Monday, January 22, 2007

BI Jealousy and Over the Back Again

As some of you know I planned on making the Big Island hop with Dave and Jeff Saturday morning. Due to unexpected complications and the airline's inability to deal with complications in any kind of timely manner, I lost out, but I will return. The weekend does get better though.

I took a look towards Nanakuli as I was leaving the airport and wrote a post looking for any takers when I got home, and called Doug 3 times. "Anyone? Anyone?" Frank calls and just wants a report . . . oh well . . . I head up North for some bodysurfing. On my way, Doug calls me as I am almost up north. Sigh . . . no glider in my car anymore so I'm SOL. I go bodysurfing @ pinballs with my roommate instead (break on the outside rocky point on the right side of Waimea Bay . . . really stupid idea). Doug has an epic flight, lands in Pearl City and I smack my head against the wall in frustration.

I wake up Sunday with that great cold air, that means the second I look out that door I am going see a spotless sky with no wisps of any clouds and no wind. Nick called the night before anxious to give it a shot if it was working as he had a rare full day off on the weekend and has not ever had a proper thermal flight. Of course he is mad jealous of my thermal adventure from before . . . JK Nick. It looks great from my porch as I stroll out the door and I give Doug a call. It's on for 12:30. Then I put the call out on Wind Lines and I get a message from a pilot I have never met before. Eric moved here from Colorado 2 months ago and lives in Mililani Mauka but hasn't had a chance to fly yet on the island. He was a thermal rookie as well. I offer to pick him up as that is not too far out of my way to the usual KFC meeting spot.

I zoom over to his place pretty quick then head over to K-mart to see if there are any boots worth buying as I am still hiking in my Vans . . . I was better off in my Vans that what they had there, so I have a bite with my friend Kari who met us and Eric. We head to KFC as Nick arrives. Doug is fueling up a block away so Eric and I take off for the valley while Doug leaves his car @ Waikele and hops in with Nick.

We arrive @ the spot a little before 1:00 and begin the hike of doom in the hot sun. It sucks as usual. Hot and brutal. Check the video post coming soon. We arrive at low launch and it's too weak so we keep hiking.

Middle launch is looking OK with some light and strong cycles setting up. I agree to go first so Doug can explain to the fresh meat what I am doing wrong so they don't make the same mistakes as me and sink out, smack any rocks, etc. :P

After an extended setup session, getting all my camera gear plugged in and recording, I am ready to go. I get a tangle out of those clingy rocks and launch into a nice cycle. I shoot pretty much straight up 30 feet from launch. I'm sure it prompted a "That looks easy enough! I can do that!" from the watching pilots.

The air was much rougher today than my last 2 flights and I hang around Haleakala for awhile to await the fate of Nick and Eric. Nick sets up launches into a weaker cycle than I did. He's making low passes around launch height for awhile, reminiscent of my first flight. He loses some, he gains some, then loses a lot. I see him scratching around really low with a couple of wing tip collapses as he hits the edges of the thermals he's trying desperately to get into. He makes some bold moves really close to the mountain in his bright orange Atis.

He eventually gets a great bump after a real long battle and gets back to launch height. He begins to figure out what he's looking for. After a great fight with a nice learning progression, he is up above launch and working up the front of Haleakala.

Eric takes off into a better cycle and starts to figure it out, slowly climbing up the mountain, and is doing well after watching Nick's battle.

Meanwhile, while trying to watch all the fun, I am getting rocked around and I need to switch tapes. I climb to cloud base a second time behind the peak and head out towards the ocean to get some calmer air. I need to be able to let go of my toggles safely and there is no way I'm letting go where I have been cruising around.

I swap out tapes and go back to mess around some and wait for Doug. I climb up again and go on a glide as I am getting really rocked. Before I know it Doug is past me and headed on his glide to back of the valley. Nick and Eric look fine and I scramble for cloud base one more time with a "Wait for me!" on the radio. After my first glide I make it to the rocky peak halfway back the ridge for my second climb on the journey.

I was hoping to go towards Makaha, however the clouds have dropped down really low all along the range so we opt for the Kunia crossing. As I start my glide, I am in lift still and am climbing into the clouds quickly. I pull big ears. I keep going up anyways until all I can see are my feet. Luckily, due to the generous loaner from Reaper, I am saved by the GPS compass which allows me to pick a heading back towards the ocean. I was watching that needle spin way faster than I thought it should with so little brake input, with the feeling of sensory deprivation. I pop out of the cloud and regain my vector towards the back of the valley.

I clear the back of the valley @ 3400ft and begin my glide across the flatlands spotting Doug way off in the distance. Back @ Haleakala, the rookies (it's all relative :) ) have figured out how to hit cloud base and have built up some serious bump tolerance they didn't know they had in them. They consider following us but we are long gone, and they are not about to soar off into the cloudy unknown mountains without a little more guidance. They explore the valley, finding the 2nd house thermal at the pyramid at the back of the valley, and check out Aircrafts on the far side of the valley, testing out their new skills.

I make 2 more climb and glides, with Doug watching me climb up and coming back below me as we head towards Kunia road. I fly way over the landing spot from my first XC and am doing great @ my second attempt, hitting 4300 before my glide over Kunia Rd.

