Monday, January 07, 2008

Circles of Hell

At least a dozen pilots, more than half of them visitors, scaled Haleakala today in hopes of slipping the surly bonds. Joey scored his first flight out there and thermalled to cloudbase like a natural. Visitors Dell, Sony, Matt, Jayson, Kuno, Natalie and Charlie also had great flights out there, taking little side trips around the valley. Dell and Matt hiked back up for seconds! Even Pete enjoyed a nice thermal flight for a change. I flew for four straight hours myself, probably a record for me out there. Doug flew over the back to Waikele. So . . . why such a grim title?

Because . . . I had such a hellish time trying to work the thermals today to get myself above the ridge. Visitors Dell and Sony spent the whole day at cloudbase. And I watched the new guys, Joey and Matt, flying circles around me with ease. Joey was nice enough to try and point out several nice ones but I still couldn't quite manage to get situated above the ridge. I don't know why I was having such trouble, but I kept up the circling, weaving and dodging for four long hours, stubbornly refusing to give up until the last cloud above the ridge had evaporated and the sun was sinking into the sea. A special circle of hell is reserved for those who must fly in endless hellish circles just below ridge height.

But I guess I shouldn't complain. At least I thermalled (even if badly) for four hours! I know One-eye Jim is not happy with his brief scratching thermal flight today. He launched later on when the lift was definitely lighter. Also Natalie had an unfortunate bout of nausea induced by all the circling she was doing to stay up. Paraglider pilots who get airsick are in a special circle of hell indeed.

But Jim and Natalie shouldn't complain either! At least they got to do a little thermalling. Poor Nightshift arrived very late, but still hiked up and laid out his glider on mid launch in hopes of finding a breath of wind. I saw him up there, milling around his gear, or doing calisthenics or something, as the sun was sinking towards the horizon, and the last few pilots were sinking towards their landings. He finally threw in the towel and hiked down. So maybe that's the worst circle of hell.

But at least Nightshift got to hike and enjoy some outdoor time. Other folks were stuck at their offices or with their babies! Russell and McStalker Jeff were moaning and whinging on the chatterbox while Wayne was feeling the last of the sea breeze ebb away, perched on a scenic mountainside at sunset. Flying the Chatterbox has got to be the lowest circle of hell!

But I still think I visited the deepest circle of hell today. In fact I'm sure of it, because as I came in for a landing near the cars, I saw a familiar gruesome figure guiding me to a safe landing - the Grim Reaper himself. Welcome to Hell! Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here!

Actually, Nanakuli just seems like hell sometimes, especially when we have to hike to high launch! But it also gets us closer to heaven than any other flying site on the island. (Naturally, Doug holds the record for getting closest.) I guess I'll just have to keep going out there to pay my penance and work on my thermalling until I can figure out how to reach cloudbase and hear those angels singing for myself.


JeffMc said...

Good article Alex, but four hours of flying is hardly "hell" :)

I spent quite a bit of time listening on radio, and watching you guys up there. With binoculars, I could see everyone who made it above the peak. Joey sure did do a good job. The highest flyers seemed to be Dell, Matt (I think, in the Sport 2?), and whoever was flying the Niviuk (Sony?)

I was surprised how long it stayed working. I'm hoping to check it out tomorrow, if anyone's up for a sequel?


nightshift said...

I was NOT doing calisthenics! It was Tai-chi. My regular ritual before a flight. I learned a very important lesson about Nanakuli: Arrive at launch before 1400. Next time I'll camp at the trail head. It was still very entertaining to watch everyone scratching and circling. Alex made the best airshow of the day, in my opinion. In very light winds he flew down to say hello to me. He actually went below launch. Then he climbed back up before calling it a day. Show-off!

Suicide said...

There is one circle of hell that is lower than any other: the circle in which I find myself.

I am in the circle of hell reserved for those fools that DO NOT go to Nanakuli for the rare epic thermal flight, because of a SPORTING EVENT . . . and his team gets clobbered.

That's right. Even though I haven't flown in over a month, I elected NOT to fly, so that I could watch The Ohio State University get CLOBBERED by LSU in the National Championship game.

This is the second straight year that my Buckeyes have lost the NC game (last year Florida clobbered OSU).

So . . . not only am I sad about my team's loss . . . NOW, I find out that you smarter pilots spent the day thermaling for hours & hours.

This circle of hell is so low, that it makes Alex's circle look like a gleeful heaven.

Oh well . . . may be next year OSU will win. Maybe next time Nanakulu is good, I will get an epic flight


Doug said...

I heard your new baby crying on the radio as I climbed to base above haleakala and didn't have time to radio to you that cry would make a great sink alarm. I got a great laugh from it and remembered those days for myself. You'll be out soon enough. Hang tight and don't let these days slip way because they will be truely a faint memory before you know it.

Anonymous said...

good article. I saw you staying low that whole time, I thought it was intentional... ;-P
I hear you did a Shit-hot landing next to the cars and saved yourself a walk! well done. and thanks for everything.