Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Light Headed (Lack of oxygen??!!??!?!?)

Epic day (2nd in a row) for flying a paraglider in Oahu... (Note: yesterday I flew from Kahana to Kualoa and back in a 3 hour flight. Marathon Mark followed by Fireman Dave and Jeff Jetflap broke the island distance record for XC flights.) The day started after work, at 11:00 am when I called Doug on the phone and he sounded like he was sick, he said "Guys are bombing at Makapuu but Mark is checking Koko. Let’s meet over there!" What??!! Light and variable and Doug is talking about passing on a Nanakuli day? He must be sick! He was already home (after work) and Koko is much closer than Nanakuli... but it wasn't very difficult to convince him to drive back west, Thank God he was not sick! We dropped a car at Waikele (KFC) and headed to our favorite flying spot.

Alex, Don, Bob and visiting pilot Ben decided to join us. By the time we hiked to the top the rest of the gang arrived. The clouds were covering much of the valley and mountains, so we took our time, set up some new streamers and waited for some good cycles. It was a bit cold up there, which is a good sign! The cycles were not very long but the time in between them was (not good). Doug went first in a strong cycle but wasn't going up much, so I waited a little longer...(later he said he thought he would have to top land at low launch and hike again!).

After he got above me I picked a good cycle and launched. I was soon going straight up! By the way, after launch climbing at Haleakala we heard a long and spooky thunder.... All it takes is ONE thermal..... This one took me to 3500ft and from there I had my personal best flight ever at Nanakuli. I've been to some very beautiful places with my paraglider, like California and Brazil, but this was even better than the Koolau green wall! Thermals were quite abundant and I followed Doug to Puu Kaala, flying over 1000 feet over the highest point of Oahu! The vario was screaming at me, making my smile even bigger as we climb at 1200fpm.

On glide to Makaha I had a huge collapse, some 60% or more, but at 4 grand it is not so scary! Doug got pretty high and started to head back to Kaala. With 4200 feet I lost about a 1000 on glide to get there. I tried to use a few thermals to get higher, but it didn't work and I got separated from Doug. I got a little worried until the vario was beeping again, close to the ridge at Kaala, closer than my regular comfort zone for places I've never been before... but here the thermals were cooking and that was what I had to do.... sure enough I had 5000 ft again! Doug was already at Nanakuli by now and I was just taking my time and using every thermal to stay above 4000 most of the time! There were no more clouds in the sky, but the small ones being created and showing us where to go.

Doug was already going over the back of the valley towards Aiea. When I got back to Nanakuli, he called me on the radio getting my attention to a huge dust devil towards north shore pineapple fields. After almost three hours of flight I decided I had enough and flew around the valley and landed at the beach, close to the MacDonald’s where the rest of the gang was hanging out. Doug reached cloud base twice over the flats flying over my house in Pearlridge and back to his car in Waikele. At Chili's Waikele we had a delicious margarita and I figured out it is not lack of oxygen, but I'm just walking on the clouds! Cameras were left behind, but the images of this flight will mark my memories forever. Here in my house I'm still trying to figure out how to put my feet on the ground and get my light headed feeling to burst.


Alex said...

Ray, that's a beautiful story! I'm so glad I was there to see you make that flight. You are such a great pilot! And brave too!

Doug has always tried to impress upon me the value of rushing up the hill at Nanakuli and this was definitely one time I'm sorry I didn't. By the time we got up to launch you guys were gone, and once I got up high I wasn't brave enough to go back and fly the ridge behind the missile silos by my lonesome. I tried the front route instead, which turned out to be completely devoid of thermals (or clouds). But I almost made the ridge at Makaha even just on glide. One thermal would have been enough! Ray, next time we have an epic day out there you can lead the rest of us to Kaala!

Brazilian Ray said...

it will be my plesure!