Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Hazards and Solutions of Fort Ebey III

by John Kraske:
Part Three of a series. Photographs by Karen Wallman.
HAZARD: Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius). This pesky bush can grab your lines, put holes and tears in your wing, and scrape the living tissue off your body if you get dragged through it or land in it. Thanks to the Scottish sea captain, Captain Walter Colquhoun Grant who brought a few Scotch Broom seeds from the British Consulate in Hawaii (Sandwich Islands back then), a Mr. Wylie, to Vancouver Island in 1850. We now have this tenacious plant taking over large parcels of the park, not to mention the entire Pacific Northwest. And for those of us who suffer from allergies; thank you very much Captain Grant.
Scotch broom, waiting to sweep a wing.
SOLUTION: Our friends with their trusty bow-saw, or pruning shears. If you do get your wing or lines tangled in these horrendous demonic off-spring of that sea-going- idiot-botanist, Captain Grant, I implore you to carefully untangle. I’ve torn lines in an impatient display of frustration. I think its something to do with that adolescent brain taking over what should be a more mature fifty year old brain. Sometimes I’m a fine example of my gender.
HAZARD: There are several areas where old piles of rusted WWII barbed wire have been discarded over the cliff. These would wreak havoc on the human body and a paraglider.
SOLUTION: Know where these are before you fly. These piles of barbed wire are pretty obvious, but I would scout them out before flying. Just in case.
Barbed wire below launch.
HAZARD: The upper bench to the south of launch faces southwest. There is a not-so-visible nemesis that lurks in waiting for the unsuspecting. I call these little devils, para penetrating cacti. That’s the scientific name. The common name that I’ve overheard some of my paragliding cohorts call them is: what-are-cactus-doing-in-western-washington erosion repressors. Their two-inch spines are usually covered up by whatever the wind has blown their way; grasses, litter, dead leaves, bird feathers, one of my flying friend’s gloves. In the years I’ve been flying Whidbey these pretty little cacti have pretty much set up child-rearing across the face of the entire slope; prolific little green monsters! The species is actually called Biddle Cactus, a near relative of the Prickly-Pear Cactus. They’re very pretty when in bloom.
SOLUTION: Probably the safest bet for a side-hill bale out on this southwest facing slope would be a fresh slide area and only if the beach is covered by high tide. Use the beach if the tide is out.
HAZARD: Later in the spring, in the summer and fall there is a species of grass that dominates the launch and landing zone that seeks a nursery for its offspring. This grass has two inch spear-like spikelets that take up residency in your shoes and socks and bite at your skin as if you too soon will be growing fields of amber waves of grain. OUCH, these little mothers are really irritating and they can ruin a pair of Gore-Tex boots!
SOLUTION: I made a trip to REI and purchased some ankle high gators by OR. I prefer the spandex ones that snap at the top and hook onto your boot laces. They work wonders. Of course, in the beginning, I duct-taped plastic garbage bags over my socks and boots and that too works well, but makes a heck of a flapping racket in flight, and gives the general public a vision of you being a flying-bag-lady.
Mike never misses an opportunity for airtime.
HAZARD: Crowded conditions. It’s amazing how many pilots show up at Fort Ebey these past few years.
SOLUTION: The fact is that we all can fly there and it really doesn’t matter who was there first. It’s a state park, no one’s private property. On some days we have to share the air with RC glider pilots. Remember that their perspective of distance from the ground is different than ours is from the air. Give ‘em some room. With other paragliders, we just have to be sure to clear our turns and adhere to the ridge rules. Set up friendly dialogue with everyone. Communications can go a long way and is the key to diplomacy. I’ve had lots of really good conversations with many of the RC pilots. They all seem to be reasonable individuals. Accidents happen and it’s always a good idea to work out amicable solutions to prevent future incidents.
Our shared playground.
HAZARD: Erosion is a big problem along the shorelines of all the islands and it is a good idea to avoid all unnecessary activity on these fragile cliff faces that might encourage erosion.
Another chunk of earth, ready to drop from Fort Faultline.
SOLUTION: Each and every one of us needs to take responsibility and respect the signs that the Park authorities post. If we are respectful and responsible in our use of the park then it will be more likely that we will be able to continue flying there. If only a few of us recklessly abuse this fragile environment the whole paragliding community will lose; the paragliding at this pristine site will stop. The trail off the beach is at the south end of the launch and it’s recommended that we use that whenever we have to hike off the beach. If you are blown south and land on the spit hike the beach south to Ebey’s Landing – stay on the beach or the trails - and radio or telephone your buddies for a pick up. The time I was blown south to the spit my two friends kept flying, I didn’t have a mobile phone and my radio was dead. But I was certain they’d be coming for me. I walked all the way to Highway 20 and caught a bus back to the turnoff for Fort Ebey. The bus dropped me at Libby Road and as I began my hike for the Fort my good friends showed up in my car. It was dark and we headed for home. Make a contingency plan with your pals in case this happens to you.

Friday, December 14, 2007

December flying at Whidbey

By Iain Frew:

Hopefully a lot of the new pilots who haven’t yet managed to get out to Whidbey to fly will take the opportunity of the off season to try this site. Winds need to be just right, not too strong and not too light and it can be a little difficult to predict. But with all the weather information available on the internet these days and local pilot “El Diablo”, there’s enough info to reduce the risk of a trip out there without getting to fly. This year I’ve had 12 visits and only 1 day of not flying so not too bad a record.

Whidbey in DecemberYesterday was another great day. I got there just before 11:00 am to find only 1 other person there, Derek Baylor who learned at the ranch last year. He had been there since 8:00 am and had been kiting but not yet flown. The wind was a little light and blowing from the south. I walked up the south bench a little and could see the bald eagles soaring further down the coast. The wind was light at launch but looked to be stronger along the bluff. I got out my glider, kited it, walked up the bench and flew off. Time 11:05. I love it when you just turn up and fly. I hugged the bluff and started to rise. As I flew down the coast and got a little higher the lift got stronger. I was surprised to find myself about 450-500 feet over the bluff. Almost to cloud base! I got out to just before the point at the lagoon and turned back. Derek had unfortunately managed to put his glider into some cactus bushes on the south bench whilst walking up it and was still struggling to get it freed. I started to fly back north to the launch thinking I would be motoring but I wasn’t going much faster. Hmmm. Why was that?. I should have known, but it didn’t occur to me at the time. Anyway, time for speed bar. I noticed my speed bar had got tangled in my stirrup and wasn’t fully functional. Not a good sign. Anyway I managed to get back to the launch and decided to come down and fix the stirrup.

Got that fixed and was hoping to take off again. Derek had got his glider free by this time and was trying to kite it without luck at the south bench! Huh. That’s strange we thought. So we walked up to the crest of the slight hill in the middle of the launch zone to find the wind now coming from the NW. Ah…the wind had switched when I was in flight, thus the reason for my slow return. Doh!.

Anyway we took off north and I flew to the lighthouse and back and then up and down the coast aways a few times before landing. The wind was getting lighter and it turned off around 12:00pm. It didn’t turn back on again until 2:00pm. But it was on from then until I left at 4:00pm. “El Diablo” had come out to play too so we flew together for quite a while at one point getting a Red Tail hawk blocked off between our gliders and I’m glad the hawk took Jim’s path to escape as it flew out with the bird’s wing hitting his!.

All in all a great day. Hopefully with more notice some of you can make it out there soon. It may be back on at the weekend, looking like Sunday, although it could be a tad strong.

And if you want to know my secret, apart from linsider info from Jim, I also use MM5, Smith Island data and the fantastic weather site links available at TJ Olney’s home page..