Doug on glide

Doug reappears above and ahead of me again by about 1000ft a little while later. He is the master. We follow the path of the huge power transfer lines until we hit Kam Hwy and are following it looking for anything to climb up. 3500, 3000, 2800, 2500, 2000, 1800 . . . 1200 . . . 1000 . . .

"Uh, Doug, anything?" "Nope."

I am at the edge of a series of big soccer and baseball fields. To the right of that is Waikele golf course and on the other side of these 2 fairways is this nice grassy field right next to Waikele Shopping Center. (Remember in the beginning of my long drawn out ramble, Doug left his car there. Smart huh.)

"I don't think I can make that on glide, will someone get pissed if I don't make it and land on the golf course?"

"I'm not sure. I've never done that."

"I'm landing here @ this huge field instead."

I set up my approach and get low at the end and set up my landing on the really long field. With so little wind and a HUGE LZ I wasn't as concerned as I should have been about my approach direction. As I come in to land I get this big thermal bump @ 60 feet and begin a really fast approach DOWNWIND. I had this happen to me @ Diamond Head landing on the beach, but I'm stoked as there are no cliffs, oceans, rocks, surfers running and yelling "He's gonna crash! RUN!". Anyway, I flare nice and slow after my dive skimming the ground by inches for a really long way till I get a fun slide landing in front of a family that had been tracking our progress for quite some time. They were pretty stoked. I asked where I was, and they were happy to tell me I had just landed @ Central Oahu Regional Park. SWEET! (See the video coming soon.)

I see Doug disappear below the trees as I am packing up. He couldn't make the field either and did land on the golf course. I call Nick and Eric who are hiking back to the cars after their own adventure. Fortunately for me, I had stashed my keys @ the truck and Eric lives 5 minutes from where I just landed. It was almost too perfect.

Nick and Eric show up with beers and stories to share. Great flights for all. I'll really try and avoid those downwinders from now on though. No GPS log as the auto record feature was off but I ordered my own and it's on its way.

I just checked Wind Lines and saw that Doug had another epic flight to Makaha which is the one I am dying for . . . I need to get off work earlier . . .

Anyway . . . another run-on story by Scrappy. :)


JeffMc said...

Nice flight and article Scrappy! Y'know, you actually dodged a bullet (saved some $$) in not going to BI on Saturday. A few pilots did OK beforehand, but for the most part it was shutting down by the time me, Dave, and Peter got up on launch.

P.S. - Sweet "Rocky" pose :)


sandy said...

Wow, I can see how you got the nickname Scrappy. You sure are one scrappy dude, you can really pull it all together quickly. Kudos on the excellent flight and report. Congrats to all on great flights.

Alex said...

Neo, I had heard about your exciting flight, but it's always nice to read the details when they're presented in such a dramatic fashion! Cool pictures too - I can't wait to see the video. Keep up the great flying and reporting. If you ever do get over to the Big Island you'll have no trouble with the thermal flying there, I'm guessing! :-)

Anonymous said...

Cheers for the nice write up Scrappy! It was a great day all around and next time (conditions providing) I'm going to try for an over the mountain flight.

sandy said...

So if I could summarize this week's epic Nanakuli conditions (please correct me where I'm wrong):

Sat: cool, clear, dry (fx for nil trades, lo moisture) Doug had epic flight to Pearl City
Sun: cool, clear, dry (fx for lt winds turning SE) Doug, Scrappy, Nick, Eric had epic flights 2900-4200 ft
Mon: cool, clear, dry (fx for ???) Doug and JeffMc had epic flights, 3500-4500 ft

Tues: cool, clear, dry (fx for ???) anybody fly Nanakuli? looked good from a distance
Wed: cool, not quite as clear (fx for ???) anybody fly Nanakuli? looked good from a distance
Thur: cool, much cloudiness, Nan looking to get OD'd early

Fx: light winds and dry through Sat, then trough moving in

and on Hawaii Island (BI):
Sat: clear through early pm; weak spotty thermals in am; early pm cycles on launch started coming most often from the NNW which made launching dangerous (several failed attempts were made by experienced pilots) Neil got out just before and had an epic flight, motor-assisted launching Eric soared motorless throughout midday/early pm period

Sun: clear through midday, though development moved in quicker, building over hill and clouds moving from S; weak spotty thermals in am; midday decent thermals (Alex and Sandy and Neil soared over flats, Russ soared over hill, many other great flights by tandems and solos, too many to mention) cloudbase ~2900 in early pm, best lift lasted maybe 11am-noon?

JeffMc said...

Sandy - to be fair, my flight on Monday shouldn't qualify as "epic" (although, for me it was SUPER fun and a big first step). I'm working on my epic-ness :)

I flew NAN for about 10 minutes Wednesday, before bombing out on the dump side. It was definitely working, but I launched off a too-light low launch instead of hiking further (mistake #1).

Jim and I hiked up and down NAN today (the sky was extremely clear with a few cumies, but the direction was coming from the NE and seemed kinda squirrelly on launch, being in the lee of the main ridge)

I think your point is that Nanakuli has been working for the most part all week and I agree. I think the forecast looks promising for the next couple of days too. So, come out here you guys!


