Saturday, April 20, 2019

76km XC flight from Mt Bakewell

I had been watching today for a week.

The GFS forecast had looked promising for the past couple of weeks.

It was forecasting decent lift, maybe 4000ft cloudbase and lots of puffy clouds to play with.

Yesterday I checked everything and compared models and decided it looked very promising indeed.

I was lucky enough to have my amazing wife along for a retrieve.

Driving to the hill the sky already looked like it was pumping, clouds forming and dissipating in minutes. Cloudbase looked around 3000ft already which was great for 10.30am.

By the time I got up top and was ready to launch it was just after 12pm.

As usual I had been timing and watching the cycles on launch and I got off in the lull just before a thermal came through. I could have gone with the first one, but I wanted a better idea of what to expect as it did not feel that cohesive.

The wind was strong enough to ridge soar and I was able to find a better thermal over by the towers that got me enough height to come back over the the East end of the hill and further in front.

I got a screamer and took it down wind.

The air was quite rough near the hill and I had plenty of opportunity to practice my active piloting skills.

I got one thermal after another, climbing until I had about 3000ft AGL and then going on glide. At some altitudes I had a 20kph tail wind that helped with my ground speed and glide ratio.

By the time I got the first cloud my fingers were numb and I was shivering. I should have worn more warm clothes. I am an idiot, I looked that the temp trace and thought I should be wearing all my alpine gear and yet I wished it would not be that cold instead.

I had some great collapses up near the cloud. No sweat, no stress. I love this wing, it exactly matches my ability and when it crevattes it is easy to deal with.

I'm finally at the point where I love and trust this wing and no longer have to deal with the terrified screaming monkey in my head when I am in rough air.

When I got to Northam I though I would land by the highway as I was freezing. But there was this really nice looking cloud within glide and once I got that beep-beep-beep I could not help myself and took the elevator to the top.

I did that all the way to Goomaling where I was definitely going to land as I was still frozen and my fingers were no longer operational. I wanted to take some footage of Goomaling as I thermalled over it but I could not feel my fingers and so could not feel the GoPro to find the button to turn it on.

Oh and I have Reynauds and I know I have to keep my core temperature high, and I have great cold weather gloves. It was all preventable. The monkey may not have been flying with me but he was certainly there during the preparation stage.

At Goomalling I was also definitely going to land because my bladder was screaming at me and had been for the last hour. The problem with staying hydrated is that most of it comes back out that way, especially when it get cold.

Again, I have external catheters and I had looked at the the day before and the monkey thought it looked complicated and uncomfortable and so I didn't bother. Idiot.

As I was setting up to land I saw this great looking cloud in front of me....You know the rest...

At some point then I used my speedbar I caught the bag and pulled it with my foot, this caused it to detach from the velcro at the rear and I had a 45kph 7C wind blowing on my crotch and legs. This was not helping with my cold problem.

The Galaxy S4 that I bought on ebay for $40 and that has been my faithful companion using XCTrack started acting weird during the HG comps, it would lose GPS lock periodically for a few seconds. That has been getting worse and it now loses it for long enough to mess up it's ability to be a useful realtime position indicator and as a result the thermal tracking and wind drift calculations are ruined.  It has made me go back to basics and spend my time thinking about the wind and reading the drift the old fashioned way, but it really makes me realise just how much easier it is to have a computer telling you what is happening.

So after Goomaling I was hoping for a glide down to the deck and I managed to engineer one by not looking at the clouds. Focus on the sheep on the ground, that's the trick.

I landed and relieved myself and then windmilled my arms until my fingers started working again.

I should have launched an hour earlier wearing all my alpine gear and I would have probably got to Wongan Hills.

It was still an epic day and I was home for dinner by 6pm.

I love Cottesloe!

On Thursday I was expecting a Westerly to hit the coast at some point, but you never know exactly that the timing will be. Often the first couple of hours of air are magic and then the direction goes South or the strength picks up.

I was home and keeping an occasional eye on the wind reports from Rottnest.
At about 3pm I saw 15kt due West on Rotto and so I threw a paraglider and hang glider into/onto the car and headed over to Cott.

When I got there it was light about 10kt and so I got out the Paraglider. By the time I was taking off I could see a squall line out on the water and I knew I only had a couple of minutes before it got too strong.

I had a short flight and then landed and packed away the PG and setup the HG.

Just as I was about to take-off Rob turned up and later on David.

When I initially flew the wind was about 14kt but it picked up to about 16kt and the higher you got the stronger it was. The air was relatively warm and had the occasional hole in it. There were also thermals in places.

Rob managed to get high above and behind the Pine Tree and he was swooping it and touching the top on the way past, very cool!

It was a high energy day, one of those great days where you don't have to worry about the ground and can just play.

I went South the Leighton a couple of times and also North as far as I could.

At the end of the day as the Sun was setting we all flew. The colors are always spectacular at sunset.

A guy showed me some amazing footage he had taken on his phone and I am still hoping he emails me with a link to it!

With the footage from my helmet camera and also some footage David took I made a video.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Almost a great XC!

It feels like forever since I did a good XC from Mt Bakewell. The winds have been too strong or from the wrong directions for weeks.
Today was a chance, SE maybe not too strong. Thermals predicted.

When I got to the hill it was overcast by some high cloud, but that was moving pretty fast so I set up and waited. It must be burning season as there were several fields alight in the area.

The wind was about 8kt in the lulls and I think it hit 20kt during some of the cycles. Cumulus clouds were forming at different altitudes and the fires were all creating cloud at the inversion level.

I timed the cycles and got off into a lull and then managed to survive on the ridge for a bit. I was going from one bit of lift to another, but the thermals were moving downwind fairly quickly.

After a long period in sinking air I decided to stick with whatever I found next.
I got a fairly decent 2m/s climb up to about 2000ft, but then I lost it and had trouble picking the wind. I think there was a change of wind direction.
I managed to get back into another thermal and took that to 3000ft before I lost it too.
I felt  like the wind was more ESE up higher and it was going to try and take me to Toodjay and I had already decided I wanted to go to Calingri.

I left the thermal around 3000ft and headed in the direction of Northam expecting to find another thermal soon. On my right I had a big wall of smoke from the fires and I could smell smoke. I felt cool air at times and I had the impression that there was sinking air spilling off the wall of smoke to my right.

I had about a 6km glide down to the deck. I turned in a few bubbles, but never found anything I could use.

I had all my Vol Biv gear with me today, so my pack was up to 14kg.

It took me 2.5hrs to hike the 10km back to my car on to of Bakewell.

Not a great day for flying, but fun and good excercise as well.

Maybe Saturday will bring another opportunity.