Friday, December 7, 2007

Prez-Sez, November, 2007

Let me start off with an apology for total radio silence in November – I skipped a Prez Sez, and I was going to re-use a famous prior Prez Sez by once President Gordon Grice (back in 2004? Anyone remember it ?) but thought better of it… anyway, suffice to say I’ve been very busy with work, and other indoor pursuits – not a bad thing for this time of year and the kind of weather we’ve been experiencing… haven’t flown since Chelan ! 6 weeks and counting ! Agghghgh ! Hats off to all you brave souls that have continued to get air-time in amongst the rain, snow and gale-force winds… Brrrr !

This will also be my last Prez Sez, as we near completion of our annual Election cycle (have you VOTED yet ?) and I’ve decided not to stand as a candidate for the 2008 BOD. While the events surrounding the disruption of the 2007 BOD have been (seemingly endlessly) discussed and for the most part put behind us, I have decided not to skip this opportunity to make a final comment and some observations. There are, I believe, some incidents that ought not to go without something being said about them. Sweeping unacceptable statements and behavior under the rug isn’t an approach I support - that leads to a false sense that those actions have been excused, or at least forgotten, i.e. accepted, which by their very definition, they have not. Of course, we all have our personal perspectives on reality, but when there is clear upset and disjoint within any community, that isn’t a good thing. Moves that perpetuate that kind of unpleasant environment, through intolerance of differing approaches, false accusations and insinuations or simply disrespecting honestly earned success, ought to be called out and blocked. ‘nuff said.

Now we look to a New Year and a newly elected BOD for 2008. If you haven’t done so already – please VOTE! in the next 24 hours ! Voting closes tomorrow, Dec 8th for the NWPC 2008 BOD. Thanks to all those who have volunteered to stand for election to next year’s BOD ! Show them your support by voting, please. And don’t miss the Final Club Meeting of 2007 – Tuesday December 11th 7pm, as always at our friendly Pogachas in Issaquah, where the results will be reported and the 2008 Club Officers will be announced. (I regret that I won’t be there to congratulate them – whisked away on travel for work again next week… gotta pay the bills J !).

And now on to the really fun stuff… or as much fun as you can have without flying anyway… If you haven’t been closely following the great work that our oh-so-special para-maniac Iain “Frewsy” Frew has been doing lately, you might have missed his generous contribution to the wonderful world of para-photography (click here at your own risk !) Thank goodness this is in the “People” and not the “Manipulated” Category… Anyway, this is our annual (now 3rd !) NWPC Media Awards and Iain is running it this year, but we need LOTS of submissions to make it really worthwhile. I doubt there is a single reader without at least one picture to send in – so click here, click “new email” (near top left of your monitor somewhere) and send something in. I’m sure you could do it in the next 60 seconds ! go on - do it ! I challenge ya !

2007 NWPC Media Awards Winners will be announced and awards presented at the Annual NWPC Awards Gala ! Our wonderful Para-Divas Cheryl and Amy (and others) are engineering a fun evening for January 4th 2008 (7pm) at the Bellevue Convention Center. Invitations and details will go out soon by e-vite so save the date (another quick click on your calendar – do it now !) and join everyone for the evening. As always, there will be cool videos, para-photography, awards and music, a great meal, cash-bar and you even dress nice ! bring a date, bring three, wear a tie or your best hiking boots, just plan on being there !

See you all in 2008 at the Gala !


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bali, 2007

By Heather St. Claire:

What a magical trip!

Months ago our friend Matty Senior told us of a paragliding paradise, a place where you can fly for hours & hours, everyday, in the sunshine. Hearing these tales of such a wonderful place, I had to find out for myself what flying in Bali was like. Twelve of us joined Matty on the Indonesian island of Bali for an almost two week paragliding adventure in September. Matty is an accomplished pilot and has traveled to Bali for the past 14 years. He first went there to surf and in recent years to paraglide.

Descending into the Ngurah Rai international airport on the island’s south, you can see the beauty of the tropical island and realize you are arriving in a very special place.

Steve Pieniak flying at Timbis.

For the first part of the trip we flew at Timbis, a coastal ridge soaring site along the southern tip of Bali. After a leisurely start to each day, enjoying a nice breakfast by the pool, getting a massage or playing on the amusement park sized waterslide in our resort hotel, we would make the 10 minute drive to launch. By late morning the smooth trade winds flow in from the Indian Ocean and last until after sunset most days, making it soarable for hours every day. One day I flew for four hours, my longest flight in terms of duration. Even as the sun set there was abundant lift!

Timbis is located near the center of the southern tip of Bali, on the Bukit Peninsula. At first, getting off the ground provided a bit of a challenge. Winds were stronger than I was accustomed to, but help was on hand. Local instructors have trained Balinese men to assist on launch. These men have more kiting experience than most of us paraglider pilots, but are too scared to fly. They are right there to grab the correct line/riser or provide ballast to launch, and then at the end of the day, fold up your wing & pack your gear for a small price. I truly felt pampered. If you land on the beach or hang your wing in one of the trees near launch (not me!), they’re on their way to haul your gear back up or get it out of the tree for you. Several Balinese women come to launch each day bringing coolers full of drinks and ice which is a good thing to have in the hot Balinese sun.

Another lovely day of flying at Timbis.

Flights were awesome, with 11 miles of coast line to soar. From Uluwatu on the western tip of the Bukit Peninsular to the spectacular Nikko Resort on the eastern tip. Miles and miles of coastline to fly! The ridge is lined with temples at many points, luxury houses and hotels. These Hindu temples are frequented by wild monkeys. On one flight I counted over 20 monkeys climbing all over a temple. Local seaweed farmers harvest seaweed from the shallow waters below launch and have created a patchwork of seaweed you can see from the air. Soaring along the miles of coastline, the clarity of the water below allowed us to see pods of dolphins, sea cows, manta rays and giant turtles swimming in the ocean.

Within the first few days of this trip I experienced several firsts/personal bests. Longest flight in terms of time - 4 hrs, largest number of flights in a day - 6 flights then 10 flights on another day, and first time driving in a foreign country and in the left lane. I flew 10 flights one day just to get lots of practice top-landing. Snuffy & Matty were great help figuring out the best approaches.

Flying high at Candi Dasa.

The next site we flew was in Candi Dasa, a 2 hour drive to the northeast. Candi Dasa is a southeast facing mountain right on the coast. It’s about 1000 feet high and different from Timbis in that you can’t drive up to launch. Finally some exercise. Launch is a lovely hike up. Here we hired local people to carry our gear up the hill. It was quite nice to hike without my pack in the 80+ degree heat. This area of Bali is lusher, with rice farms terraced up the hillsides and coconut palms as far as the eye can see. Launch at Candi Dasa would have seemed more spacious if it hadn’t been for the 10-15 locals hanging out to watch us all take off. After landing on the mile long, black sand beach we were greeted to a warm welcome by the local kids.

After hours of flying day after day, we took a day off and went up the coast to check out Bali’s number one diving and snorkeling spot at Tulumben. More firsts! First time scuba diving for Kevin and first time snorkeling for me. This is a popular spot for diving because there is a 400 foot US WWII shipwreck sunk close to shore.

Sunrise at Mt. Batur.

