Friday, November 23, 2007

1000 Words (because I didn't take a picture)

I had a great day flying yesterday, and seeing as it was Thanksgiving, and I haven't had an epic flight since the Nats, I had an extra special day.

I went to Makapuu first thing in the morning, and watched the hangies high over the ridge in strong northerly conditions. I gave it a go on my little glider from Crazyman's, snapped an upper brake line on the launch, and was rewarded in the air with a wild ferris wheel ride in the lee of Rabbit Island. It is still not exactly clear to me how so much turbulence can be generated by such a small distant feature. Anyway, I got off the ferris wheel of fun on the next down cycle at the heiau, happy for once to have my feet on the ground. I did hear afterwards that Leo and Dave Goto flew HG for 4+ hours and that Leo flew to Kahana and back to Makapuu.

The gang was calling Kahana epic for bay crossing, so I headed out that way. I met up with CZ Peter at the LZ and hiked north launch to join the gaggle of 8 or so overhead. Peter launched in the light north flow and I followed.

The climbs were slow unless you found a thermal to go up in, I reached about 1700' (I had no GPS or vario other than my Sonic beeper), and glided across the bay, found nice light lift there and climbed up to 2K or so. I looked back and 4 or 5 guys were headed over to join me: Peter, Alex, Scrappy and some other wings I didn't recognize. I got pretty high over Hidden Valley and headed off to glide over to Kualoa ridge, CZ Peter (who is an excellent pilot and I seem to fly with him most lately) followed.

I didn't find much lift over there and kept searching for some lifting air futher around the front side. About the same time I hear people on the radio talking about the lift getting really light. I never seem to find any lift and keep on flying towards Waikane. CZ Peter heads over to Kualoa and lands there. I head on a sinking death glide towards the very tip of the spine from Ohulehule (the Pyramid) right next to Kam Highway. I spot the little pasture and circle at about 100' AGL for landing, I make one last pass over a group of trees at the edge of the pasture and get a couple of beeps on the vario. I commit to the trees and am rewarded with slightly lifting air. I start to think that this would be a real trick to get up from here. After 10 minutes I scratch out 400' and see that the prevailing breeze is coming up one side and the leeside is in full sun and I am on the only bump around to collect the heat. I eke my way up the ridge that leads to the Pyramid and backtrack to the back of Kaaawa Valley. I hit about 1800' and get spit out of my thermal and decide to glide on to the main ridge.

The ridge shows no real attack points for getting up, and I am gushing altitude again, I fly over potential LZ's and pass over the last open land at about 250' agl. I notice that the ridge starts up behind this property, and with my first true low save under my belt making me feel bold, I commit toward the ridge and trees and again find light lift the floats me up. I climb, but have to fight for altitude and limp along the ridge looking for some comfortable altitude. I am working pretty hard the whole time, but I am pumped because the hard part is behind me. Don is chatting me up on the radio, video taping and offering food if I land nearby. I actually have a dinner at my Captain's house at 4:30 near Don's, but I resist the lure of the land.

When I hit Temple Valley the flight changes its tone and I am blasted up to cloudbase, where I stay for the rest of the flight. I consider going over the back towards Aiea, but the texture on the water on the South Shore and the rows of transmission lines in my path cause me to reconsider.

I sneak up on some hikers on the Stairway to Heaven, who are a little stunned by my presence, and I throw some wingovers for Don who is filming at his house some 3 miles away. My forward progress is slowing in the strengthening wind and traveling the other direction is not an option as the wind is head on.

By the time I reach the Pali, I have a new companion, Bulldog Tom, on the radio. He sees me and offers a ride and dinner, but I am committed elsewhere, thanks though.

I have one more low moment at Five Poles in the lee of Olomana, I am losing a lot of altitude fast and consider going back towards the Pali momentarily, a bad option. So I do the hard thing and dive right up against the hillside hoping the hill forces the turbulence upwards at least. I go up and creep out of trouble as quick as the wind lets me, on half bar.

In fact to make any forward progress I ride half bar for the rest of the flight. In what seems like ages, I end up 1500' over Rabbit Island, flying at least a quarter mile from the ridge the whole way. I spiral down and pass over the LZ at Makapuu, into that ratty and turbulent air I had there in the morning. I notice the Heiau side escapes the worst of it and I go land.

It was a long flight, 3+ hours, no GPS so no Leonardo log, though I would like to look at it, I am late for dinner on Thanksgiving afternoon, when everyone has somewhere to be. Czech Peter graciously delays his dinner to drive from Kahana to pick me up, and Alex drives my van from Kahana to Kaneohe. Thanks, I guess I will do the picking up in the future.

I still made dinner at my Captain's house, and stopped by Don's for a drink after. I even watched Fearless Planet with Will Gadd flying PG at Kahana.

I think I am only the second PG to make the trip, Marty DeVietti was first with his wife on a tandem, but I had to work harder even with the Targa 3 to get there. Still Marty's flight is a great accomplishment.

I know there was a lot of good flying going down, I know Doug had a nice look at his over the back route to Wahiawa and I thought he was going to catch me up instead. CZ Peter went to Kualoa, and Chandler AZ went to Pounders, and everyone else was somewhere in between.

Thanks everybody, good fun.


Alex said...

Dave, great story, thanks for posting it so soon! Your words brought plenty of pictures into my head. I actually thought you dove straight back to Ohulehule from Kaaawa, but from your story it appears you went to the front first. Wow! I think that's harder than Marty's route from Kaaawa. But then, he was a LOT higher than you when he left, and it was a much stronger day all around. Great flight and great story!

Anonymous said...

Bob said...

Wow Dave. In this paragliding world I have many Heros. You're certainly one of them. Good going.

Suicide said...

I wanna be like Dave when I grow-up!