Saturday, July 3, 2010

Wednesday at Baldy

Wednesday shaped up to be a wonderful day to fly. Winds were just a bit out of the North but generally quite light and variable. Baldy at 1:00 was flowing up on all sides. As we were waiting for the South cycles to kick in a number of small dusties ran right up the spine from the West. This condition can make launch quite challenging - at least launching to the South on the main launch. What happens is that the main house thermal to the West of launch just cranks straight up and spins off the dusties up the ridge line. They run right through launch but a cycle flow never gets established from the South.

I continue to be a proponent for the West launch in all but strong South and SSE conditions. While it is a bit lower and less conducive the communal aspects of gear prep the cycles on light and switching days come right out of the house thermal. I will keep encouraging West launches on light days and hope it catches on.
When we got to launch the flow was North but it was getting lighter and we knew it would clock around to the West if not full SW by launch time. On South launch we got ready an the small black bag from the convenience store that held my water and candy bar was grabbed while we weren't looking. The water and candy were on the ground but the Bag was at 300 ft AGL and climbing - We watched it until we couldn't see it any more. - Obviously it was working.

I went down to West launch, set up and after about 5 minutes caught a cycle that worked just fine. The lift was very solid in the ridge house and after a simple slide down the ridge to the West in 300 up, back again I was in the core and easily 300 over before my first full circle. The house was strong and smooth, it was big and I only hit an edge once or twice and they were not sharp. We launched late, almost 1:45 if I am correct, so the thermal was full on and with almost no overcast I didn't top out until almost 8,000 ft. This was the highest house thermal at Baldy this year.

By the time I topped out the rest of the crew were still frustrating there selves on the South launch and I wanted to fly team. I knew it would take at least 15 to 20 minutes before they either caught a South cycle or gave up and went West. I didn't want to hang around at the top of Baldy, not a nice place to fly so with no prevailing direction I pushed out for West Selah Butte figuring I could get there, top off from the Selah lift and then return to Baldy to team up when the rest of the crew was in the air. - In the process I could get some extra LEO points for a short leg.

The plan worked just perfect. The Selah lift was as strong and located spot on expected. I topped it out at 8,000 again and turning around I saw a couple wings in the air and at least one on West launch.

By the time I got back to the hill two of three were above me and my flying buddy was at eye level. We climbed out well and headed for Menastash together.

Cloud dynamics were in play most of the day, not marking thermals but casting shadows over lift triggers and collectors. There was a fairly thick, transient overcast that played with us all day. When we headed East the North end of Menastash was shaded and there was just a bit of sun on the South end of the ridge's collector.

The South end worked very well and the boomer that we caught near the firing center boundary was nutso. Ralph was scratching both sides of the hill and eventually got higher than me. Mer also got up high and headed out before me into a sink fest in the pocket. The middle of the pocket is usually a good line but not Wednesday. Both Mer and Ralph lost a ton as I was dottling on the South end of the ridge. Mer realized the sink was going to make the Boylstons tough and returned to the thermal I was in and cranked it up with me. Ralph continued on and ended up scratching on the Boylstons and I think his day ended near there.

Mer and I continued deep into the pocket. Thanks to Wheelers maps on my 76S I was able to take the biggest thermal of the day right up to the airspace boundary without breaking it. We had 7 m/s lift, at one point the pitch and frequency was just crazy and when I looked at my 5030 it was stuck at 6739 and not moving the altimeter couldn't keep up with the rapid change in altitude - never seen that before.

After topping the Boylston lift I headed due North 500 ft or so outside the airspace line for better part of a mile and when I cleared Golf I headed over Hotel and overflew it's 5,500 ft cap on the way to the Black Spot.

Lift was plentiful and strong transitioning to the Windmills but heading East didn't seem in the cards as a very large N/S cloud had set up over the Columbia. It was easily a mile wide, and looked like the Morning Glory convergence. It was too high to catch lift at it and I figured once near it and crossing the shaddowed ground would result in certain dusting just over the East rim of the river.

The other options include going South toward Saddle but the cloud really made that option unlikely as well so North by North West it was and work round the hills North of Kititas and Eburg.

The last of the windmills are quite far North and at the top of the hill marked nice lift. The lift kept pushing me deeper and deeper up the Colockum. But by that time, almost 5:00 or so I was certain that the plateau wouldn't sustain a run to Wenatchee. I skirted the lovely fingers about 10 miles North of the farm/hill transition At the top of each canyon was a lift zone, each encouraging me to go deeper and farther but I needed to stay South for a glide out to retrieve.
Uuugh one more lift and, can I make the next ridge? - yep made it but too low - this isn't good - the last ridge I got to was too high or I was too low and I slid all the way down the back side of the lift till I was maybe 300 over. To the South was a West facing ridge I could work down but it was steep and more trees than I wanted.

A quick decision was needed. - Either land on top of the ridge right there or roll the dice and see if I could slide down the ridge catching lift to keep me out to the trees. Last time I faced that call was at Woodrat and I didn't like the sliding into the trees option. So I decide to land way up in the hills. The flow was upslope and as I set up I found myself too high as the hill dropped away precipitously. 180 back up the hill and down wind. - Now the hill was approaching so quickly that I couldn't turn back for a up wind landing.

Down wind and upslope - dam - well a little road rash on my right forearm and hip are a simple reminder to make those calls a little sooner.

At least cell coverage was good until I got lower in the canyon, but it was still an hour hike down to the road and then a three mile ride in a helpful neighbor's Miata to the gate that was keeping Dr. K from and Jill from getting to me. Boy they had a long retrieve, and Jill missed her daughters birthday - what a sweetheart. Thanks for the mega retrieve.

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