After flying Candi Dasa & Timbis, we went on to hike and try to fly a volcano. We stayed one night on Lake Batur. Well, nearly one night. Local guides knocked on our room doors to wake us up at the unwelcome hour of 3:30 am. By 4 am we were on our way to hike up Mt. Batur to watch the sunrise. Pilots hike up not only to watch the sunrise, but also to arrive on launch before it gets blown out. Again, we were fortunate to hire local men and women to carry gear. At this hour, walking in the path of our headlamps, we didn’t talk much. It was a pleasant, quiet hike in the cool pre-dawn morning. We reached the top to see the most gorgeous red sunrise. Looking east from Mt. Batur (1717 m), you see the even larger Mt. Agung (3142 m). What an amazing & breathtaking view at sunrise! Mt. Batur is still an active volcano with steam rising out of earth - steam hot enough to cook eggs. Unfortunately on this occasion the winds were strong and most of us chose to not fly & hiked down. Steve & Snuffy flew tandem, followed by Matty and then Kevin. I did not feel the least bit disappointed that I did not fly Batur. The beauty of the sunrise made the hike worth it, and with Timbis only a few hours drive we still flew for 3-4 hours later that day.

The last few days of the trip we spent back at the beautiful Jimbaran Hills Resort flying Timbis. We had the finest meal of the trip (and for most our lives) at Ku De Ta, an exquisite restaurant on Seminyak beach where I finally cashed in on the dinner Steve owed me from all the XC retrieves back home.

Matt Cone & Kevin White at Timbis.

A real highlight of the trip was watching Natalie Stockman learn to fly. She came on the trip with her Dad Bob just before entering UW as a freshman. A couple tandem flights, hours of kiting & off she went for hours & hours of flying with the rest of us!

Flying on this trip was the most relaxing airtime I have experienced paragliding. One of the reasons I fly is to reach the state of peacefulness & calm that only comes from getting my feet off the ground. Flying in Bali provided such tranquil/serene conditions (the air, the sights, the sound of the ocean), it was easy to reach that peaceful state. Many other experiences on the trip were nearly as incredible as the flying - sunrises, sunsets, snorkeling/diving, wandering through beach caves, watching native ceremonial dances, moonlight fire on the beach with good friends - words & photos can not recreate the marvel of it all.

I definitely plan to return to Bali. There are many things I still want to do and see. For such a small place, it has so much to offer. Definitely paragliding paradise!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sunshine Coast to the Outback

By Matty Senior:

Flying new areas and over new terrain is one of the many things that make paragliding so special. Last weekend was the Indy 300 race on the Gold Coast; it’s a huge party and unless you’re into it, you may as well get as far away from it as possible. At the moment I’m living in Surfers Paradise, the heart of the Indy, and decided to skip town and take a short vacation to the Sunshine Coast about 2 hours to the north.

The Sunshine Coast as I’ve discovered is a Paraglider’s Paradise. There are about 10 coastal flying sites that accommodate all variations of the sea breeze and about 10 inland flying sites. The inland sites are all fairly small in that there is little altitude available to find a climb before you bomb out. The positive side to this is that if you do bomb out it’s a fairly short walk back to launch.

With the Glasshouse Mountains to the south, rainforest-rimmed escarpments and lush rolling pastures underneath, the terrain you get to fly over is breathtaking.

With rumours surfacing from some of the Gold Coast weather gurus that Saturday the 20th of October was looking like a potential record-breaking day, we hooked up with Sunshine Coast local Carl Forster for a flight. Carl took us to a site called The Playground, about 6km east of Maleny on the Blackall Mountain range. The Playground is a beautiful meadow type launch that rolls down into the valley. It would be the ultimate playground if the sea breeze was in, as you could land and relaunch from pretty much anywhere.

I launched first at about 10:15 and soared around for about 5 minutes in some early morning disorganised thermals that were pretty broken up. Pretty soon I found a decent core that I hung onto as I drifted over the back. It wasn’t the strongest climb but it was going up, and by the time I got to base I had already drifted 6km over the back. Carl was climbing much faster upwind of me and got to base about the same time. Within minutes we were side by side cruising along under some pretty nice looking clouds at about 55-60km/hr.

About 20km later we found ourselves low in the Connondale Valley scratching around desperate to get another climb. With plenty of sun on the ground we eventually stumbled across a 1200fpm freight train that took us to base in what seemed like seconds. Out of the Connondale Valley the terrain changed, from lush green farmland and dense rainforests to more typical Australian rural scenery of gum trees and kangaroos. The next 60km went by fairly quickly; we stayed high, drifting several kilometres with each thermal, topping out at base with ground speeds of 60-70km/hr without touching the speed bar.

92km from where we launched Carl and I found ourselves approaching an area you simply wouldn’t want to land. Although there were plenty of landing options, there was no sign of civilisation, nor was there any indication from our slowly diminishing altitude of which way to walk should we land. As we pushed on into the blue I spotted a cloud start to dome up to our right, so we changed our heading and went for it with the little altitude we had left. As we arrived at a small hill in the fairly flat terrain that appeared to both of us to be the trigger of the thermal, we spun around into the wind before we got tossed over the back of it. With only 300 feet between us and the ground, and zero ground speed it was obvious to both of us that our flight was about to come to an end. So much so I even yelled at Carl in the air to say, “Looks likes that’s it mate.” As I approached the ground it started to become obvious that I wasn’t going to make it over the hill, so I decided to turn downwind and use the altitude I had left to get as far away from the hill as possible to avoid landing directly in the lee of it. As soon as I made my decision to turn and run, Carl followed. At the time I thought he was following me to avoid the same sketchy landing situation, but after talking to him later he figured I had spotted a climb and didn’t want to miss it.

As I glided over some trees to pick a field to back my glider into, we started to get tossed around by some bullets coming off the hot ground. As we turned back into the wind to try and work these bullets we noticed a wedge-tailed eagle climbing up underneath us. All I can remember thinking was, “Don’t lose this bird; if you can just hang onto the eagle you’ll get out of here”. After talking to Carl later, that was exactly what was going though his mind as well. Like most soaring birds, wedge-tailed eagles don’t like to flap their wings. As soon as you see one in the air it’s fairly certain he’ll be in a thermal or on his way to one. As we drifted with that thermal to base, we crossed the 100km point and things got easy again, base lifted and our ground speed began increasing to more than 70km/hr. After another 25km the terrain began to make another obvious change from the typical Australian landscape of gum trees and kangaroos to flatland like I’ve never seen before. A patchwork of wheat fields and other crops, the flat lands were totally devoid of any variations in terrain. They were flat as far as I could see from 2km above the ground.

After topping out a climb at 138km I got on the radio to find out what Carl’s personal best was, only to find out it was 140km in Manilla. “Well, the beers are now on you Carl”, I said as we cruised through 139km, 2km above the ground. That was the last climb I got that day and ended up landing 153km from launch about 16km northeast of Dalby. Carl, who was a little behind, managed to get a climb out of the field I landed in, and cruised on another 20km, landing 173km from launch.

Congratulations Carl, awesome flight mate! Carl doubled his longest flight from the Sunshine Coast of 84km and we both smashed the Sunshine Coast record of 106km. On the same day a few hours drive to the south, Shane Hill flew 261km from Beechmont, smashing the state record of 206km. A copy of my flight can be seen on Leonardo.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tiger Mt. Clean Up

An appreciative “thank you!” goes out to over 30 Club Members and friends who contributed to the Tiger Mountain Clean Up Party on Saturday October 13.

Some of the achievements:

  • Over 20 bags of litter collected from the section of Tiger Mountain Road “adopted” by the Northwest Paragliding Club.
  • Logging road potholes filled.
  • North Launch dunny cleaned.
  • North Launch water tank cleaned of sediment.
  • Overgrown North Launch/Kingdome trail cut back.
  • North Launch trimmed and tidied.
  • South Launch dunny maintained.
  • Staircase at the cut moved and disposed of.

