July 9th, 2006
First, yesterday there were two guys that made it to Salmon for 105 one of which hit some powerlines (35 thousand volts!) which melted through most of his wires and then the glider fell off the lines right onto a barbed wire fence and one of the fence posts shot right through his sail. He bounced off the glider at this point and walked away without a scratch!
We went back to the lower launch today and there were real pretty cummies to the north and south of us. Directly over us however was a layer of high cirrus which kept the cycles very light and few and far between. It finally began to move out around 2pm and some upper launch pilots got up and reported rain and over developement in Mackay and also on the north side of the route. At 2:45 we realize the day is passing us by so we all get ready to pile off. Eric launches off first and enters a sink cycle that has all but him and another pilot on the ground. Eric's efforts pay off and he finds what has now become known amoung us as "Wayne's Thermal". Bruce then Wayne launch to join Eric as he climbs up. The three of them head over the back at 12.5. Ben launches from the right launch area which is a bit shallower than the main more left side launch. I, in the left line, wait for him to clear the area directly in front of launch and follow right after him.
We're in a good cycle and I finally have a perfect launch and Ben hits the thermal does a couple S turns and gets high enough to core it up but when I hit it I'm too low and close to launch to even turn. So I fly out and get down to 800 over the lz before finding a therm and slowly climb up with hardly any drift. I get to 9.5 before it peeters out and I head back toward the mountain looking for something better. I find a bunch of broken ratty bullets that are really hard to core but gain another thousand feet so I'm even with the peak and looking over the back. All I see is shade and foothills. I know I need to be at least 12.5 but I just can't seem to find it. Soon I'm going weightless every couple minutes and still not really getting higher so I get discouraged and decide that I've had enough especially after the sweet sweet flight the day before. I can handle the weightless-ness and being kicked around if I'm getting something out of it but just maintaining at 10.6 is just not worth it.
I head out over the valley thinking maybe I'd find some smooth air and throw at least one loop in celebration of the good fun we've been having. But as I leave the mountain I keep climbing a bit so I pull in for speed but don't come down very fast. So I head further out into the valley and anytime I let up on the bar (its at my knees now) I begin to climb again. I'm in shade and so I realize that I'm in some convergence lift caused by the clouds I'm under and the rain to the north coming south and pushing up all the hot desert air in front of it. So I pray my radio works and call out that the whole valley is lifting and I'm heading south to possibly make it to the Arco airport. Alex and my Dad can hear me! My radio wasn't working just like the day before so I had been doing the double click thing but it came through when I needed it. So I fly south pretty fast and finally punch through the lift. But now I'm not near high enough to make it to Arco and sure as heck don't want to risk getting back in the convergence as I don't know if or when a gust front will form from it.
I call down for a wind direction and my dad replies that its light West. Given that information, I search out a field that slopes uphill to the west. I find one right on Hwy 93 that has power lines on the east and a low fence on the west but it seems to slope up so I'm pretty sure I can dive in and make it. I glide right over the center of the field and drop my streamer. It drifts east and lands in the south bound lane of highway right as a van is driving north! I wonder if that driver was looking up thinking "who the heck is using the toilet up there?!?!?" :-D The streamer lays out indicating light west so I set up my approach. I come in hot just over the powerlines but I know I'll be long and hit the fence if I continue on this track so I do my mush out and almost stall into a good dive. Since the air is so thin I lost lots of altitude and came out of the dive 30 feet above the ground with plenty of speed and come in hot, but with very little ground speed thanks to the slight slope and light headwind. Pop the nose up and set down for a no stepper! Shoo wee! Great launch and landing finally like I know I'm capable of doing. I radio my chase my location and unhook the harness and get out of my altitude clothes. Then I set all that on the ground and hike the glider the 100 yards up to the corner of the lot. I set the glider down in a wind shadow behind a couple big willow trees. Then go back for my harness and as I pick it up the wind shifts North. By the time I'm back to the glider its a solid 10mph north so I was all of 5-10 minutes ahead of that convergence.
Alex and my dad show up just as I'm finishing breaking down and I grab a beer to give to the farmer to thank him for letting me land there. Walking up to his door one of his dogs starts growling and barking and comeing at me and he is *mad*. The other dog that looks much more mellow gets rilled up and starts barking too. The owner finally comes out and calls them off of me. So I give him the beer and of course now both dogs come up sniffing and wanting to be pet. Almost made me wish I'd been in the lift instead! Oh well part of the adventure eh? :-)
Ben had Dubois (doo-boy-s) on glide and when he hit 8k ran into a shear and was now facing a 40mph headwind! He pulled in for all he was worth and hovered straight down and just before landing reached out and grabbed his nose wires. Eric in the chase rig ran right up to him quickly and held the nose while Ben unhooked. Ben ended up winning the day again! Wayne and Bruce both landed just outside the 1 mile radius for the bonus points at 4 Corners while Eric was a tad farther having just scraped over the Lehmi's with a 24 mile flight.
After arriving back at the meet headquarters I found out that around the time I landed a pretty good gust front rocked through launch and a couple guys had to have 3 people hold thier gliders down. The few that were left ended up breaking down and not flying which is just too bad. Even though the air wasn't great it was challenging and certainly there was fun to be had. I'm really glad I flew even though I wasn't really excited about it. Just being in the air around that big monnster of a mountain is a truly wonderful thing and I feel really lucky to have every chance I get to run off it.