Tuesday, March 27, 2012


In my first flight report on last Saturday I indicated what a great day we had. Good flying and periods of good wind. - This post is THE REST OF THE STORY.

My initial weather predictions indicated a great day was on the way. However, Saturday morning the winds both observed and predicted began to show a more troubling trend. I posted these revelations indicating a bit more concern along with the prediction of "strong" conditions. If pilots received both weather reports or not I don't know but I will say that Saturday morning I was more concerned about conditions than I was Friday afternoon.

When Steve Thibault and I arrived at launch winds were gusty and clearly out of the North West. The flag at Mattawa indicated strong West winds. Winds I observed near Yakima were strong North and winds in route to the hill varied from calm to strong. Most troubling for me was the measured winds on the top of Rattlesnake: North at 53. The combination of very strong upper level winds with quite variable observations on the surface suggested potentially challenging conditions at Saddle.

A note on winds. - Observed winds at Saddle launch are notoriously unreliable. The only way to know if you have prevailing NW, N or NE conditions is to be out in front and in the air. For this reason if NW winds are suspected I suggest Saddle be treated as a P3-P4 site until someone has launched and you can tell wind are not strong NW through the observation of the wind dummies penetration to the West. The most enjoyable winds for Saddle are N to NNE. Strong NE to ENE and strong NW to WNW can be difficult to dangerious.

I took a fair amount of time on the hill before launching. During that time I experienced a number of squirrelly collapses in kiting configuration, this was from the NW induced rotor. I even packed it in for 20 minutes or so to wait for the West to die off or to switch more North. When I finally did launch I told those on launch that I though the winds were squirrelly. Launch was fine but as soon as I got out in front, just a bit, the West induced side hill rotor became significant and the sharp edges of the strong lift didn't help matters. I pushed out to clear from the turbulence and found slightly better conditions. - For future reference: If I don't come back to top land and report nice conditions following an initial launch at Saddle newer pilots might want to think twice about launching.

Unfortunately I had not performed a radio check prior to launch so my calls back to the hill recommending that people wait went either unheard or unheeded. I called 3 or 4 people on my cell but didn't get through, they were either in the air or were not answering. Steve joined me about 10 minutes into my flight and watched as I got plucked by unseen forces at a rate of 5 mps straight up. That is 1000 fpm vertical for our friends in Reo Linda. At one moment we were 200 feet from each other and the next I we had 1,200 feet of vertical seperation.

The combination of very strong lift - West winds and spring conditions was enough for me, and as it turned out it enough for Steve as well. We both headed way out front, away from the hill, and eventually to the LZ.

When it comes to rowdy conditions both Steve and I have been there and done that and tend to only invest in such conditions when there is something to be gained. Saturday was not one of those days and we both cashed it in while we had a bit of change in our pockets.

Unreported till now was the fight we both had to battle setting up for our landings. Saddle, on strong days, 14-20mph N, can create a very large and deep lift band. This is due to the size of the hill. - The wind has nowhere to go and bunches up, vertical lift can be found low as 150 feet AGL and as far out as Crab Creek Rd., 1/4 mile from the hill. If you add spring thermic conditions, lots of little fast sharp thermals it can be very difficult to get down to set up to land. - There can be significant turbulence when trying to get through and below the lift boundary layer 150 to 250 feet above the LZ.

Above this layer you can find yourself parked in lift and unable to penetrate. I know one pilot who quit flying paragliders after descending through and experiencing this condition/effect. The best solution when faced with this low level inability to descend is to either execute nicely pressurized spirals or use big ears if spirals are not in your tool kit. Both Steve and I were very happy to be safe on the ground and not very happy or at least a little concerned to see that 6 pilots were now in the air.

Fortunately after we landed the winds shifted more to the N and NE making both conditions on top and in the LZ better than when we had launched. Most experienced pilots were able to top land near mid day without incident but there was one serious low level collapse (photo above) near launch and one reported landing very deep in the rotor zone behind the saddle between launch and the East towers. I assume that the first pilot had not be briefed about West rotor from the bowl associated with NW winds and the second pilot got pushed back setting up too high and deep for a standard East approach to top landing and couldn't penetrate. He had a good landing but the last pilot havign a similar penetration issues there took a total collapes at 30 feet and was very lucky and very sore for several weeks.

As a responce to these two, fortunately non-injury events, I made a short video/site orientation that I hope will be helpful. It doesn't contain rocket science but it may help all of us make wise and informed flight decisions in the future.

For what it is worth: Spring is here, conditions can be very strong and change very rapidly. Fly cautiously rather than aggressively at least until you have be frightened once or twice.

