photo by Keith Morin
What day has more daylight than June 20? Why June 21, of course! A Saturday in the middle of summer with a decent forecast is bound to bring out a bunch of pilots, and with a NW wind, Ascutney was the most likely choice. I had been planning on driving up by myself, but then I got a call from a posse of other pilots from eastern Mass who were carpooling, who suggested that it would probably make sense for me to ride up with Lee. Sounded reasonable to me, until we were underway and it became clear that Lee wasn’t planning to go to Ascutney, he was going to tow at Morningside. Fortunately, that was the rendezvous point for several others, and I was able to squeeze in for a ride over to the mountain. It wasn’t clear that there would be a seat for me on the ride up (I could have just hiked up), but enough vehicles showed up that we were okay.
I managed to get a better setup spot this time — there were fewer wings, and I went up earlier. Unfortunately, the sky wasn’t looking the way most pilots were hoping:
Pete C was there for his first Ascutney flight, though, so great lift conditions were not necessary for him. Everybody kept an eye on how he was doing, and he was staying up in mellow air. After a while John A decided it was time and launched, and he managed to get up to summit height. That caused everybody else to hook in and get in line. I helped wire off the first few pilots, which put me kind of near the back. A constant concern in situations like this is what happens to the last couple of pilots after all of the potential assistants are in the air. Fortunately, Robin had come along to be a driver, so that gave us one. Then, fortuitously, a woman showed up with her son, and she was wearing a Morningside T-shirt. Tom L recognized her as Ann M, an erstwhile pilot who had just come for a hike at Ascutney to show her son where she and his dad used to fly. She hasn’t flown since before I started, but she still remembers what to do as launch crew, and she was willing, so we had a top-notch all-female wire team!
Ann on my right, Robin on my left, photo by Keith Morin
Every piled off in a very short stretch, and we spent a little time circling until the Big Lift Cycle came and took us all to cloudbase and off to XC adventures. Well, not all of us. Of the dozen pilots, about half managed to get up in that thermal, but I was one of the ones who was too low and not in the right place, and I missed it. No matter, I was having an easy enough time staying up, and just cruised around comfortably.
Tom L and me, photo by Keith Morin
Eventually another cycle came, which everybody still in the air caught (except me). I waited in the right spot and hooked into the thermal that followed it, and took that one to 4500 feet — not quite enough for me to be comfortable with the idea of going over the back, so I decided to sit tight. Jeff C was in the same situation, and he got back to the mountain with not much to spare.
Before too long, Jeff had lost enough altitude that he was heading for the LZ, to join Pete, who had landed a little earlier. I noticed that the wind had shifted to the north, and headed up past the ski area to look for ridge lift on that face. I heard on the radio that Robin was on her way around the mountain to pick up Jeff, and since my chances of leaving did not look very good at that point, I just decided that I’d go out to land once I sank below launch height. I didn’t scratch very tenuously, so that didn’t take long, and I had plenty of altitude when I got there. As I started to circle to figure out what the wind was doing, Jeff called up on the radio to tell me that the surface wind was dead calm. Given that, I decided that landing uphill would be a good bet. The landing was about as good as could be expected in the circumstances. Coming in over the tall grass, I got as low as I dared, but when I heard the tips of the vegetation going “tick-tick-tick” on my control bar, I had to hold it there and flare high, so I dropped the control bar (onto a very soft cushion) when I landed.
Jeff C and Pete C
Robin was there to pick us up before we finished breaking down, and we were soon on our way back to Morningside, where most of the other pilots ended up. The a ride back with Lee, including a nice outdoor dinner in Keene before the sun went down.
flights: 1, airtime: 2:06