It has not been a great spring season for flying here in New England. As far as I can ascertain, as of May 24, there had been only about a dozen inland flights so far this year, sledders included. In particular, there had been no reported flights from Ascutney, our premiere site. So when I had the opportunity to not go to work on Wednesday, and the lift forecast was good, with winds that, although light, looked like they might be NW, I sent out feelers to see who might want to join me.
In the morning I called Tom, and asked “What’s the plan, Strato-Man?”. He proceeded to spend the next 30 minutes reading me everything he could find on-line about the weather predictions for the day, at some point adding, “I haven’t really answered your question yet”. I was intending to head to Ascutney, figuring that there wasn’t going to be any wind, and we just needed something very tall to jump off of to maximize our chances of finding a thermal before we reached the ground. He agreed, but thought that there would be a slight east component, so his inclination was to head for Greylock. (This was also influenced by the fact that his shoulder has been bothering him, and flying Ascutney requires a substantial hike.) During our phone conversation, other pilots called and got conferenced in, and we kept going back and forth about what the best choice would be. Eventually he said he’d pick up Randy, then swing by my place, and we’d decide where to go from there.
When Tom and Randy got to my house, Tom checked the forecast models, and things had switched direction. It looked fishy, though, and he didn’t believe it. That, combined with the fact that Pete J, PK, and John B were all headed for Greylock already tipped the decision to go there. We realized that John was only a few minutes behind us, so we met him in the parking lot of a dangerous looking bar called McNasty’s, piled his wing on the roof, and all traveled together. But then we got a report by phone from Pete saying that he had arrived at the edge of the valley and the wind was looking west… or maybe north… so we considered changing course and going to Ascutney anyway… we just couldn’t make up our minds, and kept waffling. But Pete was already there, and he ran into PK and Gary as well, so we told them we’d meet them on top of Greylock. However, we had a sinking feeling that Ascutney might be the place to be, and that we’d get reports later on about the pilots who went there and had awesome flights.
It didn’t look encouraging when we got to the parking lot and saw a car with two gliders still on the roof. We strolled out to launch and saw those guys sitting and looking out over the valley while the wind trickled over the back. There were a few brief moments when a thermal puff (or maybe some rotor) would make it seem marginally launchable, but nobody had a good feeling about it. There were awesome looking clouds boiling up the back side of the mountain, and terrific looking clouds across the valley to the east, near the Trail launch, but nothing we could use. There was brief discussion of checking out Petersburg Pass, but the hike to launch there (and the possibility that it might be completely overgrown) put people off, so the decision was made to head for the Trail, which should work with the wind direction that we were seeing.
After a drive across the valley, we carried our gear out to launch, and saw that… there were no clouds anywhere near us, but Greylock now had nice clouds over the summit…
Doh! Should we drive back? No, we decided that we had waffled enough, and the wind was at least blowing in where we were, so we finally stuck with our decision. We set up.
And then there was flying. Six of us were there with hang gliders, and we all flew. Half of the group were suffering from shoulder injuries, but that didn’t seem to hinder them, as they were the only ones who managed to make it stick. I was the Zero, only managing to stretch my sled ride to five minutes. But the Hero was PK. He found a little lift, got a couple of hundred feet over launch, then lost it and in a few minutes was over the LZ, unzipped, and doing setting up his approach when he found a bump that was big enough to milk, and he stuck with it, eventually getting to more than 3000 feet over launch and staying up for two hours (though there were two more times when he got low enough to unzip). Nobody wound up leaving the vicinity of launch, so we all landed in the scary, small, typically switchy and turbulent bailout LZ. (No big deal for me, that’s where I almost always end up.) The last one down was PK the Hero:
Since I was on the ground so early, I hiked up to get the car, and when we were all packed up we headed home. The last bit of amusement for the day was when we pulled into McNasty’s nearly-empty parking lot to drop John off and the car next to us abruptly started up and drove off — I guess we interrupted something. After all that waffling, it does look like we made the right choice; from what we heard, conditions overdeveloped early up north, and nobody that we know of flew Ascutney after all.
flights: 1, airtime: 0:05