You’re invited…

The vine keeps growing. Continued maintenance is necessary, so feel welcome to volunteer your muscles, materials and machinery for these ongoing tasks, particularly at the launches. Thanks in advance!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Prez-Sez, September, 2007

Sad to admit I don’t personally have a lot to report flying-related this month - have been increasingly plagued by day-job, home-life and bad-weather distractions… and with the impending winter months, I’ve all but packed my gear away for another year… “sniff sniff”. Of course I’m really looking forward to the annual Women’s Fly-In / Halloween Party at Chelan end of October - I hope you will all make it there… there hasn’t been a year yet that there wasn’t flying… holding thumbs !

There has been a flurry of late-season activity however, from the Baldy Butte BiWing Fly-in - which sounded like a great event again this year - to many participating in over-the-water SIV clinics at various locations, and a few spectacular surprise days at Tiger, Whidbey and Blanchard to name a few. I was lucky to get a really pleasant visit out to Whidbey the other day, complete with a hike up from the beach (sweat it out !) - still a favorite site - just magical when it works, and always seems worth the trip with good company, flyable or not…

But the rain does have its advantages – it gives us a rest from that irresistible urge to drop anything and everything to get out and fly every time the sun shines… I know I feel so much more relaxed when my wing isn’t whispering to me from the trunk… and also can increase one’s indoor productivity quite a bit. There is good evidence of this in the dramatic increase in non-flying but para-related creativity… just watch for a surge in YouTube video postings, hyper-technical GPS track analysis, PhotoShop paragliding art processing and web-site revisions… all of which contribute greatly to the Annual NWPC Media Awards HINT HINT !– details for this year’s competition will be posted soon, winners announced at the Gala event early next year.

Reminder : Monthly club meeting this Tuesday October 9th at Pogachas7PM this month and until spring. Lots of stories to share (Bali ?!), fun media show (Iain and others), announcements / news for the last few events of the year, and we’ll kick off the election process too.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

All for one sky, and one sky for all.

Posted by Karen Wallman:

As a Tiger Mountain Pilot I pledge allegiance to our Code of Honor:

  • My mission is to show the utmost courtesy to local and visiting pilots, and rush to assist damsels in distress.
  • The launches and landing areas are the domain of all.
  • We enjoy equal access to common areas, and show respect for established
  • preferences.
  • I show consideration on launch by avoiding undue delay to others.
    Ditherers, we are not.
  • I will top land only when the launch is clear, yielding to other swashbucklers swooping through the air.
“All for one sky, and one sky for all.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Prez Sez | August 2007

By Kingsley Wood:

Two months in a row, wow, hope we can make this stick…

As the season begins to wind down, days get noticeably shorter, average flights reduce in grandeur, length and altitude and that beastly Easterly rears its ugly head more often than we would like, we can at least look back at a great month…

What a fun time at Black – huh (bloodygiladi pics) ? That place continues to delight us all, with record attendance, spectacular flights, awesome crowd / food and entertainment (great balls of fire !). Thanks the James and Della for pulling it all together, and the Barberchoo rocked !

The Annual Mike Miller fund raiser might not have resulted in the most impressive Tiger Tag flights of the year, but a lot of heart, generosity and a sack of shuttle potatoes came through for the kids : final numbers to be announced at the next club meeting – Mike ?

Doesn’t sound like Grouse was very exciting this year either - reports / pictures / write-ups anyone ? but Vancouver is always worth a visit flying or not, I heard some of our pilots even hiked up despite the weather…! Blanchard and Whidbey continue to offer magical experiences – if you haven’t flown there yet, get out there and try it out before the end of the summer !

We bid and envious farewell to the lucky Bali Paragliding Tour on the 14th as well – hopefully they can spare sometime between packing, preparation and training to join us for a drink at the next club meeting (hint hint) and we look forward to full and detailed reports on their return at the October Club meeting too.

Be sure to attend the next enthralling club meeting – September 11th at Pogacha’s 8:00pm. We will feature some exciting new entertainment in the form of a “name that pilot/site/wing/maneuver” competition, you could well cover your entire dinner and drinks for the evening ! ( Check all negative angst at the door please. )

Thought for the month – with all the talk of regulations, laws, insurance and policies of late, perhaps we don’t always keep in mind that we are brought together after all for the purposes of sport, enjoyment and for many, relaxation. Sure, some might take it more seriously than others, a spectrum from weekend warrior hobby to passionate pursuit of perfection. But as we share the common air space, launches, LZ and trails it should be expected that a certain minimum level of respect be shown and etiquette be followed.

I’m not suggesting we could or should enforce any specific behaviors, and you’ll always get a wide range of attitudes, personalities and quirky senses of humor in any collection of people, especially a crazy crowd of yahoos that jump of mountains ! But there shouldn’t be any reason for unpleasantness or a lack of common courtesy shown to all.

  • Helping someone lay out a wing, irrespective of what make, model or color it is, just moves the flow along…
  • Holding off on your 23rd top landing of the hour to allow another pilot a window to launch…
  • Stepping aside on the launch pad if you’re not quite ready when there are 9 sweaty pilots itching to get off yesterday…

We all know what it’s about… not surprisingly, it’s at the fly-ins that this collective assistance really shines – why not every day at your local site ? Be nice or go home !


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Chelan 101

Story by James Thompson

A local win by our newest visitor from Down Under.

I’m standing on the Butte in 90 degrees at 10:45am, and a shout of “Dusty” goes up; the hangies run to their gliders to hold them down. Across the Gorge I see 13 “Dusties” over on the flatlands. Welcome to the Chelan XC Classic.

Chelan Buttle launch
Chelan Butte launch.

You are given a list of Turn Points and you make your own Task for the day. Straight line 10 points per mile, out and return by a TP 13 points, and a triangle gets you 15 points per mile. Also a bonus of 100 points for landing at any of the LZ’s.

Early dusties over on the flatlands
Early dusties over on the flatlands.

I got my act together on the last day; Conrad and I had landed at “Simms” at 40 miles the day before, with Banks Lake in front of us. It was a 20 mile crossing to the next road, so we tried to head back to Chelan but becked it soon after.

Mansfield and Simms 20 miles on
Mansfield and Simms 20 miles on.
Simms and Banks Lake behind
Simms and Banks Lake behind.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Prez Sez / July 2007

Posted by Kingsley Wood

Hi everyone, I’m gonna try to revive this tradition, at least this once, so here goes :

7/28/07 - wow, what a great day huh ? The Tiger Mountain Fly-In was without question an enormous success. I have never seen so many volunteers and sponsors pull together in such a short time-frame at Tiger - and look what happened ! Astounding success, great metrics (forthcoming at the next club meeting August 14th 8:00pm at Pogacha).

I’m not going to mention names of individuals, sponsors or organizations in this email, not only because i’d hate to miss any, or present them in the wrong order, or because it would literally take several pages to cover all the efforts and contributions I personally saw or was told about throughout the day, but because you know who you are and what you did. You know.

So many thrilled first-time passengers, completing sunshine flights and soaring way above launch, the whiff of burgers on the grill in the colorful, music-filled LZ on final approach (oops, did i break my rule :) ?) – You Know.

