Casual day at Ascutney

Sometimes I spend a lot of time obsessing over the weather forecast, looking at multiple sites, trying to figure out if it will be a perfect day for flying, and if so, what the ideal site would be. And sometimes when I have that all figured out, there’s either nobody else interested in flying, or something comes up such that I can’t go. This was a day that was sort of the opposite. I hadn’t paid much attention to the forecast, but when I saw a couple of people post notes on our local forum saying that they were going to give Ascutney a try, I just took a quick glance: lift okay, wind direction okay, it’s not going to rain — I’m in.

Rodger F picked me up on his way, and we met Pete J at the mountain, along with Ryan who was there to drive for us. Unfortunately, the sky was completely overcast, so we took our time setting up. I realized that I had left my phone in the car, so I jogged back to get it, and met John A and Jake, who asked if it was soarable. We had left a couple of good spots open in the setup area, which worked out great, since they were more eager to get started than we were. (Since we had a much longer drive to get to the mountain, we didn’t want to be too hasty.) Pat M also arrived as they were getting ready.

Jake had been less than happy with his first two flights this year, both a bit better than sledders, but only about 30 minutes of airtime each, and a struggle both times. As he assembled his wing in record time, he kept muttering that he couldn’t do that three times in a row. The clouds overhead were still solid (although the sky to the NW looked much more encouraging), but he was concerned that the wind could go NE later in the day, so he didn’t wait at all, and launched within a couple of seconds of moving into position. We stood on the platform and winced as he got lower and lower. Ouch. If he sank out, none of us wanted to be on the ground with him, because his mood would likely be ugly. We also figured that we were in a no-win situation — sled out, or stay up and wind up with Jake even more angry.

Jake kept working whatever he could find over the ski area, and the rest of us just stayed put until he was finally above the horizon. John went next, and climbed right away (he’s one of those guys who always does that). The improved-looking sky was getting a lot closer, with broad patches of sunlight finally reaching us, and well-defined cumulus clouds. Pete was happy to let me step up next, and I moved onto the launch rock at precisely 2 PM, which is often said to be the magic time when things get good. John was above the summit at that point, but Jake had flown out to the LZ. I had to wait less than two minutes for the wind to be to my liking, which was good, because there were some hikers just arrived who I think wanted to see somebody fly, including a family with a couple of elementary school aged daughters — it’s great to be able to look good for folks like that.

Lift was indeed improved. I was a couple of hundred feet over launch when I made my first return, and not too long after that I was 500 feet above the summit. John appeared to be heading over the back, and I got a picture of Pete launching.

The wind had been trending to the right, and soon after that I realized that it was completely cross on launch, such that I would be better off trying to find lift over the ski area. Pete and I worked bubbles there for a while, some of which were strong enough, but narrow and tricky to stay in. It was a losing battle, and when I got low enough, I chose the safe move of making a run for the LZ rather than get myself into trouble. I managed a whopping 6:1 L/D on the way there flying at a ground speed of 30 mph with the VG on — good thing I didn’t wait any longer.

Not an epic flight by any means, and probably not that different from the ones that have been disappointing Jake, but I’m easily amused. The other guys didn’t fare that well either, with Pete following me when I headed out to land, Pat launching when we were scratching and then flying over my head just after I landed, and Rodger — well, as he put it, “I got a rock”. At least my tracklog looked a bit interesting this time.

Thanks to Ryan for coming along and doing the driving — his kind are always the most respected heroes. Some of us headed out for some pretty good pizza in Claremont on the way home, where the waitress realized that we were HG pilots and chatted us up (she lives near Morningside, and misses seeing gliders in the sky this year since the park is not open). Likewise when I stopped for ice cream near my house, and a guy in the parking lot asked what was on the roof of my car (his sister lives near Ascutney).

Of course, there are some who get to fly all the time. Many of them were out there, including a lot of ravenous blackflies at launch (mosquitoes suck, but blackflies chew!), and this little guy, who was perched on my harness bag in the LZ for a while.

flights: 1, airtime: 0:32

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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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