Friday, April 08, 2011

Cold, crisp Spring day in the air.

It's finally starting to turn on a bit here in Leavenworth for some flights. The forecast was looking decent but a bit out of the North. I had just organized my gear for high and cold spring flying conditions the night before so I was all set to go. That North wind... usually, you want the wind to be blowing up the launch so it is easier to take-off. Since it was so sunny and the launch faces the morning sun, we call it lee-side, I thought it would work anyway. Thermals form on the sunny side of a slope in the morning until the sun clocks around to the west side later in the afternoon. If I could get off of the launch properly it would be fine and I knew there would be lift in the sunshine.
Unfortunately, nobody was around to go flying with me, but it was too good of a day to pass up. It is always more fun to have buddies in the air but this day the raptors would be taking good care of me. So, I started hiking up the mostly dry Icicle Ridge trail. We have been working on a launch site on one of the slopes up there, but have mostly had sledders, top to bottom flights. One day, I did manage to squeak out some lift to ridge level a couple hundred feet above launch back in February so I was hoping it would be even better this time with more April sunshine.
I arrived on launch 45 minutes later and 1500ft vertical above the valley floor in some nice thermic cycles blowing up the hill and the normal North wind blowing across the launch. After getting setup I was ready to launch off in my warm clothes. Once I was off safely, I banked it into the wind and saw a bunch of birds all around me in various spots along the ridge, climbing, and playing. I managed to scrape my way across the ridge towards Tumwater Canyon without much lift, but that was just a test to see what was out there. So, I glided back the way I came and started to feel the lift working again and seeing the birds were working with me in the sun. I managed to climb up and over the ridge from where I was over launch and finally out of the rougher leeside turbulence. Cruising along the ridge I managed to keep thermalling and working the lift back up Icicle Ridge. It was cool flying with the Falcons, Turkey Vultures and a bunch of Red-Tailed hawks to have as my temporary companions. Finally, climbing to the top of Icicle Ridge, I meet up at the SW facing corner and Icicle Canyon below, where I managed to establish myself in a nice climb to cloudbase.
Cloudbase was only at 6000ft MSL though. The nice cloud above my head formed and then dissipated within minutes. So, taking what I had gained in altitude, I ventured into the canyon a bit further. I did'nt manage to find much lift, only some chunky leeside air, but it was cool looking down at all the steep snowfields below. After a brief time in the canyon I set my sights on the North face of Wedge Mountain and Snowcreek Wall. A nice lifty and floaty glide took me there where I cruised around Wedge Mountains North face for a bit in broken, weak lift. A nice cloud and cloud street to my South were forming but I wasn't able to get high enough to hook in to it. If I did, well I think I would've had a good chance of flying over Blewett Pass, but it is still too early in the season. So, I ventured back on glide to the Mountain Home ridges but didn't find much lift, mostly just that cold chunky North wind that was picking up. I started getting low so I went in to the valley to setup an eventual landing.
My vario started chirping again and I started climbing and I was back up a couple thousand feet now over town. Happy to extend the mellow flight, I plugged along towards Peshastin and the highway but found no more lift. I ended up heading back to Ltown and landed at my buddy Tim's house and our new unofficial LZ. A beautiful sunny and nice spring day, and a great way to get the paragliding season started off circumnavigating the snowy peak around the Leavenworth valley. SM

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Chelan Butte Busted Open!

Five of us, Joe, Tim, Derek, Carson and myself decided to check out the Butte. We managed to drive up 2/3 the way up until snow stopped us from driving any further. No problem, start hiking, as we like to do in Central, WA. 25-30 mins and we top out with no one in sight except for the silence of the wind and sky enveloping us. It was windy and strong cycle were blowing up the Butte from the West when we got there. So we waited a bit and it seemed to switch to the SW as the forecast predicted. Then we got excited. Cycles were coming up strong but at least is was from a better direction between the rocks launch. Gearing up with the tension of the first big day out and strong spring air we started hucking off. Joe and Derek launched first and basically just took a pipe to cloudbase like it was a normal July day at the Butte. Next up, myself. Waiting for a giant cycle to fade before popping it up, I waited a bit longer and launched, straight up about 200ft climbing before the entire cycle faded out and I hit a wall of sink. Not good. At this point I watched as Derek and Joe headed out on glide somewhere towards the flats high and cold, while I grovelled below launch wondering when I had to bail to the LZ without bombing down below the Butte. Tim and Carson waited and watched and then decided to launch a ways after me since my scenario wasnt pretty. I headed out to the LZ and floated around there for awhile over the big soccer match. Tim and Carson looked to be going up and then going down a lot. I think we missed the window for the day since it had been getting thicker clouds. Eventually I landed with Tim and Carson not far after me. We watched as Derek flew out to the flats and then causually cruise back to the River where we were. Nice flight. Not really knowing where Joe went we saw a couple over airport ridge and figured one of them was Joe. We cruised back to his homestead and watched as he boated around the airport ridge for awhile. Thinking this was Joe, the airhog showing us what we missed, we headed out hungry for some tacos and home. Not until later on the way back to Wenatchee, Joe calls me and says hey where were you guys thinking we all spec'd out. He said Karen was picking him up past Bridgeport somehwere. We were dumbfounded thinking we saw him over the ridge for so long, but it wasnt him. He was on a nice little +50km flight up the Okanagon valley while we were eating tacos. Nice day, we were stoked somebody made it out there. Even though he froze his hands he pushed on through. Nice work Joe. Thats the Chelan Butte opener for you. High wild and lonesome in these parts, but thats the way we like it. Peace. SM

Monday, January 03, 2011

Last Day of the Tour, Awesome!

After a week of interesting weather conditions, wind, clouds, mostly winds we all flew to Jovan. Mark and Bart's first cross country flights to the Jovan were perfect. Congrats guys on flying high, safe, and far!