After a long week or so of watching grandkids - doing turkey and only flying a sledder or two I was ready to bug out and fly as soon as the last little one was buckled into my daughters minivan.
Rick had called to give a heads up on Eagle - likely to be blown out, but anything to clear the head and get out with a chance to fly. On launch an hour later two hangs were thinking about folding up and Rick informed me that it just really started to blow 5 minutes prior.
We chatted and waited for the sun to set hopeing that the lack of sun would have a calming effect on the excess wind. This is a common scenario at Eagle and a 30 minute flight with a flashing light seemed in the offing. Just before the sun went down I had my wing kitting over head - except for some strange reason I was kitting away from the hill - 180 degrees over the back. - - Next moment a South flow got strong and I was hop hop hopping down the flats working c-ds as I had a good time high wind kitting in the "correct" direction. - Hmmm switchy winds. - Strong winds - What is wrong with this picture????
Off goes the wing into a bundle and further assessment - use your head and listen to the wind some more.
While I stood at the lip Rick was setting up and the wind simply calmed down slowly to a gentle 8-10 and held. - Rick is going to fly! - Winds consistent now - getting lighter now - Ok back in the saddle and let us see.
Rick is ready - wing over head - looks good - I pull up as he sets his down. - Good wing clean pressure - two hang buddies willing to pick us up if we bomb out (likely scenario as winds seemed to be dropping in route to calm)- - Turn and aggressive launch.
Clean launch - Winds from South South West - a bit of a problem at Eagle but if you push into them to get round the corner to the South face and it should be fine. - Nice lift - 150 over and out front - Big wind increase - still holding my own not getting blown back and no speed bar required, THEN Whack - wing tip - on the right - pump it out - Lift Lift Surge - Whack 20%er on the left - Push out a bit more - get further from the hill - Whack - Surge Back - big surge forward - Brake to Catch it - Almost frontal - Right left I am getting WORKED! - Push further out and now, I guess, run - But run from what?
I am not over the back really - This could be rotor from the south face but I am 1/4 mile out now and not in line with anything. -
Later analysis suggests that I was in the lea-side of a strong East / West convergence. Winds had been strong WSW at altitude and we were experiencing strong South to South East on Launch. - Out in the valley where I was now 2k over it was East vs West and I was in the middle. - The East was blocking and I just got thrashed as I flew away from the hill on a SW heading. What I was doing was flying along the convergence line but just in the lea - If you want turbulence do this it will work every time. - As I pushed further West/North I went through the blockage climbed strong and continued to get worked but less than on my SW heading. I made an initial efforts to get down via spiral but that failed (more about that later).
I pushed further West and it finally settled down just a bit and I was able to get I nice spiral started and got down. 400 over - push further out - still a bit rocky but under control - Nice big field with winds from 2 or 3 directions and a soft landing. - Finally on the radio "I am ALIVE."
14 minutes of high adrenalin and a few lessons learned:
1. Let your buddy launch first! -You will live longer.
2. Eagle can throw real curve balls.
3. If you kite in two different directions prior to launch - See #1 above, but consider cutting your buddy's lines as a second option.
4. If you are flying to fill an emotional need those emotions might mask the correct go-no-go decision.
5. I love my DHV-2; please never sell me a 2-3 or above.
6. Learned a wing control dynamic that was interesting: On my first attempt to enter a spiral to get down and through the turbulence it just wouldn't crank in. - I tried for at least 30 seconds leaning and pulling but it only turned and wouldn't crank over. - At the time I just figured the wind / turbulence were in control and I was at their mercy. - Later, as it smoothed out, I cranked in just fine. What was up? -
On the first attempt I had been and was still carrying a good amount of brake which I needed to have to have something to give back to control the big back surges I was catching. - When I tried to turn spiral left I was still holding right brake and the wing wouldn't crank in. - Lesson learned:if you are going to spiral to break through turbulence don't forget to let up on the outside brake. - Duuhhhh!!!! but - at the time - well that's what I learned.
7. Let me have it!
nb: Rick had already learned #1 above and didn't launch but enjoyed the show.