Tunnel Bluffs April 17, 2021

 This was my first time flying from this 950m hike-n-fly site in Howe Sound.  There is no road access and (for me) a 3.5 hour hike.  Fortunately this is an afternoon/evening site (faces west) so I had all day to make my way up there!

View of Mt. Harvey, Harvey's Pup, the East and West Lions, and Vancouver in the background.    Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

The forecast was for rather stable conditions down low, but the potential for high climbs to 2000m+ if you could break though the stability.  For me, it took almost 1 hour of scratching below 1000m before I finally found a climb around the SW corner of Mt. Harvey and climbed out to 1500m, where I could finally see the glory of the Coast Range, the East and West Lions, Brunswick Mt, and of course Howe Sound itself.  The highlight of the flight was ridge-soaring up the NW side of Harvey, and flying directly alongside the sheer rock cliff and underneath the cornices still overhanging on the summit.  I saw lots of footprints going up the summit of Harvey (and Brunswick as well) but no people...probably a good idea given the time of day (late afternoon) and anybody still up there that time of day would likely get caught up in the dark during the return trip.

Looking north up Howe Sound with Anvil Island on the left, Squamish just out of view on the far right.

There was actually a bunch of NW wind up high (we are allowed only to 1981m here, due to Class C airspace above this altitude) so it was upwind going north up high, but upwind going south down low :). I chose to stay local and enjoy the scenery, while Alex and Peter (it was Pete's first flight here too) flew north to Deak's Peak and then back.

Sunset glide out to the Brunswick beach LZ.  Gambier Island, Bowen Island, and Gibsons in the distance.

Uncharacteristically, there was little to no wind at the Brunswick beach LZ (normally there would be a typical flowing-up-Howe-Sound-seabreeze), so landing was a bit hot and of course there is all the driftwood and barnacle-encrusted rocks to avoid.  But the tide was still low so we had lots of space...perfect for no-wind landings!

A beautiful flying site, if you can handle the hike, with incredible views on-par with flying sites anywhere in the world.

The sunset view from Brunswick beach and our packing up spot.

Woodside triangle day April 11, 2021

 The forecast was looking very good, maybe one of the best XC days this year, so pretty much all the XC hounds were out in force today!  The forecast was for light north wind and high cloudbase, both recipies for a big triangle, or at least an out-and-return to Hope.  (Normally Hope is not in the cards due to the funneling effect of any valley wind, concentrating on that town to make it very windy.)

The north wind was causing a huge cu to form directly to the south, shading out launch, so it was closer to 11:30am before we could start launching when the sun came out.  Peter was first, and then myself, and a whole pile of others came shortly thereafter.

Today's windgram for Woodside!

I went straight up over the venturi between launch and the south knoll, and at 1100m I went for Agassiz Mountain.  I had a gaggle of 4 pilots chasing me but Alex caught up to me at Bear Mountain, where, unlike most north wind days, it was actually OK turbulence-wise, and we were able to climb out to 1500m for the glide to Hicks Mountain.

Hicks is a smaller mountain and usually has no clouds, but today the clouds were forming there as well, so it was not much of a delay to get high again for the glide to Squakum Peak.  Peter, ahead of us, said Squakum was not very nice in the north wind, and we discovered this as we had to glide around the lee of it to get to the larger Dog Mountain, which overlooks the Hope airport.

Dog Mountain was not very nice as well until you got high, the north wind meant most of the thermals were leaning out over the valley and were a bit messy.  But there were big clouds galore, so eventually I was able to get up to cloudbase, at which point I decided to turn around rather than do the extra 3km to Hope proper, and risk getting back lower in the less-nice air.

Crossing from Archibald to Green Hill.  Harrison Lake in the background; Agassiz in the foreground.

Going back I was liking the look of the highway #1 side of the river vs. the highway #7 side of the river, so after getting high at the west end of Dog Mountain I crossed the valley to Laidlay, trying to stay out of the narrowest part of the valley where the wind usually is strongest.  Arriving on the other side low, I had to scunge upwind to the sunny, windward (it was west wind down low at this part of the valley) side of Mt. Devoy to find a climb to get me out of there and into the nicer air up higher.  This happened to be directly over a group of people enjoying some target practice with a variety of firearms, so I was glad they weren't tempted to fire upwards ;)

Finally safely up high it was time to evaluate how to get around the Ludwig corner, which is another pinch-point for wind and usually no easy landings, fortunately this time of year there are lots of connected sandbars for outlandings.  I had to be patient and wait for a climb to get me to 1800m so I could push upwind and around/over Ludwig, at which point I knew I was in familiar territory and easy cruising of the Butterfly/Lakes/Cheam/Archibald stretch.

