Monday, July 14, 2014

Task 7: Starburst!

After the last six grueling days, I have to admit I was ready for a break. And it seemed like we might get one. This final task day started overcast and still, and it looked like things might not even heat up enough to get us up over the butte. Wind techs were sledding to the LZ, and there were no dust devils to be seen over the flats, and none were forming up on launch. Nevertheless a task was called. I’d never seen one quite like it: a starburst pattern originating from a central point over the flats, with petals in each direction, like a flower, returning to the center each time. How beautiful and horrible! Apparently they chose the central area because it's known locally as a sink zone. Just to make things interesting. The launch time was moved back after a while, to give things more time to heat up.

Task 6: The Perfect Out and Return

Now this was getting ridiculous: we had another day of perfect weather. After four hours of sleep, I woke up to hear they’d postponed the start of the day by an hour. Thank god for small favors. I snoozed a bit more, and then Thom and I rode up the hill to see what kind of devilish torture the task committee would devise for us after yesterday’s massive flight. Today a slightly less ambitious 93 km out and return task was called, to Sims Corner and back. They said it was the perfect out and return flight. Well that’s not a short distance by any means, but at least the retrieve would be simpler! Apparently a couple of retrieve volunteers had quit after the previous long day, and no one could really blame them. But they found a couple more helpful folks to fill in.

Task 5: A Very, Very, Very Long Day

Conditions on the fifth day were perfect: light wind and clear skies. They called a 206 km task. Some said it was the longest task ever called in the US, or maybe even the world. Everyone was excited. But I was a bit overwhelmed. I hate how competitions up the ante on their tasks each day, when I am so slow to dial in to the flying! But I was game to see how far I could go. And I was really hoping to put together a few more pieces of this flatland cross country puzzle. Up until now I hadn’t made a single turn point in this event. Maybe today I would finally tag one!

Task 4: Eleventh Hour Reprieves

The forecast called for a passing cold front to bring strong wind today. No one had high hopes for a good day. In fact some seemed interested in taking a break! The event was on hold for an hour this morning, but then the organization made the call to head up the mountain and try to run a task, the 4th one in a row. They said the forecast for afternoon wind speed was 20-30 mph. Anything over that and it would be a safety concern! They called a downwind run of about 64km. The big brushfire in Entiat was still burning from yesterday, with over 5,000 acres burned so far. A huge wall of smoke was parked out over the flats, and would probably get blown over the course line at some point as the wind direction shifted.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Rough Riders

Alex and I do not know how these top guns can do this every day. Competitions usually have a few weather days to give pilots a break. But this one delivered perfect weather conditions every single day, that's seven straight days of thermaling and flying cross country over the desert of eastern Washington. Each of those seven days was full to the brim with competition activity. We quickly fell into a routine where the only thing missing was enough sleep. Maybe we can catch up on our sleep on the flight home!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reaper's Tale: Smokey and the Bandits

[Submitted by Reaper on Wind Lines] Aloha 'Ol Smokeys! Well, today was a little smokey with the fires in Wells Canyon, Brewster, and a few remnants from McNeil canyon fires.
This morning was a bit strong and North on launch so the task commitee almost called off the days task just to give everyone a much needed break. Forty plus hours of flying, and more than that for us volunteers, plus 100+ degree heat and dry hot weather really takes it's toll. Even Jorge looked worked after yesterdays task, and he even said to me "Reaper, I'm taking a month off from tandems when I get home, whew".

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tasks 1-3: Dust to Dust

It's hard to find time for reflection when you are so busy at grown-up summer camp. A crazy summer camp of flying, drinking, swimming, and more flying, in a lake resort oasis in the middle of the baking hot, dry, dusty desert farmland of eastern Washington. So much has happened over the last four days, it's going to be tough to recall. Plus, I'm a few brain cells down. I mean, because of all the, you know, sun. But today’s flight was tragically short, and I’m back at the motel early, so I finally have a little time.

Dust In The Wind

First, my stinking apology for the lack of 'sand' script from my dried out fingers. This place is amazing, but it takes a toll on your skin, mind and watch. The sun arrives early and hangs till late, making schedules downright useless. As you can see from the picture, where I am on double duty, checking my log while dropping one! I arrived Thursday night, after a long ride following Motorhead. He drove JK's motor home, and I drove his Jeep. We slept in a secluded cherry field that first night: Motorhead, me, Bonnie and Bill. It was kinda like a Walton's episode with a round of 'Good Nights'.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Pre-Practice Day

I just arrived in Chelan this evening, after a 5 hour flight and a 3 hour drive, but Thom, Paul, Bonnie and Bill have been here a couple days and got to do some nice thermaling over the butte today. Thom got up to eight grand! Thom and I are settling into our swanky digs at the Apple Inn Motel and re-programming our instruments at the last minute. Hoping conditions are good for the next week!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A preview of a task in Chelan

I found this great video from 2010 on the Cross Country Magazine guide to Chelan, and thought it was worth sharing. Can't wait to fly this place again! It's been 13 years since I was there as a thermal newbie, and I couldn't even get across the river back then during a week of super high pressure blue thermal conditions. I'm hoping to do better this time!

HTR in the Big Leagues

This year the Hawaii Thermal Research team is sending a stalwart crew of hot air scientists to the flatlands of eastern Washington, to participate in the 2014 US National Paragliding Championship in Chelan. This site is known for strong thermals, beautiful cloud streets, dust devils, and long flights over flat desert terrain. Pretty much everything we don't have in Hawaii. Thom, Jorge and I are representing Oahu, with a cameo appearance by Dave. Langan, Bill, Roy and Scotty are stepping up for the Big Island. Reaper is the safety director for the comp. Motorhead Paul will be free flying, and we hope to see Bill and Bonnie there as well. Maybe even Doug Hoffman! I'm looking forward to an exciting and rewarding week of thermal research!