Tuesday, July 21, 2020

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!


Monday, July 13, 2020

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!


Saturday, July 11, 2020

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'...you 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


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Monday, July 6, 2020

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 lift...it 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





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