LZ, which is situated below a hike-up site facing NE and the morning winds.  Apparently it's often ridge soarable in the early morning as the morning winds come off the lakes to the north, before the daytime heating takes over and establishes the usual SW routine.

The hike up is easy and about 30 minutes (it's a low site and easy to sink out!) of grassland hiking, to a large launch which also doubles as the toplanding area.  Lots of space to layout and a nice tree to hide under for shade.  Make sure when flying there to not overfly the house below and to the south of launch...the landowner likes his privacy!  The local housethermal appears to be to the south of launch, unless it's windy enough to ridge soar in which case you can explore the entire slope!

Across the road/trail and to the north is Otto's, another hike-up site which faces roughly the same direction as Ripley...there were pilots at both launches, so it's mainly a personal preference thing.  Apparently the Otto launch is smaller so less toplanding opportunities available, and more a morning thermal site.

Ripley launch with Otto's launch in the midground.
After launching I was able to get up to the south of launch and then it was almost to cloudbase before Alex and Peter R. joined me on the back ridge, and then Alex and I flopped over the back to the "back back" ridge, which is set quite far back from the valley LZs.  In fact we didn't have the glide back to the valley, and had we not gotten up, would have had to land at one of the 3 lakes up there (which all have roads) and walked out.  And it wasn't a gimme back there either...we had to scratch around for a bit before getting high enough to make the glide back to the valley.

I pushed north for a bit but the north wind was quite strong and hard to push north, and the further north you go the close to you get to the Penticton airport.  In fact the airspace around Ripley is restricted to 6500' have to fly south to Oliver before you can legally go higher.  With this restriction I decided to stay local and play around the bumps in the middle of the valley, which are low angle and a bit technical, but fun to fly around and sightsee into the small valleys in amongst the small hills.  There was a fair bit of air traffic out of both Penticton and Oliver so I had to keep my eyes peeled!

Eventually I radioed that I was going to fly SE to the west-facing side of the valley and crossed low to the other side.  But with the 6500' limit and the low-angle-ness of the far side, coupled with the north wind scrubbing along the sides of the mountains, it was hard to get up on the other side and I ended up landing in a scrubfield alongside the mountain road to Baldy sky hill.  Meanwhile Alex and others were landing at the LZ to reconvene at Anarchist later that afternoon.

Ripley flight

Over at Anarchist later that afternoon it was quite strong on launch.  Unlike the friendly Ripley launch, Anarchist is a steep bluff with lots of hot rocks baking in the sun directly underneath, with lots of straggly trees and rocks to catch on if you get dragged back, so you want to get it right the first time!
Looking at Osoyoos lake and the US border.

The wind had switched to SW but it was strangely "weak" lift, so even though the cycles on launch were medium-strong, I didn't find the lift to be super-abundant.  Lots of thermals, yes, but disorganized and falling apart, so difficult to get high.  But very scenic with Osoyoos lake in front (a nice way to see any wind coming, BTW!) and the Sonora Dunes Golf Course directly underneath, the lush green fairways contrasting nicely with the surrounding brown desert.  In fact the golf course is where we landed, and it was a very nice to pack up indeed!   (Try not to land there while they are open, but instead after they close, usually after 5pm, and even then, use a fairway that is not still in use, and move off to the side.)

Anarchist flight


Pemberton Vol Bivy July 5-6

With a stretch of nice weather coming up Alex and I decided to do a vol-bivy at the Copper Mine site, about 23 km from MacKenzie launch.  But we planned to do a big flight before then, to Spindrift or Athelstan, and then topland on the way back.

Toplanding party at Copper!
However it was quite stable on launch and took me ~30 minutes to get over the ridge and starting along the Owl ridge.  Many other pilots who launched were also "stuck" or landed after an extended scratch session.  But eventually I managed to get away, and as per usual, once at Barbour, the flying got better (although not as much as I anticipated).

It was weirdly SE at Goat, and thermalling I was drifting into the Hurley Pass but not getting very high, and didn't want to cross the Pass on a SE, and the air was feeling not that great, so I bailed on flying to Spindrift.  Flying back to Copper there was already a crew who had top-landed, as well as a bunch of pilots trying to get down within the abundant was quite strong on top and a few pilots were dumped or landed in the snow in the rotor behind the bivy spot.  Ideally, we would have toplanded a few hours later, after flying XC and it had calmed down a bit.  Toplanding during the strongest part of the day is not recommended for those trying this spot for the first time!