Just take a moment right now to yourself, reading this, smile and say - “Yep, I was there“. And it was a good thing, a good day.
I’ll close with a pertinent story,

The Little Red Hen
Once there was a Little Red Hen who lived in a barnyard with her three chicks and a duck, a pig and a cat.
One day the Little Red Hen found some grains of wheat. “Look look!” she clucked. “Who will help me plant this wheat?”
“Not I”, quaked the duck, and he waddled away.
“Not I”, oinked the pig, and he trotted away.
“Not I, meowed the cat, and he padded away.
“Then I will plant it myself,” said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
When the wheat was tall and golden, the Little Red Hen knew it was ready to be cut. “Who will help me cut the wheat?” she asked.
“Not I,” said the duck.
“Not I,” said the pig.
“Not I,” said the cat
“Then I will cut this wheat myself”. And she did.
“Now”, said the Little Red Hen, “it is time to take the wheat to the miller so he can grind it into flour. Who will help me?”
“Not I,” said the duck.
“Not I,” said the pig.
“Not I,” said the cat.
“Then I will take the wheat to the miller myself,” said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
The miller ground the wheat into fine white flour and put it into a sack for the Little Red Hen.
When she returned to the barnyard, the Little Red Hen asked, “Who will help me make this flour into dough?”
Not I,” said the duck, the pig and the cat all at once.
“Then I will make the dough myself,” said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
When the dough was ready to go into the oven, the Little Red Hen asked, “Who will help me bake the bread?”
“Not I,” said the duck.
“Not I,” said the pig.
“Not I,” said the cat.
“Then I will bake it myself,” said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
Soon the bread was ready. As she took it from the oven, the Little Red Hen asked, “Well who will help me eat this warm, fresh bread?”
“I will,” said the duck.
“I will,” said the pig.
“I will,” said the cat.
“No you won’t,” said the Little Red Hen. “You wouldn’t help me plant the seeds, cut the wheat, go to the miller, make the dough or bake the bread. Now, my three chicks and I will eat this bread ourselves!”
And that’s just what they did.


Monday, July 23, 2007

The Hazards & Solutions of Fort Ebey II

Part Two of a series.
Story by John Kraske
Photographs by Karen Wallman.

HAZARD: This spring, 2007, I experienced a new phenomenon I hadn’t had before in my decade of flying Fort Ebey. Sunday, June 3rd was a phenomenally hot day and the Fort didn’t turn on until almost 7 p.m. when the sky clouded up and the air cooled extremely rapidly. The entire island had been heating all day long and when the air cooled that heat started percolating like a boiling pot of water on high heat. The wind started blowing in about the same time. I launched. Bad idea. Somehow I converted my butt into a giant suction cup just to stay in my harness. It wasn’t pretty and I wanted down. But, it didn’t seem to matter where I tried to lose altitude to land, the island was sending up thermal after rapid thermal, like bullets. There were a couple of other local pilots who launched and I’ll bet they just might agree. One new pilot lucked out and once on the ground let out a “yeeeee-haw!” That’s paralingo for “please pass the Charmin”.

SOLUTION: Let somebody else be the wind dummy, or don’t fly. Hot days and rapid cooling doesn’t equate to good flying conditions in my humbled opinion. Watch the water out front. If whitecaps start forming really fast there’s a good reason. All that hot air going up is going to pull cooler air from somewhere and the closest source is going to be the water in Admiralty Inlet, out in front of Fort Ebey.

A low tide day at The Fort.
HAZARD: High tides can eliminate the beach as a landing option. Several years ago one of our outstanding pilots landed in the water and I’ll bet he might be able to expound on this theory. When the tide is lapping at the base of the island and you find yourself sinking-out and you’re below the launch you have an option to get wet or land on the face of the cliff. It’s steep and there are a few hazards. [Read Part Three.]
Once I had launched when the island was in the midst of a storm front. As soon as I was flying a gust came over the back and folded the inside half of my wing which pretty much set me down hard on the face of the cliff. As soon as my feet were planted on terra-firma, vertical terra-firma at best, another gust inflated my wing and dragged me off my feet, intent on slamming me into a tangle of driftwood at the base of the cliff. I buried my breaks hoping to disable my wing and luckily fell into a patch of sandy ground just above the pile of drift logs. I was lucky.
SOLUTION: If the wind is too light or from the wrong direction, don’t launch. Also I recommend not flying during stormy conditions. You never know where the wind might come from next.

HAZARD: Lack of patience when the wind first begins to blow from the right direction and at the right velocity. When the winds here first change direction the lift will sometimes be erratic until the direction and velocity stabilizes the lift band. Not too long ago I launched immediately after the wind had changed from south to west-southwest. I was barely able to stay up and was scratching desperately close along the top of the north bench when I was gusted into the brush along the ridge top. I was slammed into the brush along the cliff face and my wing fell gently into the scrub. It took two hours of effort by two of us to extract my wing. I was wearing shorts and my legs looked like I had been dipped into a vat of angry cats. Another time a friend launched as soon as the wind had changed from southwest to west. He sank to the beach. Two of us launched just ten minutes later and were soaring high above the park while our companion folded up and hiked off the beach.

SOLUTION: Once the wind begins to come from the right direction give yourself some time and let the lift band establish itself before you launch. I hate it when I’m having to hike off the beach while my friends are flying with the eagles.

Friday, June 29, 2007

2007 Bali Paragliding Tour, with Matty Senior

This September I am organizing a paragliding trip to Bali. Of all the places in the world I have flown, Bali is by far my favorite. It’s flyable about 28 out of 30 days during the dry season and is warm, tropical and cheap. There are three flying sites in Bali: Timbis, Candi Dasa and Mt Batur. Timbis is a 20km long ridge soaring site (Almost twice as long as Saddle Mt) that is flyable for about 6 hours a day. Candi Dasa is a 1000 foot high coastal mountain that also works on the trade winds of the dry season. Flying here usually involves soaring up to cloud base in butter smooth air and flying out over the ocean sometimes as high as 2000 feet. Mt Batur is a volcano in the center of the island and involves an early morning 1 hour hike to the summit. Flying from here will be an experience you’ll never forget. To see more about these flying sites check out the movies I made on YouTube. Enter mattysenior to find them.


The dates for the trip will be the 14th - 25th of September actually in Bali. China Airlines has the best price for the most efficient route to Bali, connecting through Taipei. It is possible to fly with 4 or 5 other airlines to Bali, but I think you’ll find they will either cost you more, or have you make more layovers on the way.

The cost of the trip is $750 per person and $550 for a second person sharing the same room. This includes:

  • Your own air conditioned room at the Puri Jimbaran for 7 nights.
  • 3 nights at the Pondok Bambu Seaside Bungalows in Candi Dasa. Sharing three person bungalows between two.
  • 1 night in a hotel at the base of Mt Batur.
  • At least one tandem flight at Timbis.
  • Pickup and drop off from the Denpasar Airport.
  • Vehicles, drivers and retrieval service.
  • Site guidance, and launch assistance from at least two instructors.
  • Breakfast everyday.
  • Optional side trips to some cool things to see in Bali:
  • Uluwatu Temple and Kecap Fire-Dancing ceremony
  • Dreamland beach
  • Ubud craft markets
  • Monkey Forest
  • Traditional Village
  • Snorkel or dive a wreck covered with reef and fish
  • Seafood banquet on the beach
  • World famous Uluwatu surfing beach

The max number of people will be twenty and a $200 deposit is required to secure a spot. I will be arriving in Bali at least 1 week ahead of schedule to organize the logistics and fly a little; if anyone wants or needs to arrive early, then that option is also available.

