Marginal

I expected that I’d be taking some weekdays off from work to go flying this year, but it hasn’t worked out that way. At some point you want a break, though, and the forecast didn’t look too bad for Greylock on a Friday. Pete J was going out there, but he wanted to keep open the option of also flying Saturday, so we drove separately. We did rendezvous to take just one vehicle up the mountain, meeting at the spot that used to be known as the RC Field, and later the Driving Range. It was a primary LZ for Greylock, even when they put in a disc golf course that meant that you had to be careful not to run into steel posts when landing. Now, however, it’s being transformed into a motocross track, and that means we’ll be landing somewhere else.

We met another vehicle on the way up with hang gliders on the roof, which turned out to be Todd K, Fred M, and John S. While we were setting up, some paragliders arrived as well. I was thinking that we probably didn’t want to wait too long, because the forecast showed the winds getting lighter in the afternoon. There was some prospect that we’d get shaded out by cirrus, but it turned out that we were getting sun, and so we held out hope that we’d get some cumulus development, because there sure wasn’t enough wind for ridge soaring. It happened to be a day when a lot of school groups had field trips to the mountain; I assume they were getting dropped off at the bottom, then the buses drove up to pick them up at the summit after they hiked the mountain. Some of the kids were hoping they’d get to see us fly, but we were waiting…

One of the PGs launched, and managed to stay up, though he wasn’t having an easy time of it. He did finally climb out, and was joined by some others, though they all seemed to be working pretty hard to stay up. As we bided our time, the windmills on the other side of the valley, which initially had been turning slowly, came to a halt. Up on Greylock, it seemed to be blowing very gently downhill. But moving down to launch, it seemed to be blowing very slightly uphill. The convergence point was a rock outcrop where a bunch of tourists were sitting, and I was just about convinced that a weak thermal was drifting up from it. Brooks E and Keith B arrived while we were waiting. I finally decided that I might as well do something, and if I was going to break my glider down, I might as well do it in the LZ instead of on top of the mountain. Pete felt the same way, and I moved toward launch right behind him.

Pete didn’t really get up. He launched and started what looked like a sled ride. I was a few minutes behind, and when the streamers indicated a very gentle breeze coming in, I went for it. I didn’t find anything south of launch, so I headed toward Ragged, where I’ve had some luck in the past. On the way, I started getting beeps from my vario, so I started turning. Yes! I was in lift, and was going to make this work! I did a dozen turns and gained something like 250 feet before it flattened out. That’s not much. I continued toward Ragged, and twice took turns that didn’t amount to anything. Down below, I could see Pete working hard to try and get a low save. At the north end of Ragged I did a couple of turns in zero sink, then opted to see if there was anything over the Gould LZ, maybe a higher piece of what Pete was working. I didn’t find any lift on the way, and when I got to the field, I was low enough to unzip and start setting up my landing. Which went fine.

As it turned out, Pete and I were the only HGs to fly that day. The others either broke down up top, or never even set up. But they did drive Pete’s car down, saving us a trip back up the mountain. Thanks! And I had enough time to stop on the way home and go for a trail run on the ridge across the valley.


Pete J


J-J

flights: 1, airtime: 18 minutes

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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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