Friday, January 07, 2011

Dillingholm Syndrome

I can't believe we are still excited to fly at Dillingham after being released from our cruel twelve day exile at that distant penal colony. I might have expected we'd develop more of a sour impression, after being forced to make all those long drives, interminable hikes, and sketchy launches out there. Or maybe we're like those prisoners you hear about, the ones that begin to love their captors and relish their captivity. Whatever the reason, I am very happy to see so many people helping us figure that place out. I still think we've barely begun to realize what kind of sweet flights might be possible at that site!

Yesterday's conditions started out on the spicy side. The airflow was strong and cross at the climbing wall beach LZ, with the sensor at the airport averaging around 9 mph at 49 degrees, holding steady at that level until the last hour or so when it dropped off to about 5 mph, which was still plenty to keep folks up.

Out of the ten pilots who showed up out there yesterday, nine made the hike to Scot's climbing wall launch, seven of them flew eight flights, with four of them plying thier way up and down the ridgeline for extended sessions. Thom had his first flight out there ever. Maui Doug surely set the record for the longest and highest flight. We flew with lots of sailplanes, and we saw a couple of speed flyers take off from the Kealia launch and quickly carve their way down the face of the cliff. As we were all landing, north shore Skip showed up to say hello, and hung out with us to enjoy some beverages.

JK and Harvey hiked and launched first - thanks for being the wind dummies, guys! But the airflow was quite cross, and they both struggled to find any good pockets of rising air, so before long they both ended up on the beach.

Then it was my turn. My launch was terrible. Visitor Arlene saw me launch and decided to hike back down! I'm not used to this new harness yet, but I don't think that was the problem. While the launch is nice and grassy, and the hike is only 15 minutes, it's still kind of a sketchy place to launch. Especially on these cross days, even when it's blowing strong, the airflow is just not happening up there, and it's hard to get your wing inflated overhead and then make your launch run without cracking your legs on a boulder.

I turned and paused for just a second too long, with my wing quickly losing pressure as it languished above my head, but I ran off anyway, and I managed to load it up in the nick of time, in a mostly straight-away-from-the-hill direction. Then I realized my legs were totally tangled up in the speed system inside my pod. It took a few moments to get that straightened out, and then I began to concentrate on getting up. I scratched in that cross flow and slowly began to creep above launch, finally rising to the ridge height where the lift was plentiful and strong.

I headed out over the airfield to wait for company. There was massive lift everywhere - I think it was the fattest lift band I've ever been in. I sailed out over the drop zone from two grand over the ridge and was still going up all the way out. Maui Doug soon joined me over there, and he worked that lift band even higher and way deeper over the ridge than I was comfortable going. It looked like he could have drifted off to Mt. Kaala with too much effort!

We could see Scrappy getting off next, to fight a long fight to stay up in the F-Gravity, but he finally headed in to the beach after a valiant effort.

After a while I was ready to land, and from the beach I watched as Don launched and worked his way up, heading out to join Maui Doug over the airfield. Scrappy and Harvey hiked up to try again. That's the nice thing about the shorter hike at this spot. This time Harvey flew the F-Gravity, but despite his best efforts, he soon ended up on the beach. Scrappy managed to get up this time, flying his XC wing, and he headed out to join Maui Doug and Don.

Meanwhile, poor Thom had been up on launch for what must have been two hours, making numerous launch attempts with help from BeeMan Mark and his son, but frustrated by the lack of airflow and good footing up there. Shortly after Mark and son began their hike down, Thom finally managed to get a nice cycle to pull up his wing and float out of there, but I think he was probably too exhausted to put enough effort into scratching his way up, and he soon came down to join the party on the beach.

I look forward to lots more flights at the penal colony. I am hoping for days where the flow is a bit more north or even northwest, and a bit lighter, so we can do some real thermaling out there, and go places. I am dreaming about heading towards Kaala, or over the back to Makua on a light thermic day, or out over the flats towards the Koolaus. Although as usual I will probably be following some braver soul who's willing to go first!


Alex said...

I know Maui Doug took some great pictures, and I'd love to include them when they're available. If anyone else got any pictures or video, let me know!

Anonymous said...

It was my first hike up ,some nice veiw. Saw whales ,and your harried load & frigetting [ thought you had picked up a woodrat ]. little muddy up there ,too. 'Sure that didn't help anyone tiring to launch.

Thom said...

I pulled up eleven times and yes after many failed attempts I was burned out. I was not going to hike down again and was determined to get off.

I got a short ride and I am craving for more Dill even though it kicked my butt.

Count me in on future exploits.

Thanks for the Story.

MauiDoug said...

Great story Alex! What a fun place to fly!!!! Sorry for the delay in posting photos, I am changing out the water pump in my van. I just need to figure out how?