If anyone has any further questions about the trip, please feel free to contact me via email at



The Hazards and Solutions of Fort Ebey

Part one of a series

Story by John Kraske

Photographs by Karen Wallman.
When the weather fronts push in from the Pacific, load the western face of the Cascade Mountains with soggy, wet-wool looking clouds, and the rain gods give’m a tenacious ringing out, I find that my hopes are on the rise. These are the conditions that can be perfect for flying at Fort Ebey State Park on the western exposure of Whidbey Island. Yeah, I know you hardcore mountain pilots with the raging bull sized gonads probably wouldn’t be caught dead flying in the passive, laminar ridge lift at a kiddy fly site like Fort Ebey. But let me tell you that I’d rather be flying ridge lift than playing computer games or channel surfing the television. A flying wing gathers no mold. And, after a long wet off-season in the northwest, any kind of flying is a welcome relief. Whidbey Island isn’t that far of a drive. And I wouldn’t necessarily discount a flyable Fort Ebey as hazard free; there are challenges and hazards at The Fort as well. There are a few club members you could probably ask.
HAZARD: Probably the greatest hazard is that you drive all the way out there, including a twenty minute ferry ride and there is no wind, too little wind, too much wind, or wind from the wrong direction. If you’re riding with a chronically suffering cynic and it’s spring time, pull over to the side of the highway and kick’m out into one of the nettle patches that grow thick along the roadsides. Man, am I ever tired of hearing, “Whidbey sucks! I’ve been out there twenty times and never flown there once.” Whiners!
SOLUTION: There are several solutions. Bring along your mountain bike, your kayak, your family, your friends, a picnic lunch. ‘The Fort’ is one of those experiences that make me think of the term Halcyon Days of Summer. Regardless if it’s flyable or not, it’s a beautiful place.
Enjoying the parawaiting: Gordon, Mike, Darla, Andrei, Irina, John, Kevin, Bonnie and Bryce.
HAZARD: The second greatest hazard is when there is too much velocity in the wind, but it’s from the right direction, and you’re there with your paragliding pal with the big huevos and you want big ones too. You just might try to fly anyway and end up sorry that you succumbed to that adolescent-minded peer pressure. I know, I’ve done it. Nothing like a fourteen year old brain in a fifty year old body. Bad combination!
SOLUTION: Testosterone repression therapy requires the use of a leather mallet and a vise. Or maybe surgery would be better? Drugs?
HAZARD: When the westerlies blow into the cliffs at Partridge Point (that’s the name of this pristine piece of geography that Fort Ebey State Park is on) and parts, creating a headwind from the northwest until you cross the point where the U.S. Coast Guard navigational light sits. From there north you have a tail wind. Partridge Point has nothing to do with that Yule Tide bird in a Pear Tree. The third hazard is when the wind picks up. If this happens and you find yourself being blown back it is best to get low and out front, and go for a beach or side hill landing. I’ve witnessed pilots going into the trees because they were too high when the winds picked up. The wind gradient can be amazing here, despite how laminar and smooth it feels. Keep in mind that when the wind doubles in speed it quadruples in force. Basically, what that means is if you are flying in an 8 mph wind and it increases to 16 mph, the force will be four times greater than it was at 8 mph. Do the math; that’s 32 mph. If you’re flying in a 32 mph wind and going higher, you’re going to go backwards. There’s trees, bushes and rotor back there.
Still parawaiting
Still parawaiting.
SOLUTION: Remember you can always fly cross wind and penetrate when you can’t penetrate directly into the wind. Remember your speed system. Big ears can be great for speeding up your descent but on some wings they also can create drag, making your wing’s penetration even less. I’ve found that if I’m out in front and over the water I can pull ears to descend, then get on my speed bar and attempt to land close to the edge. There have been times when I’ve been out front of launch, pointed into the increasing wind at about twenty or thirty feet above the launch, put on full speed bar and pulled in ears letting the wind blow me in reverse until I’m sitting on the ground where I disable my wing.
During strong conditions, as you approach the landing zone from the west you hit a lift band that wants to take you up. If you approach this band slowly you will experience more lift. When the wind is strong I usually jam my speed bar to the max, bank hard into a downwind turn and penetrate this band of lift as fast as possible, banking around to face into the wind once I’m over my landing zone. If you come in too high you will experience the stronger wind that can push you back into the trees behind your proposed landing zone. This penetrating technique has worked well for me; it’s as if the ridge lift creates a protective wall once you are low and behind it. The stronger wind tends to push hard above this protective wall of lift. Some refer to the wind passing over the lift band as venturi or shear. Whatever you call it, it can be strong.
During one of my first flights at Fort Ebey the wind had picked up and I had to run south and around the corner of the upper bench. I landed on the side of the hill facing southwest on a sandy slide area. The next time I attempted this, the wind changed to even more cross from the north and I experienced horizontal rotor close in to the southwest facing cliff face. That’s what happens when the wind hits the cliff face at a cross angle of 45 degrees or less. I’d recommend watching out for rotor once you round the corner of the southern bench. It can be a real problem when there is more north than west in the wind.
A word of warning: Do not attempt more than one new maneuver at a time. Become familiar with your speed system and doing “big ears” before you attempt combining the two. And, certainly never fly when you are anxious. Anxiety is an accident looking for a place to happen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tiger Pilot Wins North American Vol Bivy Championship

Submitted by an anonymous sports writer loosely affiliated with major sports magazine.

In spite of some pre-competition confusion regarding television coverage and an apparent boycott by the Canadian VB team, the North American Vol Bivy Championship (NAVBC) came off without a hitch over the three day Memorial Day weekend. The relatively new sport of Vol Bivy involves a combination of paragliding, hiking, and camping. The camping is generally done in a minimalist fashion that can involve as little as a bivouac sack (large nylon bag) and a couple of Power Bars. Scoring involves a complex formula that combines hiking times, distance flown, number of launch points attained, successful launches, safe landings, hitchhiking adventures, flying with animals, bivouac cooking, and bivouac story telling. The rumor of extra points being awarded for flying in loincloths proved to be unfounded.
Pic 1

Saturday morning registration. Photo by Rich McManus.

Registration was held at the Mazama General Store with the support of local volunteers. An enthusiastic crowd of onlookers showed up to check out this new sport. However, when all was said and done only five competitors completed the lengthy release form, paid the insurance premium, and picked up the list of waypoints. The official registrants were Bob Rinker, Stefan Mitrovich, Mark Heckler, Rich McManus, and John Clifford.

The race started at Washington Pass and included launches from Early Winter Spires, Goat Peak, Bowen Peak, and two unnamed peaks in the Methow Valley. After the first leg of the competition, the hike up snow slopes to the crest of a glacial circ just north of the Early Winter Spires, Bob and Stefan were in the lead. But that quickly changed when Rich tossed out his wing and took to the sky ahead of the pack.

Pic 2

Early NAVBC leaders. Photo by Rich McManus.

Rich picked up successful launch and safe landing points to cement his early lead, but that quickly changed when Stefan bagged extra points for a landing that attracted spectator attention. Stefan’s lead lasted only minutes when John caught a thermal and made a bold XC flight over remote and rugged terrain to Mazama. Bob closed on John’s lead by picking up hitchhiking adventure points. The race committee awarded points for his story about being picked up by the two midgets with the monkey, but openly discussed changing the rules for next year’s competition to require documentation of all hitchhiking stories.

Pic 3

Looks safe to me… Photo by Stefan Mitrovich.

Pic 4

Run! Run! Run! Photo by Stefan Mitrovich.

Pic 5

High over the Cascades. Photo by Stefan Mitrovich.

The competition continued with a flight from Goat Peak. All competitors picked up safe launch and landing points. Bob and Stefan caught thermals and flew to the first bivy waypoint. Mark chose to employ an unusual paragliding competition strategy. He chose not to fly – deftly guaranteeing his survival to compete in the first night bivy and the second flying day.

Mark’s unusual strategy proved genius. Early into the evening of the first bivouac Mark’s cooking and stories moved him into a solid lead. His grilling skill and superior story telling abilities were too much for John, who packed it in and chose not to compete in days two and three. The field was down to four.

