Bumpy start to the season

Two attempts to fly this week, with minimal success…

Jeff C. was hot to fly the Trail on Tuesday. I had been thinking about it, but when it came down to making the decision, it would have been problematic for me to take Tuesday off of work; Wednesday was easier to arrange, and it looked like a good day for West Rutland, which I found more appealing. Although the only person I know of who tried the Trail on Tuesday found it too light to soar, I think he went at the end of the day, and as Ellenville reportedly provided epic conditions, perhaps the Trail would have as well.

I wasn’t the only person looking at West Rutland. The forecast was quite good, and six of us (me, Amy R. and Dan G. from Cooperstown, Keith B., Kip S., and PK) met at the parking area and all piled our gliders onto Keith’s truck and drove up to meet Bob R. and Dan S., who had gone up early, hoping to get Dan off for his first mountain flight in mellow conditions.

It sure looked great up there:

But wind is invisible, and it didn’t feel as good as it looked:

For most of us, it was blowing too hard for us to think about launching (PK, wise man that he is, didn’t even set up his glider). There were also several PG pilots up there, and they were more discouraged than the rest of us. After a while, Keith decided to display some fearlessness and launched in a lull. He was able to climb right away, but the rest of us were not reassured by how much he appeared to be getting kicked around. He later reported that from launch (1850 feet) up to about 4000 feet, it was pretty rough, but it smoothed out above that and he got up to about 6000. He flew for about an hour, but then we had a very different looking sky approaching:

The lift shut down, and we watched Keith get alternately drilled and sucked back up as he made his way to the LZ. Right after his excellent landing, Dan decided to launch and intentionally sled down, presumably to avoid the even more uncomfortable ride down the road in a truck. The rest of us weren’t so brave, and packed up our gliders on top. The precipitation amounted to only a brief shower, and maybe we could have sledded down afterwards, or maybe not. But it was a nice day to hang out on a mountain, and I found a place to go for a run on the way home, which somewhat offset the five hours I spent in the car.

The next chance was Saturday. The forecast was light and variable, though the lift was supposed to be good. I had a commitment at 9 PM, so I opted to go to the closest site, and take my own car instead of carpooling with the other guys from my area. I was actually driving in my car when I had the conversation with them deciding where to go, and still had to head home to get my gear. I didn’t want to be too far behind them on the road, so I loaded up the car in a very efficient manner. I was curious how quickly I could do that, so I started my stopwatch when I rolled into the garage with no rack on the car, and all of my equipment in the house. I stopped it when I was ready to roll, with the rack on, the glider on the rack, and my gear in the back seat, all set to back out of the garage: 7 minutes and 42 seconds. Turned out that when I hit the highway, I was ahead of those guys.

Mark D. had just arrived at the Trail when I got there, and he carried his stuff out to launch while I dropped my car down at the LZ. Jeff C., John B., and Randy B. picked me up, and Brooks E. and Keith B. arrived later. Unlike Wednesday, this was a day where the air wasn’t doing much. The thermal forecast was good, but there wasn’t much wind. Again, everybody stood around for a while, until finally Mark decided to be the one to give it a try. There were occasional thermals bubbling through, and after a bunch of scratching, he was able to get up and head south down the ridge, eventually getting 1000+ over launch. It looked like he had to really work at it, and when he came back after about an hour and made a mistake that got him low, he wasn’t able to get a save, and it looked like he got kicked around pretty seriously on his approach into the bailout LZ.

There were no cumulus clouds, and some cirrus was drifting in that looked like it might shade out the thermal production. Brooks went next, and he headed south with very little altitude, but he’s the real expert on this site and knows where to find lift, so he was also able to climb out and also fly for about an hour. The rest of us were all waiting for each other to go first, and Randy was the one who went for it, followed by me, then John, Jeff, and Keith. We all managed to stay up for only a few minutes, and some of the landings were less than elegant. Here’s John competently handling some challenging air on final (Randy was concerned that John might run into us — our gliders were right behind me as I filmed this with my screwed-up camera).

Not a very pleasant flight for me — there was lift, but it felt disorganized and I couldn’t stay in it. Although I did climb right off of launch and went up for the first couple of passes, I was soon close to the trees and hotfooted it out of there, and didn’t care for the tossing around that I got on the way to the LZ. Another day with a lot of driving and not much airtime, but also another nice day to be outdoors, and I again got an opportunity for a run when I fetched my car from the other LZ where I had left it.

I’m feeling somewhat discouraged, though, and need to work out a way to get my head realigned on this flying business.

flights: 1, airtime: 0:06


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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