Your Chicken Hearted Preacher, Dave.

P.S. Put the weekend of May 18-20th on your calandar. I will be presenting a Weather, Thermal and XC clinic. We will have class room theory along with guided Eastern Washington XC fun. It will be pay to play but I hope it will provide a good value and help us all become better pilots.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Long Flight Video

While in Nepal YouTube sent me a message letting me know that my account had been opened for long videos. No more 15 minute limits. So in honor of that I am posting most of a cross country flight from Sirkot to Dicki Danda. There are a couple of breaks/holes in the video during the first leg, about 5 - 7 minutes of two glides were not recorded. The first the glide into the Bundi complex and the second leaving Bundi and gliding across the lake.

If you look hard you can see the full transition. This video is for those who want to see what paragliding in Nepal is like, the terain, thermals, vultures, landing options and fellow paragliders.

You will also get to hear some of the dopeyist bad singing on the internet near the end of the flight. Enjoy

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Everyone Has Their Price



(You Choose)

The trek continues. Some 50 hours ago I began the herculean effort to return to my love. It actually began the prior day as we heard rumors of a general strike by the Maoist in Nepal. The strike, of unknown purpose, was set to start at 7:00 A.M. would impact all motorized transportation except airplanes. I believe they let the pre 7:00 buses get out of Pokhara but I don’t know how far they made it.

As my stay in Pokhara moved towards its eventual conclusion I needed to decide if I would bus or plane it to Katmandu. The plane can cost between $40 and $100 depending on how well you know your “travel agent,” any local shop owner or guest house manager. Everyone can sell anything and everyone takes a cut. I hadn’t fully decided but was leaning toward air, even though the bus was $6. I had had it with unending bumpy roads and didn’t really look lovingly upon a 6 hour drive to Katmandu. Determining to get a ticket, the strike sealed the decision, I tried to track down Sipna the owner of the Guest house.

I finally found him through his sister and he was quite upset. The late notice put him in a tizzy, with the strike and all. He didn’t know if he would be able to even book a seat. Everyone was in the same bind and flying was the only certain option but there was a limited number of seats on the given day. Fortunately he knew a manager at Agni air who had saved a couple of seats to scalp and I got one of them paying list price of $98. No barter here. It was a seat on the 9:00 A.M. flight and the machinations of how to get to the airport began. The airport is an hour’s walk from the guest house.

I am a strong proponent of leaving extra time so I insisted we leave at 7:00 and Sipna assured me there would be no problem. I gave him 1,000 rupees for the porters for wing and suitcase, two big bags, and he was happy. – 500 rupees is the cost for one day for a common laborer in Nepal so someone was making out well. Turns out it was Sipna, which was just fine with me as he has been a lovely host and very helpful.

6:15 the sun woke me and out the door I went to my local breakfast haunt. Leaving, I told Sipna where I would be and he said he would meet me at 7:00. 6:55; I paid my bill and on cue Sipna, his son and an unknown friend show up on bikes, the unmotorized kind. He had one bag lashed to the back of each porter bike and I was told to take charge of the third bike while riding his son side saddle on the frame. It worked fine, after 5 minutes I stopped to adjust the seat to a semi western leg length and the remaining 20 minute ride to the airport was a breeze.

The flight to Katmandu was packed though uneventful as was the transition to the flight from Katmandu to Bahrain. There was a 7 hour wait in the Katmandu airport and a need to come up with 12,700 Rupee, about $150 for my second bag. It was $180 going the other way from Seattle. Compare this to my hotel bill for three weeks: 7,000 Rupee, or $4.00 a day.

I got a bulkhead for the trip to Bahrain and the Bahrain to London. In London I hooked up with my niece who is at the London School of Economics. We had a lovely visit at the Hammersmith tube stop Starbucks. The East one, it turns out there were 4 to pick from. As long as one of us stayed put eventually the other made the connection. By the time I got back to Heathrow it was about two hours before my flight to Seattle. – The agent said the plane was over sold and I would have to wait about an hour for volunteers to make space. – He also said the going rate for giving up a seat was $600 Euros and asked if I were interested in the offer. I told him I would think about it.

It didn’t take long to figure this one out. $600 Euros is about $810 US dollars. I don’t know if I would have gotten that if I waited and chanced being bumped but a bird in the hand argument suggested that if $810 was worth waiting a day including a paid for hotel room, breakfast, lunch and dinner along with transit fair I ought to grab whilst the grabbing was good. So I made the decision that $800 was the price for a days extension of my wife's and my continued parting.

