Sunday, October 08, 2006

Nanakuli - the Beast at 11

To those closet cases of thermal master wannabes ..

Friday I followed Ray and Nanakuli King Doug on a reported "11" for conditions. Once before I paid the dues by hiking the hill in search of those 5k to 7k I read the theory about. Flying ridgelift is a thrill and keeps you happy for a good while. However, what is more ultimate than being able to catch invisible bubbles of air shooting up from below .. eh right cool ! .. how do i find them ? I read and heard all about it but my first day at Nanakuli did not really make me a believer.

Already on the lower ridge we could feel a good wind up the hill, probably mostly thermal action as it was not really cross. Even though composed of thermals it is amazing how stable the breeze was. Just on the border of soarable on the lower ridge, we hiked to the middle launch at 800 ft or so. At the middle launch the conditions were even stronger and judged definitely soarable.

Ray launched and turned North. Shortly after he hit some pretty good lift and at least maintained going further North. It was my turn laying out the wing on the short launch .. no room for forwards. At the time for my launch the thermals were cycling and I even had to wait for it to calm down. The launch did not present any bad snags so I got off the hill in a controlled manner. As the day was strong I had my hopes up to be able to stay up and maybe even get high.

I followed Ray's path and headed North, pretty soon caught a good thermal and turned back to get the ride. Sweet ! I was getting some good lift .. already beaten my old track of scratch and maintain for 10 min. Being close to the boulder chip cookie hill I tried to get up by flying S - turns or just follow the rige. Challenging, as most of the lift was thriving towards the hill, I was able to maintain farther out but not really hit the jackpot. I was holding on dearly to those golden chips of altitude I earned from hiking up the hill.

By this time Doug was launching almost in an effortless spiral straight up .. annoying. I was thrilled by the fact that I got up to about 1100. I tried to work it farther but I started to slowly fall out. At about 700ft I crossed the ridge and headed for the football field completing a pretty sweet 25 min flight with a mellow landing in a 4-5 mile wind, no turbulence or funkiness.

Nanakuli is a big beast, it needs a lot of bullets to fall but when You get up You have clearly mastered a new level in your PG career. During my flight I was never seriously kicked around, the thermals sometimes strong but never creating collapses or uncontrolled turns.

Good luck ! and hike high on Your first go, it will increase Your chances of deciding to come back :)



Alex said...

Hooray! Another article about my favorite subject, thermal flying at Nanakuli. Thanks for sharing with us, Johan - I enjoyed reading your flight report very much.

I am glad to hear that people are excited about getting a handle on Nanakuli. I think we will see a lot of very good pilots around here soon if you guys keep this up. It took me quite a few flights out there, like probably 20 or so, to begin to feel positive about that place, since I suffered so many humliating bomb-outs before my success rate improved, but I'm glad I stuck with it and now I look forward to any chance to fly there, especially with Doug who has a lot to offer on the subject.

Brazilian Ray said...

Espeaking of thermals, when are we going to the Big Island???

paliglydr said...

Alex, I'm not sure my psyche can afford the hammering implied by 20 * 4 hour trips out to Nanikuli that result in 20 immediate flushes to one side of the ridge or the other. Discouraging to the max. I guess we'll see. 2 down, 18 to go.

Alex said...

Yikes! What I meant was, it took me about 20 flights to feel like it was worth going out there on any given day. before that I didn't bomb out every time, just sometimes, and even when I did get up I was never quite sure why. I'm just saying it took somewhere near 20 flights before I started to feel like I understood anything out there.

We're not as lucky as some places in the world where they have nearby drive-up thermalling sites. And it's hard for Nanakuli to compete with our nearby drive-up ridge soaring sites. But if you can find some other reasons to go out there (camaraderie, socializing, exercise, launch and landing practice) the benefits to your thermalling and overall flying will be huge. And hey - it might not take 20 for you Russell, since you're a more advanced pilot than I was when I started going. So for you - special price, 10 flights: only 8 more before you start liking it!