Nick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nick said...

Hey everybody!,

Scrappy, righteous writeup! I can't wait to see the video (you see why below). You have such an easy going writing style. You're right, I was mad jealous of your first thermal xc! Speaking of mad jealous, I was hugely disappointed in not being able to visit the BI with the gang and E, but fortunately there was a silverlining to that dark cloud in the form of Nanakuli.

I'm cutting and pasting a Nanakuli story I wrote to a friend a while back. Lazy me I know. She's somewhat new to paragliding, hence the choice of words. It seemed entertaining enough to post here. Besides, I did want to post "something" about my first real thermal flight. I "mad" busy right now so here goes:

"I had a very cool paragliding flight last Sunday. Since a certain pretty girl did not call me ;) , I decided to take on a new kind of flying…thermal flight. Normally I fly “dynamic lift”, which is when the wind blows up a ridge and I cruise the updraft, but thermal flight is when I hunt for rising columns of “hot” air and ride those up instead. I hardly want to tell you about my thermal adventure since you already think my life expectancy is about 2 months ;)

I went to Nanakuli on the west side with 3 friends and hiked up about 700 feet. One of my friends, Scrappy, decided to film the entire event…even the hike up. Since he was hiking behind me, I’m sure he got about 25 minutes of prime footage of my butt! Ooh, I can’t wait to see the premiere… Thankfully he said that he would time lapse that part…I’ve heard that time-lapsing adds 10 lbs… Well anyhoo, I would be the 2nd to takeoff.

Doug, the “master” of Nanakuli, gave me tidbits of invaluable knowledge during the hike up, prior to flight and during flight…okay, all the freaking time. Scrappy took off and went straight up, I immediately thought of that Staples commercial…”That was easy”. My turn. I launched rather uneventfully and did the same thing Scrappy did…as long as you think up is down and down is up. As I sunk rapidly towards the ground I cursed Nanakuli, cursed my glider, and desperately did not want to become the “driver”. You see, if you land first, you get to drive around and retrieve the other, apparently more skilled, pilots and take them to a destination of their choice. ME NO “driver”! Paradoxically Doug, not needing a “driver” at the moment, talked me into some thermals and I climbed out. I made one more attempt to “drive”, but luckily I found a nice wide “column” of air and really started to climb. Climbing past launch now, I can see Doug helping Eric, a new pilot to the island, setup. *Schwap*, Beepbeepbeepbeepbeep. My vario goes crazy. (A vario is a device that beeps faster with an increasingly higher pitch the faster you climb). The “schwaping” is my glider pulling me up so hard it sounds like a schwap. Ooh this is exciting. I find that approaching the edges of the thermals is rough riding, but once you’re inside them, it’s much better. So I circle up just like the birds. The same birds that go “whoohoo, this rocks, whoohoo, ohmygod, whoohoo” not sure of the species. Well my beepbeepbeep certainly didn’t last as long as Doug’s or Scrappy’s. Doug took off and rocketed past me...I actually thought I heard engines as he went by. Actually he did pause at my altitude to check me out, much like a motorist would rubberneck the scene of an accident. He has a better glider, yeah, that’s it. Anyha, Doug decided to fly to California or something and Scrappy followed. Scrappy is quickly ascending the ranks of Nanakuli masterhood. I think I'll start calling him "Orbit". They eventually landed near Waikele, but I’m sure it was just a lack of time issue.

Meanwhile Eric is nice enough to hang out with me and we poke around Nanakuli. I'm finally learning how to "hunt" for the thermals. I reach "cloudbase", which is when you're just below the clouds...flying in and out of them. Unfortunately the clouds were too low to chase after Doug and Scrappy, who had to cross the Waianae range on the way towards California. I finally got enough nerve and took a few pictures and countinued to hunt for thermals. After about an hour of being thrashed around, I decided to check out another ridge which was conveniently in the direction of my landing zone. As I expected, I heard no manic beeping, just dooooooooooo. Which is the sound of sinking from the vario. Sometimes, it likes to insult me and go, duhhhhhhhhhhh. What's so darn obvious? I don't know? It was apparently obvious for a long long time. I ended up landing in a baseball field, ironically in left field. Scrappy then called me, he had just landed in the central oahu regional park near waikele. He needed a "driver", unfortunately I wasn't witty enough to tell him that I was in left field. Eric lands between 1st and 2nd base, totally tagging out an imaginary base runner. We pack up and walk the 10 minutes to our cars, seeing the "real" aloha in the Nanakuli neighborhood. The local boys were making gestures of a paraglider smacking a mountain. Eric kindly said, "Not today!".

We drove to the park and found Scrappy. We debriefed the flight in the typical pilot fashion of beery exaggeration and exuberance. All in all a very fun flight. I feel a bit different now, the dreaded intermediate pilot phase. Don't worry, I'll still be careful. Nanakuli, I will be back, oh yes, I will be back."

Brazilian Ray said...

cool posts!congrats to all!!! I hope I can join you when you gp back to nanakuli :)