Monday, December 25, 2006

Kukaniloko (Birthplace of the Alii)

I got an early Christmas gift yesterday, to thermal the flats of Central Oahu, but wait, I will start from the beginning.

Yesterday was one of those cold, clear and windless mornings that gets the thermal junkies in us excited. Doug, Ray and I made plans to get an early start on Nanakuli in order to get back to more terrestrial activities and to beat the previous day's overdeveloping of the sky.

Most of the balance of pilots headed over to Makapuu to be treated to mellow northerly conditions. There were visitors and locals, new and seasoned, taking to the air. Two notable achievements were a newer pilot swooping the road downwind into the SLP fence, and an experienced visitor death spiraling the LZ with a standing room only performance -- by all accounts it rated a 10 out of a possible 10. Go Claudio!

On high launch at Nanakuli we find great sky conditions, but the few cycles coming up the hill are light. Doug launches into one of the first good cycles and proceeds to climb straight up. By the time Ray and I get airborne Doug has already flown a complete circuit of the valley, I think he came back because he was hoping for some company.

The three of us climb to the top of Haleakala and we proceed to the back of the valley. There is more than the usual punch in the thermals but as we climb things improve. By that time the clouds are forming fast and we are getting some strange high/low cloud combinations. Doug escapes over the back and I go quickly as well. At one point I look back and Ray is 300' below me; a moment later I look back and he is 400' above in the dark bottom of a cloud. He decides he doesn't like the look of things, as well as feeling guilty for being out flying on Noell's birthday, and heads out to soar the tall antennas of Lualualei and then back to the car.

Meanwhile I cross the back low and see Doug out over the flats going up. It takes me a long time to find some quality lift at the edge of the sunshine where the foothills meet the flats. Doug is now back up at cloudbase and could easily fly back across to Nanakuli again. He heads out on glide searching toward Kunia Road, and my thermal lights up and floats me up to cloudbase and I head out on glide toward the golf course.

Neither of us find any meaningful lift and I watch as Doug either looks like he is about to land or see him higher than me. I then meander my way in relatively neutral air to a big cloud that has formed over Kunia Camp. Fortunately I have a slight tailwind to help me get there, and as soon as I peek under the shadowy edge I get treated to a great ride all the way to cloudbase at 3700'.

We spend so much time here flying close to terrain that even when we are high the mountain is usually not very far away, but flatland flying is great. So with 3 grand of ground clearance I see my drift is taking me toward Wheeler and Schofield Barracks. I contemplate heading over towards Mililani, but I don't see any aircraft activity at Wheeler, and Doug thinks it is OK if I stay above 3500' (I think he might have made that up). Over Wahiawa and on to the Koolaus, the clouds are starting to street up together, but between the bases below me and the uninviting terrain of the Koolau foothills and Whitmore Village military installation, I decide to venture into the blue and cross over Lake Wilson. As soon as I leave my shady cloud above and get lower I run into a northerly wind that slows my progress. I figure that the big cloudstreet behind me is sucking up all the air in its convergence.

Out over the old pineapple fields I search for some kind of dusty in hopes that I can thermal back up and follow Kam. Highway to the North Shore. Nothing really materializes and I go back to land next to the tall oasis of trees outside of Wahiawa that is Kukaniloko. Kukaniloko is the place with the oddly eroded stones, where the Alii of old Hawaii went to give birth. So in the end there is a Christmas theme to this all. Merry Christmas.


Brazilian Ray said...

cool story, Dave! just to add a little.... Doug laid his glider on the dump side (top launch) and the wind seemed to be coming straight at the hill form the ocean, so after some 10 minutes (sweating in full suit) he decides to take off from the school side. Doug got one of the best cycles of the day as soon as he put his glider down, kiting it and going straight up!
after a minute or two the wind dies and restarts from the dump side.... Dave's turn. He asks me to "point" a good cycle and after a couple of minutes waiting I tell him "this is it" anf off to the moon he went! it dies again.... wich side to pick?!? Doug's (school) or Dave's (dump)?!? I toss the coin up (or some grass) and decide to go with dave's side.
I am slowly climbing, working it when Doug returns from his first tour of the valley... we climb together and as I look up to
Dave getting in to the cloud Dougs passes me and seconds after I get to cloudbase... hummm 3 pilots in the clouds? not good! so I decided to go towards "piramids" on town side of the valley. As the cloud decipates I see D&D (Doug and Dave) going "clockwise" towards the back of the valley, so I return to haleakala to get some more altitude and try to "join" them. As I get close to them, I wanted to talk to my vario, but it was a one way conversation and "he" was yelling at me! Back at cloud base (or a little beyond) I decided to go towards the ocean (my climb was so fast I didn't know for sure if CB came down on me and I'd rather avoid any posible "mountains" in the way...) the rest is history!

paliglydr said...

WOW. What a great adventure out in the wilds of Nanikuli. Thanks for the fine synopsis, Dave and Ray. Many of us out at mellow MPU had been wondering how you all fared out there in the exciting "thermal-land".


Alex said...

Thanks for the report, Dave - what a great flight! I just checked the sectional and Doug was actually pretty close - the class D airspace above Wheeler has a 3300 foot ceiling. But it's a very large diameter circle and it would be hard to stay above it for long without a source of thrust. There's also some class E airspace outside about a third of the class D circumference - but I've never really understood class E. Maybe someone who does can explain it to us.

Anyway, glad to hear you guys have scored so many epic flights that are worth writing about - this month I've been gone is turning out to be our most prolific blogging month ever - great job! See you all next week.

firedave said...

Alex: I am just happy to have something worth writing about for a change.
I expect you will take over full reporting duties upon returning.

Note: Driving back after the flight with Doug and Ray through Kolekole Pass was almost as impressive as the flight. When you are down low on the road the cliff faces look like a mini Yosemite (1000' vertical drops))in the crisp sunlight. I am suprised Jimmy hasn't basejumped any.

Anonymous said...

Class E is all other airspace below Class A where there is no A,B,C,D and G. It effects cloud distance and visibility rules for airplanes(>=3sm of vis, cloud clearance: >=500 feet below, >=1000ft above, 2000ft laterally vs 1sm vis and clear of clouds in Class G)- so in a paraglider it doesn't really matter whether we fly in Class G or E...

firedave said...

Thanks Christine!
I was suprised to see you and Bill kiting today, I figured we would see you flocking OTB to Koko like the rest.

Alex said...

Thanks Christine - It would be great to check out the Oahu sectional with an airspace expert like yourself - I'll try to bring one to the LZ sometime.

sandy said...

Maybe we might make it a topic at our next meeting if there aren't too many other issues to discuss?!

There's a really great tutorial at the McKenzie's High Adventure website .

Is anybody good with 3-D graphics? It would be really cool to make a 3-D visual of the airspace on Oahu. That 2-D map doesn't do much for me. It's good that we have a few simple rules like "stay below 1000 feet for Diamond Head", but when Dave and Doug start heading off over the flats -- that gets tricky. And, well, I can dream, right?

Alex said...

Good idea. I think you can do that in Google Earth or Microsoft Live Local. Maybe McStalker would be able to figure that out. I've heard there's a file you can upload to your GPS if you're going to be flying in the UK that has all the 3D airspace chunks mapped out for you.