Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK Day Makapuu Migration

Jeff is out of town for a few days, so I thought I'd post a quick story to reassure him about how boring our sled rides were on MLK Day. Not to mention how many poor slobs had to hike down because of the incessant squalls that kept blowing through to dampen our wings and our spirits. Jeff, don't click the "read more" link, it's just more of the same sad story...

Psssst! Don't tell Jeff, but seven pilots flew downrange from Makapuu today under a super high cloudbase, in increasingly strong north conditions, for a total of just over 100 miles shared between them all. Two made it to the park in Kahaluu, and one got really close (16 miles each). Three more sank out at various spots in Haiku Valley (about 12 miles each). And the last one...well, let's just say his karma wasn't working so well today (at least 18 miles).

I was suffering from a terrible case of indecision today. Even though the clouds were pretty thick and widespread, they were also incredibly high, way above the range, as I observed on my way into town. So it seemed like it would be a good day to try for a Makapuu XC, and chase Thom's karmic flight from the other day. That was my plan all morning as I waited for Logan to finish his orchestra rehearsal.

But I heard that Jim had launched Crazies and found it so cross and squirrelly he had to land on the rocks below Manics. After that no one wanted to fly there. I guess I didn't either. And then I heard that the Canadians were getting high above Sacred Falls behind Kahana. Maybe we could fly from there to Makapuu.

So after Logan was done with his orchestra, I sped out to Kahana to meet Scrappy, but by the time I got there the wind had completely died. That didn't stop the Canadians from running back up for sled rides, the gluttons.

After sharing with me a quick and delicious can of liquid courage, Scrappy jumped in his truck and led the way back to Makapuu. As we were nearing Hygienic Store, Jayson called to say everyone was getting up at Kahana. Scrappy and I turned around and began to race back. Jayson called a moment later to say, actually, only one guy was getting up, the others were sinking out. Scrappy insisted we turn around and race for Makapuu.

As we neared the Pali Highway we could see Frank and Joey rounding Puu Konahuanui, with Jim a bit behind them at Puu O Kona. It was brisk and north, and they didn't seem to be working very hard to stay up. I was getting pretty excited by now. We were all going to fly to Kahana!

Thom was already at Makapuu when we got there, as were Dave and Ginny, although neither of them were flying. Thom, Scrappy and I quickly launched and headed downrange to chase Frank, Joey and Jim. We heard over the radio that Frank had landed in Haiku Valley, and Joey had reached Kahaluu Regional Park, with Jim landing out somewhere close by. Then around the time we left the Pali Lookout to head for Haiku Valley, Jared caught up with us to join our caravan for the final leg.

Haiku always seems to separate the men from the boys. I definitely know which one I am. From what I thought was a lofty vantage point of 3,500 feet, I watched Scrappy, Thom and Jared blaze across the valley, and I tried to follow the best line, but only Scrappy and Thom got up on the other side. Jared ended up landing deep in Haiku Valley, and I got flushed soon after, barely making it out through the increasing headwind to a decent landing area at Kaneohe District Park. At least I managed a stylish landing between the soccer practice goalposts.

Maui Doug kindly picked me up, and we headed to Hygienics to chase Scrappy and Thom. We got there just in time to see Thom getting blown over the mountains behind Kahaluu, hearing him call "Mayday, Mayday" over the radio. Apparently he had let himself get a little too close the ridgeline in an effort to get higher in the strong ridge lift back there, and was caught in the venturi effect at the crest of the ridge. By this time the wind had really picked up.

We called in the rescue chopper, and Maui Doug and I sped over the H3 to the other side of the island to see if we could find Thom. Meanwhile Scrappy landed at the park in Kahaluu, and Reaper stopped by on his way back from Kahana to meet the first rescue crew in Kahaluu.

Doug and I made our way to a school above Pearl City where we met the chopper rescue battalion. After calling us to say he was unhurt and dangling high in a tree, Thom quickly got himself down, and started hiking down a nice trail along a dry streambed. There was too much canopy cover for his GPS to get any kind of fix, so we couldn't figure out where exactly he was, which worried us, especially since there was about 20 minutes of daylight left in the day. But he soon reached a plant farm, at which point the rescue chopper spotted him and called off the mission, and a guy at the farm gave him a ride to Grace's, where we found him waiting just as Brazilian Ray pulled up to meet us.

I hope Thom will share his version of events at some point - it's a pretty exciting story. But mainly we're all relieved that it has such a happy ending. I guess it's not quite ended yet though - he still has to go back in tomorrow morning to get his wing down from its perch high in a tree at the back of Waimalu Valley.


Thom said...

Thanks Alex, I will try to write up something a little later I am sore physically and mentally. I did get my wing out with the help of Thomas & Terrance, from the nursery. It appears to be ok will look at it a little later today.

I got big headed after my long trip, but let me tell you the big "S" on my chest now stands for "S"tupid.

I broke a few cardinal rules that everyone should learn from and remember. I was lucky where others have not been, I learned my lesson, Please take heed and fly safely.


JeffMc said...

Thom - very relieved to hear that you are OK. Getting your wing back in one piece is just gravy.

I've been following the website and enviously reading about everyone's adventures, and seeing all the great pics... I just haven't had the oppurtunity to post. I can't wait to get back home on Thursday afternoon.

Aloha from Ala-freakin-bama, y'all...


Anonymous said...

Sidehill, we are all so relieved that you are OK! I can not overstate that. You made a name for yourself flying from Makapuu to Kahana, and no one will forget that anytime soon.

You helped me pick my wing out of a tree not too long ago and I wish I could have been there today to repay the favor.

Any instruction or advice you can give us fledgling pilots would be humbly appreciated. Please continue to share your experiences, each one serves to better our flying community and keep us safe to fly another day.