Vol bivy crew watching everyone else relaunch for Pemberton.
After being patient and allowing the pilots in front of me multiple attempts to topland, I was able to make it in with little drama and enjoy the views.  Those who had toplanded but needed to relaunch for work the next day etc, had to wait a few hours for it to calm down enough to relaunch safely.  Alex and I were quite happy that we didn't need to relaunch until tomorrow morning ;)

The clouds meant we could sleep in without being awakened by sun at 5am!
Also vol-bivy-ing were Jim Orava and Alastair Collis, so we had a nice small group to watch the sunset.  As there was still snow behind launch we didn't even have to hike down to the lake for water, and the early-ness of the season at 2000m meant the bugs were still nonexistent, unlike camping in the Pemberton valley ;)

Breakfast while waiting for the cloud to lift. 
Surprisingly we awoke to being enshrouded in cloud, so even though it was blowing in we had to wait for VFR conditions.  And when it did eventually clear, it was a beautiful sight with the sun shining through the mountain peaks!

Flying back to Pemberton in the clouds.
Flying back we anticipated gliding to the beer farm, but since we had waited for it to clear, it was late enough in the morning that the south faces were already working, so Alex, Alastair, and I eventually made it back to the Pemberton LZ (Jim landed at the beer farm).  It was a bit of a challenge since the Riverlands No-Land Zone was en-route and it was barely thermic enough to get high enough on the south ridges to make it past this section.  But it was very satisfying to make it back to the car!

Flight to Goat and then toplanding at Copper.

Flight back to Pemberton


Lower Bridal June 17

Decided to hike up Bridal...nice shade for pretty much the entire way, and lots of water available on the way up (using a filter!).  Met Martin N on top who was just getting ready to launch, but we chilled for a bit before he took off.  It stayed mostly overcast for most of the afternoon, so pretty much everyone who flew that day ended up with knob-bobbing flights.  A bit disappointing given the fact it was supposed to clear up, but hey the hike was nice!

Mt. St. Benedict May 27

After getting Al to drive our gliders up with his students, we hiked up the trail.  Light north wind all around and I was thinking of flying into the Norrish Valley while Alex wanted to go deep.

Kevin and Brad were with me when I decided to go into the Norrish but they bailed on entering the valley and flew back to Woodside via the conventional route.  At Rose Peak it was not that nice, in fact it sucked!  And the only place to land at that point was the water reclamation plant next to Norrish Creek.  But I was able to find a climb in the lee of Big Nick, enough to get high enough to cross over into the Fraser Valley, where the air was much nicer, smoother, and lots of LZ options then.

Crossing back to Dewdney was easy in the light east wind, and there is a new cut block on the east side of Dewdney with road access.  But the bottom of the cut block may have too-tall trees in front, not sure if it could become a morning site?

Flying back along the Miracle Valley was actually a headwind in the north wind, and not a gimme.  But landed at the LZ and then it was time to chase Alex who had flown the back route and then crossed Harrison Lake to the Bridal side.

A bit of an issue as Tom G landed behind Archibald and had to hike down to the end of the Bridal FSR where Bev was waiting for him.  Fortunately it was an uneventful landing for him and he was back in the LZ within a couple of hours, no in-the-dark-hiking for him!

Mt. St. Benedict to Rose Peak and return flight.

Pemberton May 18-19

A couple of sunny hot days in Pemberton!

Hiked up again via Reid Road and lots of pilots at lower launch this time, many are using the front trail despite reports of a bear sow and cubs near that trail.

Started going down Owl Ridge but turned back since it was getting shady that way, and looked to be for quite some time.  Instead it was sunny over by the Duffy Lake pass so a bunch of us went over the back to Lil'wat Mountain and then the Duffy pass entrance.  I saw some pilots flying deep into the pass and not sure what happened to them, it wasn't very sunny in there and I was guessing there was plenty of "canyon suck" for those low and deep.  I stayed out front and connected with the front of the various Duffy peaks, easy to get to cloud base at 2800m and surf along the ridge there along Lilloet Lake to Twin Goat Peak.

Crossing the Duffy Lake Pass with Lilloet Lake below.  Mt. Currie to the left and the Pemberton airport airstrip visible at its foot.

I turned around at Twin Goat although some others went a peak or two further before turning back too.  At the entrance to the Duffy the wind had indeed picked up and it was a bit of a slog to get back across the pass, and below 2000m it was quite windy from the SW and rough.

