The reality when we arrived at Rutland wasn’t exactly the same as the forecast. All kinds of people had been excited about the prospects, but that morning Mike H, who had said he’d be coming, dropped a note on the forum saying that he wasn’t sure that it was going to be worth the drive. I replied that I thought he was right, and if I didn’t have another reason to go, I’d skip it myself. But my brother and I had arranged for Mom to go visit the grandkids, and I had said I’d meet him in Rutland to hand her off (at 86, she doesn’t do drives like that herself any more). As they headed up to his place, I said I was going over to the mountain, but it wasn’t clear whether there would be any flying.
There were indeed a lot of pilots who showed up, and when we all got up top, I said, “Everybody will fly today”. The sky was overcast, and the wind was blowing in, but it was really light. The forecast had said that it should pick up (some) through the afternoon, but we were there nice and early, ready by noon. That gave everybody ample time to set up, preflight… chat… kick rocks… and hope somebody else would go first.
We were about half PGs and half HGs, and finally one of the PG pilots decided he was tired of waiting around, and launched. No luck working the ridge, so he headed for the valley and got nothing there, either. John G similarly opted to at least head over to Morningside before the day was over, and never turned after launching his PG, just made a beeline for the LZ. He maybe found a couple of bubbles of zero sink over the field, but was on the ground and gone in short order.
It was a little while before any more PGs were interested in trying their luck, but when they did, we were treated to a couple of… interesting launches, one of which looked like it probably hurt, and involved the pilot being upside-down for a little while. (The HGs later provided a share of entertainment as well, with one launch that had an alarming amount of roll, and a landing on the wrong side of the railroad tracks.) But before too long, the PGs started staying up, and that got the HGs interested. We almost launched in two separate groups, but one HG did go off before Bo (who is often the first PG in the air). There were varying degrees of success, and when I stepped up, a little more than halfway through the crowd, I asked where everybody was. “Well, there’s one glider to your left, and another is a little right of launch, and…” “No”, I said, “where are they vertically?”. “Oh, well, Bob is up over the ridge, and… um… oh, everybody else seems to be sinking”. That was what I was afraid of, I had gotten in line too far back, and I missed the window.
I stood on launch for a while, and offered to let the pilot behind me “play through”, but he was in no hurry, either. The wind was too light. Bob was staying up, and I figured I could, too, if I could get above the ridge, but I’d need a cycle that would allow me to gain a couple of hundred feet of altitude to do that. By now, it was after 4 PM. When that cycle came, I grabbed it, and very slowly gained all the way to the spine. Once there, I carefully explored my way around, looking for which spots provided a little bit of beeping from the vario, and which ones were just dead. Unlike most days, there wasn’t anything to be had over near launch, and the bowl was the only place that was productive. My GPS track makes it look like a day of really dull ridge soaring, but it was in fact an enjoyable challenge to stay up. I watched as those who were in the air before me headed for the LZ, and most of those who launched after sank out as well. Only Amy managed to get up top where I was.
I topped out about 500 feet above launch, which was over the top of the mountain, but not by too much. I finally made the mistake of scooting back over to launch to see who was still there, and in the process of getting there and back, I lost about 200 feet, which was enough to put me in a hole. I was able to struggle for a few more passes, but then had to head out, but it seemed to be shutting down anyway — Amy wasn’t far behind me, and ARt, who launched last, found nothing.
ARt had a nice landing, though!
My landing was… not awful. Not a stellar day, but a pleasant day to be outside, late enough in the season for there to be no bugs, and an interesting time in the sky. And as I had predicted everybody (over two dozen of us) flew. And on the way home, I managed to hit the ice cream stand before they closed, and got a picture of the sweet sunset (took nine tries as I fiddled with the camera settings).
flights: 1, airtime: 1:00