XContest.org top scores...look at all the Canadians!

Alex and Tom Gregg were still behind me, and I announced that I was recrossing the Fraser Valley via Green Hill since I had been watching cu's form repeatedly over that peak, followed by a continuous cloud over Agassiz Mountain.  Crossing over there was more north wind than I expected, so it was good thing I left Archibald at 1900m, in order to get to the very north end of Green Hill where the thermal was feeding the cloud.  Alex came in under me, and we both climbed out high enough for a comfortable glide to Agassiz Mountain, the waiting cu, and no worries about the Agassiz Prison airspace below us.

Home stretch to Woodside was easy, courtesy of a bunch of cu's forming the entire way (we had to keep an eye since cloudbase was higher than our allowed airspace altitude, over Woodside class B starts above 1981m), and Alex and I parted ways as he went to Banjo with Peter Spear, and I went to Sasquatch Mountain to stretch out the flight a bit.  Surprisingly, Sasquatch Mountain was lame and I thought I'd have to limp to Eagle Ranch for a landing.  But on the final glide to ER, I saw a group of eagles thermalling out at the base of Harrison Highlands and joined them to re-climb back out from 300m to 1300m.  I also had the pleasure of Martin Henry strafing me on his ATOS as he returned from his own giant triangle.

Western Canada XC Find and all the routes flown today in the Fraser Valley!

Of course, now I couldn't get down into Riverside since the sandbars were going off everywhere!  I figured a pilot could launch from Woodside, glide to Riverside, climb out on the sandbars, and repeat all the way to Agassiz.  Even at 5pm, pilots were still launching from Woodside and climbing to the giant cu which was still over launch, probably into airspace, and we could tell tomorrow's huge outflow conditions were starting up as the cu was forming from the NE and the wind started coming down Harrison Lake.

In the end we had a half dozen pilots go to Hope and return successfully, with many turning those flights into triangles.  Vlad and Igor flew up Harrison Lake and return after doing the Woodside-Big Nick run, making a triangle in that direction instead.  It was a rare day with light winds, high base, and strong conditions!  85km FAI triangle.

Lower MacKenzie April 3-4, 2021

 I was in Pemberton to cat-sit over the weekend, and brought my glider although early April is very early for Pemberton XC flights.

I decided to do the hike to lower launch on Sunday, and it's so early there are no bugs yet...yay!  The hike is snow-free, and the front part of launch is also snow-free, with maybe 6" remaining in the back top-landing area.  The actual parking lot is still fully snowed in however.

A fairly large crew showed up during the afternoon (both hikers and drivers) and the cycles started up around 1pm, with the occasional strong one coming through.  There was lots of clouds around, and I could see overdevelopment around Mt. Sampson, Birkenhead, and the Duffy Lake area.  So it was not to be a big XC day but rather stick locally.

OMG it was cold!  The air at cloudbase (2600m or so) was -10C, so I could only stay up that high for a few minutes at a time before sinking down to find some slightly warmer air to thaw out.

I did pop over to the Miller side of the valley (it was north wind up aloft) but no joy, so I had to limp back to the MacKenzie side.  Upper launch is still completely snowed-in with the hut buried under meters of snow, and the road to upper won't melt out anytime soon!

View of Squamish and the Chief from the Tantalus Lookout on a stable blue day.

The following day I opted to get a ride, and you can drive to ~10 minutes of lower launch.  Unlike the previous day, it was stable and blue, no cu's at all, a big change!  It was tough getting through 1000m, and many pilots kept around the lower launch, although I believe a few later pilots managed to get past Owl and out to the Barbour area.  I eventually landed due to the cold...

Lower Bridal March 31, 2021, test flight of Ozone Alpina 4 S

 My first Bridal flight of the season, and there is still a bit of snow on the launch.  Arriving on launch around 1:30pm, which is early, and the sun was still not yet on-face, with a little east wind about.

Even as we waited for the sun to come around it remained east on launch which made launching quite tough.  Even Alan (who normally launches very early and consistently) was having difficulties!

I was flying Alex's Alpina4, which we have since discovered has a tendency to "taco" (tips come up first, middle last) during light/no-wind forward launches (even with a perfect layout), and of course this is exactly what happened.  After a couple of tries I actually laid the glider out next to the picnic table near the top, pointing towards the lower part of the launch to the east, and took off that way towards the parking lot, doing a last-second diversion to dive off the edge and into clear air.

Lower launch is mostly snow free.

