Complicated dance


I was up late Friday night, but I was excited by the prospect of maybe flying both days on the weekend, so I didn’t have trouble waking up Saturday morning, though getting myself moving was another story. ARt was similarly running behind schedule, so we arranged to share a ride up Ascutney. I got there after the first carload had gone up, and the next two were heading that way, and we weren’t too far behind them.

The Ascutney hike is notorious, and having once done it in one trip (with a Falcon), I lost any interest in that torture, so I just do two trips. I made good time going out with my harness, control bar, and battens, passing people on the way, then went back for my glider. As I went by ARt on the return, he mentioned that there was a slippery spot. I don’t know if it was the one he had in mind, but while carrying my wing out, I stepped on a smooth rock and lost traction, and went down on my right elbow. Seeing blood, I grabbed it with my left hand and walked out to launch looking for water to rinse it and something to stop the bleeding. Jeff C had a first aid kit with gauze pads, and I was able to apply pressure with that; fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as I had initially feared. I went back for my wing, but ARt and Ilya followed and offered to carry it the rest of the way in for me — thanks, guys!

As late arrivals, we had the privilege of setting up our gliders pretty far back in the woods.

Jeff C is not one to lounge around with air in front of him, and since he had arrived early and was all set up, he was the first to launch. Perhaps a bit too early, though, as he never found a solid climb, and just worked his way gradually to the LZ. I was busy assembling my glider when the next few launched, but they had better fortunes and were able to stay up. Finally a solid cloud formed over the mountain, and those who were in the air were up and away. For those still on the ground, though, that same parcel of rising air presented a problem, as the wind was switchy and turbulent, and it was difficult to control a wing when standing on the rock, so we were stuck there. Tom was the one who finally got off, but the cloud was gone and he was in the middle of a blue hole, so he sledded out just like Jeff had. Stacy and Ross were next in line, and as they got ready, we saw Tom find some little poof down near the LZ, which he worked tenaciously and got himself over our horizon. Yeah!

With Stacy and Ross gone, I found myself the only H4 left, with the three remaining pilots all H3s (though not necessarily less experienced than me). I did find this s a bit of a dilemma. I had told myself beforehand that the first place to foot-launch this new U2 ought to be someplace familiar and simple, probably Rutland or Ellenville (or Morningside…). But here I was on Ascutney. The winds were shifty and tricky, and I had a bashed and bleeding elbow. I told the others that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do — I would not launch in these circumstances without an experienced wire crew, but I didn’t want to strand them, and if necessary I’d stay and help them launch, then pack up my glider and carry it out. They said they were comfortable with my going ahead, so I suited up and took to the sky. Lift came immediately, though it didn’t go very high — I got to about 900 feet over launch, but the thermals were little bullets that I couldn’t manage to take advantage of. Or maybe it was the glider. Or maybe it was just me. In any case, I was cruising around with Tom, Stacy, Ross, and Doug, and we were soon joined by Ilya.

After maybe 20 minutes, I made a tactical error. I saw three gliders circling in lift to the south, and zipped over to join them. The problem was that I got there too low; they were climbing, but I was in the lee of the ridge, and there was nothing going up. I might have been able to dive for the Red Barn Field, but took the more conservative approach of getting out front instead. Even with full VG, I was 1000 feet below launch by the time I was in the clear. I held out hope for a thermal over the LZ, but all I got was zero sink that delayed my landing. There was pretty strong wind evident in the trees, which gave me a little concern, but also a little hope. The LZ is sloped downhill, and I had some worries about running out of field. It turned out fine, and I ended up with a no-step landing with room to spare in knee-high grass.

Wheels won’t save you here!

My new glider has a “silver” (i.e. light gray) upper surface, which I got in part so that it would be distinctive and recognizable. It’s not unique, though — Stacy’s new Sport 2 has the same color scheme on top. So when I landed, Ross was watching, and decided to land next to his wife — I think I was a pretty disappointing substitute. It turned out that Stacy had been one of the gliders above me in the climb, but she wasn’t high enough, either, and got flushed just south of the mountain before I was even on the ground. Doug came down to the LZ next.

As the three of us were packing up, Tom’s wife Amy came by to give us a ride, after having retrieved a couple of other pilots — what a sweetheart! Todd landed just as we were pulling out. And the complicated retrieve dance went on, made somewhat more interesting by the fact that there’s a bridge out north of the mountain, so we had to take a longer route around the south side.. Ross, Doug, and I all had cars on top of the mountain, so Amy drove us up there, and we picked up Stacy on the way. Art called from launch while were were en route, saying that after having crewed for Ilya and Todd he was by himself, so he was going to pack up and he could bring my car down. Whoa, hang on, ARt! Since we had to go up to get the other cars anyway, Doug and I scooted out to launch and wired him off (a lot easier than carrying the glider out!). Then we took my car and ARt’s car around the mountain to fetch our gliders, and Art had already landed by the time we got there. We handed him the keys to his car so that he could head northward to his place, and I brought Doug back around to his car, and we each headed southward toward home.

And what of the others? The crew who had taken off in the good climb didn’t get all that far, with the longest flight being about 20 miles, and some considerably shorter. But Tom and Ilya were able to parlay that thermal they had found into enough altitude to get themselves to Morningside, where Ilya received the ceremonial dunking in the pond (he was wise to pick a nice warm day for his first XC trip to Morningside). Nice job! You can read his account here.

flights: 1, airtime: 0:28

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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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