Unable to consult I hope I made the right decision. In any event if the same “problem” happens today I figure I will be having bangers and chips for dinner tonight, pocketing the extra 500 quid to help pay for this trip.

Everyone has their price.

The best to you all and thanks for following the blog. I hope to fill in some of the gaps with future bloggings and videos but for now it is 9:00 in London and I must think about heading to the airport to see what the market will bring.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

out of dodge on the 6:00 stage

In route with a wind behind me I am ducking out just as Pokhara experiences a general strike. No taxis and I was lucky to get one of the "kept" seats out on the 9:00 am flight. Kept for scalping I was informed. No barter for best deal this time.

Yesterday I had my best flight of the trip. - A 28k out and back from Sarinkot to Sirkot. It was a great flight - all alone with great lift and wonderful clouds. - I was told only Claudio has made the out and back, I find that hard to believe but there are many firsts still available in this OutWest land.

Unfortunately my GPS fritzed so I only have pictures of the flight which will make my next blog entry. For now it is time to brace for the 1hour walk with porters to the airport with my bags. Looking forward to a loving embrace with Gail some 55 hours from now.

Wow it is hard to get from here to there.

All the best. - Planning next adventure now: A Cross Country / Thermaling Clinic I will present this spring.


Friday, March 2, 2012

silly slow-mo of a 40%

The picture above is from yesterday morning. I was chatting with Babu following his big night at Blue Sky. - Babu and Lakpa flew off Everest and National Geographic awarded them Adventurers of the year. Their video/movie was premiered here in Nepal two nights ago. We talked and swapped cards and then later that day he helped me with a tree rescue communication relay. I mention him so that you all might keep him in your prayers as later that day he found out his father had died. - My heart goes out to you Babu.

Today, my second to last day of flying in Nepal was a day for big – well there is a Spanish word for them. Though the field had a great time, I am sure, running a quick task I was off on my own attempting; a Pokhara Sirkot Pokhara out and back. – No worries about lift and really the OD wasn’t bad. –

I pinged a nice climb at Teriponi at 2,300 meters and took an easy glide to the conference center on the first ridge to the South. This is the ridge that has the Peace Pagoda that I bombed out on the first day. – This time no problems and I took it back to 1,850 off the conference center and pushed around Bumdi. The usual massive cloud sat waiting for me and the associated mega lift was right where I figured it would be.

On bar flying away from the behemoth I was climbing at 4 m/s - I hate that feeling. But I headed out from the lift plenty early and found sink at about 2,200 meters. – I pushed across the valley to a nice looking cloud whose’ lift greeted me with a 40%er. That was enough – I looked about, noted it was only 12:15 and didn’t want to fly and fight all day so I punched down to a little town along the bus route and set her down nice and easy.

I have been good to fulfill my constant promise to friends and family to fly safe. One more day and it will be the Budda Air pilot who will be in command. – That is if I don’t take the bus to Katmandu. Either way tomorrow will be the last flying day here in Nepal for this year.

You have to try it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A short note from a short timer

This post includes a video with pics from Singdi vol-bivi. Long landing sequence but I get down.

Yesterday I flew wind tec for the Russian comp and after tagging 3rd way point I was above a blue glider that had a 1/4 wing cravat. He/she was maintaining directional control, just, but didn't have the glide to get out of his hole. I tracked the glider till he landed in the trees near a road.

I flew over a bit and got a gps mark on the site and could tell he landed soft but couldn't tell if the pilot was ok.

After making a couple of passes at a near by top landing, aborted for safety, I called in the tree landing on the comp frequency but, not surprisingly got an excited Russian asking again and again who I was and where I was and was I hurt. - Communication was impossible given my need to attend to flying and our language issues. I was too low by this point to continue my flight and not wanting to leave a man in the field alone I opted to land as close to the access road as possible. I was fairly certain that other "Russian" pilots had landing thinking the same but they landed far enough away I couldn't tell for sure they knew about the distress.

On landing I parked my glider at a store and went about phone contacting folk in Pokhara to notify the Russian safety committee about the situation. I had two numbers that might work and Nick gave me Bella's as a third - Both Arnie and Bella were still in the air but I was able to contact Babu - Yes that Babu - and conveyed gps and situation on the ground. I also sent two young men up the hill to help.

After about 45 minutes a different young man came down the road and told me he had helped the pilot out of the tree and pack his glider - all was well - I called in new situation report and got a beer. I waited and waited and eventually Russian friends came walking from where they had landed and told me all was well and they were in communication with the downed pilot. - I was free to go.

I caught the next bus back in and had a dinner that couldn't be beat. - More flying today.