XC? Not quite yet…

After a day when Tom L. and I almost headed to Ascutney but changed our minds at the last moment, we tried the next day and headed for West Rutland. John B. came along as well, and Calef L., PK, Bob R., and ARt G. were waiting for us when we arrived. It was another case of Tom carefully scrutinizing the weather and alternating between optimism and pessimism, in part because there seemed to be great cu clouds all over the place except right where we were going to be launching. And we had John with us, who had a reputation as a jinx for West Rutland.

(End of the season, and it looks like that windsock is just about used up!)

Conditions at launch were very light, as predicted. Calef was ready first, since he’s a PG pilot and setting up a PG consists of dumping out the contents of a backpack. He took the wind dummy flight and sledded. Hmm, not enough going on to keep a paraglider in the air — not a good sign. Bob went next, and managed to stay up for a little while, though he never got very much higher than launch.

ARt was ready at about the same time that I was, and we both moved our gliders over to the ramp behind Tom. If anybody could make this work, Tom could. He typically soars for a couple of hours while everybody else sleds. Sure enough, he hooked into something pretty quickly.

Seeing how well Tom was doing, PK asked if I was okay launching by myself, and ran for his glider. I stowed my camera while ARt launched, then I followed him without delay. I went to the right, as is customary, then came back toward launch, and then the vario started beeping and I started turning. In the next 15 minutes I picked up over 2500 feet of altitude, which isn’t bad for these parts in September.

This was a really successful climb. John and PK launched after I did, but from their topless gliders they were just watching my antique wing speck out. Next thing I knew, I was on top of the stack. Except it turns out that that was because Tom dropped down from cloudbase to see if he could get a picture of me from below.

The three Lightspeed pilots were all looking to go XC, and I had mentioned to Tom on the drive up that I had some thoughts of going over the back for the first time myself, if the opportunity presented itself. On the radio, he pointed out some likely LZs within reach downwind. I took note of them, and I thought about leaving the mountain, but around that time I also lost the lift. Easy come, easy go. The three of them took off while I just went down, down, down, until I was back at launch. I figured if I could do it once, maybe I could do it again, and tried to find another good thermal, but I wound up just scratching for a half-hour or so. Calef had come back up in the meantime, and the two of us boated around for a while.

After flying for about an hour, I lost enough altitude to warrant heading for the LZ, though I tried to milk some little bumps that I encountered on the way. Calef had a low save near the LZ and rode it back up to 1000 over launch.

The day actually turned out the way I had wanted a day to go: I drove up with some guys who were flying XC, and I flew for a while before landing in the normal LZ, then hiked up the mountain to get the car, and drove retrieve. A chance to make myself useful. There was a little detail in that a vehicle had gotten stuck on the nasty 4WD drive road to launch, and I got to help in getting it freed up.

PK and John flew about 19 miles and landed in a nice big field that had so many mosquitoes that the two of them were lifeless husks by the time I arrived. Tom did a little over 25 miles and landed at the Middlebury Airport (third time he’s done that this year, I think). No mosquitoes there, and he was surfing the web on his cell phone and had already posted a brief flight report by the time we got to him. Dinner after that, and home at about midnight — a long day!

flights: 1, airtime: 1:08

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About cleversky

Hang glider pilot in New England since 2004. Also an avid orienteer, and an embedded systems firmware engineer. And some other outdoor stuff.
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