Once in the air it was light east, not as much as launch would have you think, but enough to be noticeable.  It was very stable and getting above launch was tough, so I spent most of my flight at- or below launch height, where you could stay indefinitely if you were so inclined.  Folks at Woodside were reporting similar stable conditions, and the Benny folks were having an easier time, so Mt. St. Benedict was probably the best site for today's conditions.

I was flying the Alpina4 near the upper end of the weight range (65-85kg), whereas I'm over on my usual glider (60-80kg).  So compared to the Lynx the A4 felt a bit floatier, and was softer in pretty much all respects (turning, brakes, agility, etc).  As a 5'1" pilot, I found the "bridge" between the B's and C's for rear-riser flying to be a bit too high to reach without stretching...taller pilots will probably not have this issue.

All-in-all, the A4 would be a nice C glider for the hike-n-fly pilot (although not for technical sites with a short and narrow runway and low or nil wind, where a perfect overhead inflation is required), or someone looking for a lightweight glider.  I've already ordered a Phi Allegro X Alps so the test-flight of the A4 was more for comparison's sake and because Alex has one!

Woodside March 13, 2021

 It was predicted to be a rather stable day, but Alex, Kevin, and Tom were going to be working on the lower trail section of the Woodside road, so I tagged along to hike up from their working spot.

Used the new upper trail section and it's pretty nice!  The main section is in the trees, nice and shady, and the last part is rather steep due to the fact it's pretty much a cliff face at that point, and it spits you out by the spot where the old hang gliding ramp used to be.  When walking up the final section, make sure to keep an eye out for launching pilots coming at you from above!

Met Martin and Mia who were flying their paragliders and it was lame-ish cycles so no rush to get ready.  Eventually they both launched and sunk out into Riverside as it was still quite still on launch and not even any birds coming by.

Eventually a group of more hike-n-flyers showed up and lobbed off in the heavy cirrus, myself included.  It was basically an extended sled ride at that point, although later on that afternoon it blued-up again with stronger sun and pilots were able to stay up for a hour +.  There were even 5 hang gliders on launch today.

Mt. St. Benedict March 8, 2021

 The snow is melting fast, and Al actually made it to launch with his truck, but the rest of us hiked up.  Once again the launch was snowy but melting away fast, exposing the black carpet!

It was only 4 of us on launch today and we took our time getting ready since it was blowing over the back for most of the day.  And in the air it was definitely north and east and pouring over the tops of the Miracle Valley mountains...it was a blue day and the predicted turnaround to inflow never really happened.  

A few cu's started to form around 3pm but they were very scrappy and leaned over the from the NE, although it started to get better for altitude gains (1600m or so).  But the Rasp did not really match up with the actual day.  And for those at Woodside, they had to wait until around 3pm before it stopped blowing over the back and became possible to take off.

Mt. St. Benedict February 24, 2021

 My first hike-n-fly of the season!

There is still too much snow on the Mt. St. Benny road to drive up, so everyone is hiking up via the new trail from Cascade Falls Regional Park.  It takes me just under 2 hours...most people will likely be faster ;)

Maybe a half dozen pilots on launch, with light cycles and some snow to run through, although not too deep.  By the time I got ready the cycles had strengthened and it was easier to take off vs. the earlier pilots.

Snowy Mt. St. Benedict launch.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

The shade was slowing coming in so I didn't get very high, maybe 1200m, and I turned around just past Allan Lake so I could make it back in the disappearing lift.  I believe a few other pilots went to Dewdney and made it back successfully as well.

Pretty much full shade in the LZ when I landed, although it re-sunned again for an hour or so later on, so it was maybe possible to fly for a 2-hour period today.  Spring is coming!

Mt. Woodside January 23, 2021

 After a fall and winter of no flying, things finally lined up and a bunch of us went out on a forecast that was calling for probable ridge-soaring conditions later in the day.

Up on launch we had lots of pilots, but all socially distancing, and light up-cycles.  The first few people who lobbed off sunk out, but then a few people started maintaining below launch over the cutbacks, so I joined them.

Sunset flight at Woodside.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont

I launched into a nice cycle actually, so I was able to get above launch (!) with Derek, until that thermal fizzled and then it was back to scratching at- or below-launch for the remainder of the flight.  Down in the LZ, we heard that Derek was heading back up, so we joined him and this time the predicted wind had arrived and it was nicely ridge soarable.  In fact it was quite strong in the air, and those back at the North cliffs were reporting 20+ kph of wind.  It was a pleasant surprise to get 2 flights in with the second flight being an easy-to-stay-up flight!