Pic 6

Bivouac site. Photo by Stefan Mitrovich.

The second day of the competition started at 5:30 am. Bob, Stefan, and Mark hiked off toward an unnamed peak. Rich chose to pick up additional bivouac points and stayed in bed. Safe launch and landing points were picked up by the fliers. Mark picked up bonus points for flying animals – he flew with his dog, Toby.

Pic 7

Landing with Toby. Photo by Rich McManus.

The afternoon flight on day two was winded-out and gave the competitors some time off. The action shifted to the evening bivouac. Mark, again, dominated the bivouac competition on day two. He picked up solid points for his stories about having attended the Winthrop Rodeo that afternoon, and bivouac cooking points for his famous barbeque chicken. After the day two bivy, Bob had the lead with Mark close behind.

Pic 8

Bivy hardships. Photo by Rich McManus.

Day three again started at 5:30 am. The pilots employed their strategies from day two. Bob, Stefan, and Mark hiked off to another unnamed peak. Rich chose to pick up additional bivouac points and stayed in bed. Those who flew picked up safe launch and landing points. Mark’s canine flying abilities led to another lead change. He edged ahead of Bob in total points.

Pic 9

Bob Rinker landing at goal after an early morning flight from an unnamed peak. Photo by Stefan Mitrovich.

The competition came down to the last flight; an afternoon launch from Bowen Peak. Mark’s lead held after all competitors completed their hike to the launch point. In less than ideal launch conditions Bob took off. In a flight reminiscent of Mark’s rodeo stories, Bob bounced XC in gusty winds toward the final waypoint. Not knowing the exact scoring algorithm and whether a safe landing was necessary to take the lead, and fearing for his life, Bob reportedly debated throwing his reserve over a small lake to bring the flight to an end. But chose instead to ride it out and bag those safe landing points if possible.

Pic 10

Mark Heckler documenting the final flight of the competition. Photo by Rich McManus.

Pic 11

Bob Rinker waiting for the right turbulent cross-wind conditions for launch. Photo by Rich McManus.

Pic 12

Bob Rinker’s NABVC winning flight. Photo by Rich McManus.

Bob’s strategy worked. Mark could not find any animals willing to make a flight in the gusty conditions that prevailed. Rich and Stefan were out of the running. Bob Rinker was the first North American Vol Bivy Champion. Mark Heckler was a close second. Stefan Mitrovich third.

Planning has already begun for next year’s event.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Cross Country in Turkey

Story by Matty Senior:

I think the thing I love about cross country flying the most is that every flight is like taking a holiday, an excursion to a place you have never visited. As a perpetual traveler I love arriving in a strange country, a place surrounded by the unfamiliar and the challenges involved with communicating with the people and finding your way around a foreign land. When your feet touch the ground after a cross country flight, whether it’s in your own back yard or somewhere new, the adventure is normally only just beginning.

Turkey 1

I have been in Turkey two weeks now and have had some amazing cross country adventures. One day the mountains began to over develop so I pushed out in to the flat lands of this massive valley to keep a safe distance between me and the cumulus nimbus cloud, and the subsequent rain. As the flat lands were working well I had a pleasant flight, landing about 25 miles away. The area I landed in was all rural and a mixture of wheat and other crops, and a few farm houses.

But with four hours of light remaining I wasn’t too worried. After folding up my wing I began my walk along a dusty farmers’ road; within minutes I was greeted by a smiley old guy on a tractor who then offered me a ride on the back of his tractor (or at least that’s what I think he said). For about six or seven miles I stood with one foot on his tow hitch and the other dangling in the air, alternating feet every few minutes for comfort. He eventually dropped me at the intersection of a not so busy sealed road, where I sat there for about half an hour watching the cumulus clouds in the distance decay as the day began to dry up.

Turkey 2

Although a few cars passed by, none stopped to the wave of my thumb, not because they didn’t want to; none seemed to have room. Eventually three young guys on two small motor bikes passed me, going the opposite direction. After circling back and asking me a few friendly questions in some very broken English they offered me a ride. I rode on the back of the bike for about 45 minutes as they worked together to try and put a few more words of English together they had obviously learnt at school and forgotten, asking me various questions along the way. After dropping me at the door to my hotel I tried to give them money for gas, buy them a beer, anything at all to show my appreciation for taking me so far out of their way, but they refused to take anything and just seemed happy to help out a stranger.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Best ‘Dirt out’ EVER!

Story by Steve Pieniak
Photographs by Dave Milroy

The most attractive aspect of paragliding for myself is learning. I learned so much on 5/17 during an XC flight to Mt. Si, I have to tell the club.

There was a discussion on Yahoo regarding LZ options for XC. Well, I’ve discovered incredibly easy to get to, and EXTREMELY REMOTE, LZ’s that only require one direction for retrieval: “turn left at North Bend Bar and Grill and keep driving ’til you see me.”

I’m still grinning 3 days after this flight… one of the best ever. I flew to Si in just over an hour and played around in rough air… I was very surprised to hear Dave Milroy on my radio when I got there! He hiked up to launch at Mt. Si earlier but was unable to join the rodeo because launch at Si was a toilet bowl. (He took some photos of me in the distance.) I didn’t even dare get close to launch for a photo op because the air was too rough. I was only able to speak to him after I was at 6G under a cloud and well above the ridge. At about 2:30-3:00pm there were still remnants of an inversion that made ridge soaring less than fun.

Photo 1

(PS: From past experience, never launch from Si or ridge soar that mountain when you know there is a well developed inversion below launch. Those conditions didn’t exist this day, but being battered by an inversion ceiling while trying to ridge soar Si’s raw crag rock is a wild ride. It’s the ugliest air and a lesson previously well learned. This is VERY GOOD ADVICE.)

I toyed with Si for some time, not knowing what my next move would be. My goal was Si, and I found myself there so quickly I was scratching my helmet wondering what to do next. A cloud street materialized north of Si… I saw the shadows of the clouds growing. The day was young and there were cumies everywhere. I told Dave I was heading North. Gulp. Hee hee… I love that feeling. Cloudbase was at 6G and I figured I could cloud hop to a town. As it turns out, being wrong was way more informative than being right!

Photo 2

I flew in this street effortlessly for about 8 miles when it dead ended. I was at 5G at this time and wasn’t worried…hell, I wasn’t even trying to find lift while clouds were overhead — I just went straight… until I saw the cloud street jump 3 or so miles east toward the foothills. Oops. Who wud’a thunk it? So far the day was entirely thermic… and even if it wasn’t and I could ridge soar uncharted (to me) mountains, I knew of no LZ’s and I couldn’t convince myself that I could penetrate a west headwind to safety if I was lucky enough to ridge soar mountains to the east to begin with… so I soon decided that there was no way I was going to go back even farther into the mountains (it turns out my LZ was already 1100ft above sea level).

So 5000 ft turned into dirt in a few minutes of blue sky. I didn’t feel so bad when I saw locals flapping over my head… even they were fooled. For perspective… Mt Si looked a lot closer than Carnation… and Carnation’s direction was into a light west wind. I have yet to look at my track log (it’s submitted to Tigertag, but I’ve been working… so I apologize if my miles aren’t exact, but feel free to check out the flight).

Photo 3

I landed amidst huge fresh clear cuts. Funny… I chose a darker clear cut to land in, thinking maybe it would donate a thermal to my cause… instead it gave me shit. Literally. As I made my approach I smelled very foul air… you don’t wanna know. When I landed I could only think of “this is the Pacific North West and we breed serial killers… don’t look around.” I was so relieved when I saw a posting (on the ground) that this was an experimental field for ‘fertilizer’ from our neighborhood sewage treatment plant. So I had that going for me, which was nice. I saw an industrial truck, and I was hoping they left the keys… that would have been fun! Nope.. gotta walk through this shit.