Since the car was at Reid Road I decided to cross back to MacKenzie via the Coyote launch, also we weren't getting high enough for a direct crossing to MacKenzie.  If I landed short, it would be near th car anyways ;). But I found lift along the Coyote ridge all along to Ivy and Mosquito lakes, enough to get me around the corner at MacKenzie and back up high.  Several pilots crossed back via the Mt. Currie route, and Tom landed behind MacKenzie in the rotor, in one of the various gravel pits lining the road to D'Arcy.

In the end I landed at the school LZ to get Tom's car and it was getting a bit Whistler Express-y with lots of lift over town, but only mildly.  Just enough to keep me on my toes!

MacKenzie to Twin Goat and return flight.

The following day was much mellower, I flew out Goat Peak and return after a slow start (it took about 40 minutes to get to upper launch height!).  Coming back the Whistler Express was just starting up so a bunch of us opted to land at the old Festival grounds.  When I landed it was still a nice 10 kph breeze, but when Alex and Pete landed it had picked up quite a bit from the Pemberton direction.  Good thing the field is huge and lots of room to land!

MacKenzie to Goat Peak and return flight.

Sunset from our campsite near Mt. Currie.

Dewdney Bench May 15

That was a long and bushwacky hike up to the Bench!  I won't be doing that route again anytime soon... :)

And then when we arrived it was blowing very west, almost 90 degrees cross from the right.  After drying off in the sun the clouds came in and it was getting shady, and Alex managed to launch in a very cross west cycle, and actually launched to the west instead of the SW.  I had to wait about an extra hour for a straight in SW cycle, and by that time it was overcast, but I just wanted to get off launch and didn't mind if it turned into a sled ride at that point.

Drying out after a bushwack hike.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

But it was unexpectedly lightly lifty over to the west side over the gravel pit, and I was soon at cloud base at 1500m.  Flew over to the Steelhead side and it was nicely lifty over there too, easy to stay up over the houses on the bluffs overlooking the NW end of Lake Hatzic.  There were a few gliders in the air from Mt. St. Benedict but it looked much shadier out that way, so I was happy to be at the sunnier end of the Miracle Valley.

The LZ next to the greenhouses was chest-high grass, fortunately it was dry underneath and easy to pack up in, and then it was a wade-through-the-grass-fest out to the gate.  And it was still blowing NW in the LZ (opposite to the usual south direction), so it was rather an unusual wind direction day overall.

Dewdney Bench flight.

Pemberton May 7

With Covid-19 making rides up difficult, Alex and I decided to hike up via the Reid Road way, to shave off the first 200m or so from the gravel pit.

Took us 1 hour 20 minutes, going at my slow pace, and arrived at Lower Launch to a few pilots already hiked up ahead of us, and more following later on.  

Nice launch cycles and and easy climb out to upper launch, which is still in snow along with the road.  Cruised out to Goat Mountain and almost 3000m several times, which this time of year is really cold!

Since our car was at Reid Road, logistically it was easiest for both us to top land and drive a truck down, rather than land at the LZ and risk our agreement with the SLRD during Covid-19 times.  Coming in to land, there was unexpected sink on my final and I landed a bit short by maybe 20 feet with not much energy to flare, not a big deal but everyone coming in was experiencing the same thing.  Need to practice my energy generation and retention for those no-step flare landings!

Woodside March 19

A rather "meh" day with lift barely to 1000m.  After a while of bobbing around launch I decided to fly out to land, and found an unexpected thermal just east of Kilby beach.  Gained over 100m in that light bubble!  When going out to land I noticed the property just short of FlyBC was being sprayed, so I needed to not land short, made it with ~80m of altitude to spare!

March 19 flight.

Contrail casting an interesting shadow in Agassiz!

Mt. St. Benedict March 18

Hiked up the new trail after giving our bags to Al, who was driving up with students.  The new trail is very nice, easy to follow and cushioned needles underfoot, which was nice after the first part of the hike on the old gravel road.

Got up to 1800m+ and stopped due to the airspace at 1981m, didn't want to bust!  Flew down to Dewdney Peak, partway back, then crossed over to the Steelhead side to fly the small hills over there.  Not much lift over there but as per usual, there was plenty of valley lift to get me back to the LZ and no retrieve needed!

Mt. Woodside March 9

First flight of 2020, time to dust off the cobwebs and get the gear ready for another season!

Cold at cloud base and flew around launch for an hour and a half, not quite high enough for me to want to cross west to Sasquatch.  Top landed to drive a truck down.