Hazy

Friday I left work early and went to the beach with Nancy. It seemed like Saturday would be the best fit for my schedule in terms of flying, and from what I hear, there was in fact some fine flying to be had. But I decided to go for a short bike ride, then a five-mile trail run, then when Nancy got off work we climbed a mountain and went out in our kayaks at sunset. She expressed an interest in going along if I decided to go flying on Sunday, and I got a text message from PK, who was wanted to try Ascutney if he could find somebody to partner up with for hiking gliders in. I always do two trips anyway, so that was an easy call.

We met up a bit after 11, drove up the mountain, and started by carrying our harnesses and my glider (Nancy took the battens and control bar), then we did a second trip with PK’s wing. The wind was mostly straight in, occasionally from the left, and was pretty light, so we were able to take our time getting the gear assembled. Since it was just the two of us, Ascutney’s typically crowded setup area wasn’t a problem. There were a couple of hikers hanging out on the launch platform, and we chatted with them a bit while watching the wind cycles. It was kinda hot. And the sky was hazy. Once in a while a small cumulus cloud would form in the distance, but it wasn’t enough to get us excited. Nancy came back from a hike to the summit, the breeze got more consistent, and I could see motion in the trees at various places all over the hillside. I wasn’t sure it was soarable, but I figured I could sled sooner or sled later, so I opted to go ahead, and got suited up. I had forgotten my camera, and I decided to take the Murphy’s Law approach of just wearing a T-shirt and shorts, figuring that would probably result in my skying out and freezing to death.

I had wanted to launch first in order to have PK for wire crew, but the wind wasn’t strong enough to be a problem, he just waited by my left wing while Nancy was on the starboard side, and I could control the glider by myself easily enough. I barely waited, just picked a moment when I could see the leaves in front of me shaking, and ran down the rock. Because some cycles were coming from the left, I headed that way, got some lift, and came back above launch. Turning to the left again, I sank some, and didn’t find the rising air in the same spot the second time. I had seen a lot of motion in the trees in the deep valley on the right, so I headed over there, figuring the ridge that the old ski area is on might also give me some lift, but I didn’t find much, just one little bump that I did a couple of fruitless turns in. After that, I decided that I’d better hope for a thermal over the fields.

I got to the Africa LZ with ample altitude, but nothing was coming off of it. Continuing west over the small bump, I felt a little bit of up, but then when I reached the edge of the Kansas LZ, I hit what seemed like a more solid climb. Don’t try to land in a field you can soar over, that’s the rule of thumb, so I started turning at an altitude of maybe 650 feet. It wasn’t particularly well organized lift, and though I managed to do about 10 turns in it, I was barely climbing, and gained only about 120 feet though I was drifting back away from the better LZ. I wasn’t that comfortable with the space between myself and the trees, so I headed for the field again, and this time I was able to bleed off my altitude and set up for a landing. General wisdom calls for an approach to the north in that field, but I had a hunch that the wind was probably westerly (couldn’t spot any good indicators), so I split the difference and went northwest. The air was probably still rising some, because I went pretty long, using up 350 meters of runway and landing in a little uphill patch just off the corner of the main field.

PK waited another 15 minutes or so after I landed, and the air started getting better in that interval. From my vantage point on the ground, it looked like he initially lost some altitude, but he tenaciously stuck with it and gradually worked his way up. I started packing up, Nancy brought my car around, and we kept looking up to see how PK was doing, then around the time I was done, we lost sight of him. We didn’t know if he had maybe gone over the back, so we drove around the mountain, and then decided to go get ice cream and wait for a call or text message from him. The ice cream place was closed (boo!), so we headed to Morningside to see if PK had gone there, which he had. We had considered grabbing his car on the way by the park entrance, but he was able to get a ride with Dave P to pick it up.

A little more patience, luck, or skill might have resulted in more airtime for me, but I’m not complaining; it was a pretty darned good weekend, all in all.


flights: 1, airtime: 0:14

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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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