Luckily, the road had no yuk, so my wing is clean.

Two VERY IMPORTANT tools necessary if you are an XC pilot willing to land in shit 10 miles from help. YOU MUST HAVE A GPS which has up-to-date topographical maps. (This was a godsend.) I made a mental picture of the area at 5G so I could walk out of the maze of access
roads to this fat road I saw in the air — a useless mental exercise. I’d be sleeping with air worse than the aroma of Tacoma if I tried to walk out without a GPS. Twice I was totally convinced I needed to turn one direction, but my GPS said otherwise. Good thing. BTW, the sign said it would be unwise to forage in that area until mid June. Note to self.

Second thing. Personal Locator Beacons. I call mine “wife”… except it’s more reliable. The area has sketchy cell phone reception, and if I was injured the PLB would be my only safety net.

So, I hike 45 minutes and finally find what I thought from the air was a very nice forest access road. My jaw dropped when I saw it! It is as wide as a two lane highway and perfectly manicured… not a speck of trash. Paving it would be a sin. What a RUNWAY! You can literally land a Cessna back there in nowhere land! And best of all it’s at least 10 miles long! How do I know it’s that long?… because I was unfortunate enough to find mile marker 9.5 after 45 minutes…then 9.0….8.5….8.0. I had called Michelle previously to tell her I was ‘about’ 5 miles north of Si as I gazed at it and talked and walked. Mt. Si is deceiving… it was 10 miles away as the pilot walks. Hmmm…. that’s a long walk. Good thing I landed at 4:30pm and had a liter of water.

My GPS told me there were two parallel access roads leading back to Si. I was on the pretty one. Very scenic and quiet… very quiet… and remote… too quiet.

Then, after a couple of hours, I could have sworn I heard a car drive by. I was lucky enough to be at a section of the road that had a cut to the other road, and I saw DUST! I have since decided that I love dust. I think from now on I’ll park with my windows down.

I climbed over the gate that protected the pristine runway… THEN — beer cans on the ground everywhere!!! Praise be to white trash! Civilization! Within 10 minutes a couple of guys came by in the opposite direction in their truck sporting shotguns. They were very happy to show me. After my nightmare of landing in Jeffery Dahmer’s Diner, this was just fun. They were nice enough to drive me to…a BAR! And they were astute enough to spot Matt Amend in the air soaring Si as I babbled about paragliding! So I hydrated at the North Bend Bar and Grill and watched Matt Amend land. Heather, our beautiful chase car driver, picked up Matt and met me at the bar.

Those two are so polite… they got so sick of me talking about this big LZ, they let me show them.

So, as it turns out, the guys that gave me a ride call this public access road into the wilderness ‘county line’. The off limits big-ass-fat-Cessna-10-(or maybe 20)-mile LZ with lots of clear cut options is next to it. This opens such XC potential I’m giddy. Just bring your GPS, PLB, and smelling salt. And if you are nice, $20 to tip the hunters.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Baldy's New Record

By Tom McCune:

James Bender and I had been going back and forth about the weather at Baldy for April 23rd. It was a forecast we were trying to decipher from all our web knowledge and I think the sources were having a tough time committing to the predictions. It sure would be tough to be a weatherman for paraglider pilots, especially under a known name anyway. We trusted our sources in their predictions with wind, lift index, clouds, etc, etc. With a final commitment and some faith in the forecast, I put out the call on the open list and we ended up with 6 pilots in two trucks on that particular Monday.

Mount Baldy Launch

Mount Baldy launch, ready for a new site record. Photo by Tom McCune.

James thought it best to be on launch as early as possible. We watched on launch as birds soared for a while and then somebody asked, “Why are we on the ground right now?” With that little bit of prodding we all suited up and talked about which way was best to go XC. Radios were all tuned and working in harmony so nobody would be out of communication. As we launched, each pilot caught lift and worked it up. Kyndel, Stefan, James, and I took a nice thermal up over the mountain. Kyndel and I took off after topping it out at about 6 grand. I advised drifting with the lift since we were very low. Crossing the first canyon was easy but then Kyndel and I took turns getting low farther on. Since the lift index was good near the ground, we found thermals keeping us up and we slowly continued NE and eventually thermalled up over the hills north of I90 at the Columbia River.

Paul was catching up rather quickly. There were three of us thermalling up at the edge of the Columbia before crossing, and Stefan was getting closer to us. Scott had a good flight and I wish he would have made an attempt to follow us, but he chose to top land and drive down. Scott is a newer pilot and was not familiar with the area, but what better way to learn it! We are all thankful he landed and drove for us anyway. One good way to learn from an experienced pilot is to chase them in the air or from the ground. When you pick them up, you will hear all about the day and you can actually pick their wisdom since you have their undivided attention. There have been several pilots who were thrilled to pick me up and bring me back. They get a one-on-one lesson in XC. If they flew a bit beforehand, then they can associate the knowledge with the current day.

Tiger Mountain Launch

Tiger Mountain launch, earlier in the week. Photo by Kerry Ryan.

This was not an easy day but staying in lift paid off big. One by one the others were landing. Kyndel was low by Soap Lake and told me he was setting up to land. I knew he was tired and was wishing he could stay up, but I also know how it is to be out of shape. Passing Soap Lake, I went for farm land with dirt roads and no traffic but figured there would be lift. There was. I was not familiar with the area so I asked Kyndel what ‘reservoir’ I was flying parallel to. He told me it was the chain of Sun Lakes. Besides Sun Lakes, there were little ponds of water all around reminding me of an area north of Chelan on the east side of the river. Some of them looked like trampolines scattered around the plateau landscape. I kept on heading north as I contemplated returning to fish them.

At the north end of the chain of Sun Lakes, I was rather low—much too low for a low save next to a lake. After all, thermals do not come off water but my vario started to beep as I entertained the few cars passing by a few feet below my harness. I had only intended to entertain just enough to cause one or two to stop so I could get a ride part way back but the next time I looked down, I was high enough to go over the back of the plateau and get into the meat of the thermal. Bingo! It worked! Lots of lift and I was back on course. After saying thanks to all the Swifts who were there with me, I took off over the southern end of Banks Lake.

Photo by Kerry Ryan

At Tiger Mountain launch. Photo by Kerry Ryan.

Back out on the flats and feeling good, I decided to make a couple calls. After fishing out my cell phone, I called Paul. He was thrilled to hear I was in the air. They were heading back but he encouraged me to stay in the air and said Scott was chasing us. I called Kyndel and his response was “you must be on the ground”. After telling him I was quite high and 88 miles out, he was ecstatic and told me to “keep going!” I did, but that was my final glide since the day was nearing an end. A line of cues I had been trying to catch up to was keeping just out of reach. I got within a few miles, but they just would not hold still long enough. Had I reached them, the state record would have fallen.

Scott retrieved Kyndel on his respectable 62.5 mile route and then they came to pick me up by Highway 2. Kyndel and I thanked Scott several times and then we filled him with XC knowledge and advice. It was a long drive back and we were all tired, but it was well worth the effort. Conversations were getting quiet and I almost fell asleep when we arrived in North Bend at my truck. Heading back to Tiger, Scott and I were wondering what happened to the three packages of deer burger I brought. We were supposed to grill them after flying, but I guess I flew too long. A new Baldy record of 97.7 miles was worth missing a good burger, but I still wanted one.