Monday, January 17, 2011

Kings of Ka'ena

On the many days we've flown Dillingham this winter, we've settled for imperfect conditions. We've flown it in sea breezes, trade winds, cross northeasterlies, super cross easterlies, and anything in between. We've had some fun out there, but we've been pining for the genuine post-frontal northerly flow that seemed to work best in the old days. Today, our prayers were answered, and we remembered why we love the Dill: it was truly a sweet and crispy delicacy in today's northerly flow. We ruled Ka'ena Point today!

The cold front had passed quickly overnight, and the morning dawned clear and chilly, with a light northerly breeze: a perfect post-frontal day. I posted my hopes for a Dillingham mission on the chatterbox. After a fun kayak session with Amelia, I headed out there to meet my fellow penal colonists at around 1 pm. By that time the northerly flow had turned NNW, and was holding steady at about 5 mph.

I hiked the 15 minutes to the climbing wall launch with JK, Allan, Don and Jayson. While assessing conditions, we took some time to enlarge the launch area further. You could launch a tandem there now! Maui Doug, Pete, Mad Dog, Frank and Travis showed up at the trailhead, but they got tired of waiting for us to launch, and decided it must be too light where we were, so they drove back to the airfield and started to hike up the Kealia Trail.

Shortly after that, Jayson launched, and after scratching for a bit, he got up. I followed him, and soon Allan and Don joined me. It was the first time soaring at Dillingham for Allan and Jayson - way to go, guys! JK had helped the other guys get off, but by the time it was his turn, up there all by himself, he ended up having numerous launch issues, and eventually he decided to hike down. It sucks when that launch beats you up like that. We've all had our share of punishment there. We've improved the spot quite a bit, but it's still far from easy. In fact it's a royal pain.

But the four of us that got up were ecstatic. I flew for three long chilly hours, cruising the length of the peninsula from the airfield to the tip of the point multiple times. The lift was plentiful and there were nice fat thermals that we could turn in to get really get high - I got close to 2,500 a few times. I definitely flew higher and further on this day than I ever have before. The views of the West side and the Makua coastline from that height were spectacular.

I had forgotten my jacket, and after a while I realized I was totally freezing in only a t-shirt. I had gloves with me, but for some reason I didn't think to put them on. My fingers were stiff and frozen by the end of the flight. At least in my pod harness I was toasty warm from my chest down!

Bernie was out there doing his bi-annual sailplane check off flight, and afterward he rented a solo glider to fly alongside us. Of course he flew circles around us - it was cool to see how he could make use of the lift and work the thermals even at his high speed. He would announce his intentions over the radio: Alex, hold your position, coming in fast from above at your 3 o'clock. Then he would buzz close, diving past me from behind, and carve his way around to stand on his wingtip in front of me, before diving back around behind me. What a great show!

After a long hike and multiple attempts in the very cross flow at the top of the Kealia Trail, Maui Doug, Travis and Pete finally managed to get off of there with forward launches during the lulls, to score the last flights of the day as the sun was setting behind the point. Way to go Travis on your first flight there! Frank and Mad Dog ended up hiking down, poor guys. That is a tough slog to make in one direction, let alone two! Now that's a royal pain.

Don and Jayson left to go eat Thai food, but the rest of us hung out for a while after landing at the climbing wall trailhead beach LZ, partying with the locals and sharing some tasty refreshments. Here's to the Kings of Ka'ena! The Dukes of Dillingham! The Princes of the Point! The Rulers of the Radars! The Counts of Kealia!


Travis said...

Awesome flight, awesome story! Counts of Kealia!

Thom said...

Wow, you lucky bums. No more callling me a non-jobber, I missed this one!!!!

Congrats Jayson and AllanC on your first Dill's. Travis too, but I think you've skydived that area a bit.

JK, I know the feeling. I helped everyone off and had eleven failed sweaty attempts before getting a scratchy sledder to the beach, but at least you have memories of other flights there.

To the crew that hiked Kalia Trail. Your crazy. I hiked up that without a pack and then to have to hike back down. Ouch. Glad a few got out of there.

Thanks for the re-cap I enjoyed my coffee. Don did call me yesterday he said he didn't want to tell me how good it was or how it was the best flight he had ever had there and that even he was tempted to write a story. Wow !, then I told him it would be w**k and that idea left him instantly, but the memories of the flight will linger and I am sure I will be hearing it again and again.

Looking forward to more pics but happy with what I got for this mornings read. If I can't fly it is always great to hear about it..... no really.

Alex said...

A couple of further research notes: 1. The launchable direction of Scot's climbing wall launch has been expanded to cover about 90 degrees now, which is pretty amazing for any side-of-the-hill launch.
2. Traditionally, the perfect days at Dillingham have also been good light north days at Makapuu. I think we may miss a few good days out west because of that, but I hope I can remember to think of the Dill the next time we get these conditions. Especially because now we have a much easier hike. It was even a bit west of north this time. Pete checked earlier in the day and said it was too west at Makapuu, but I heard that Dave and Abhay were able to fly the manics side later in the day.

Alex said...

One more note: airplane (and sailplane) pilots refer to Dillingham Airfield as HDH. I guess we could use that abbreviation too although I don't know how we'd pronounce it. Maybe it would make more sense if it were an acronym for something related to our adventures, like, I don't know, Heavy Duty Hiking.

Anonymous said...

Alex, Actually Makapuu was just a light north day, better lighthouse side unless up high, I was down at Puu'O'Kona at 2400' later in my flight, but it sure was cold ,dressed in my acro nakedness, figuratively.

Fireman Dave

JK said...

I captured some iPhone video of some Climbing Wall Launches, as mentioned above. Preemptive apologies on the shoddy camera work.

After my last TWO round-trip hikes, I discovered a good lesson for this launch. It's in the video song's lyrics, "Get to the Table on Time". On a Light North day, it begins to blow DOWN as soon as the shadow reaches the base of the face, which happens around 3pm this time of year. You have room to run in 5 knots of wind (as Allan demonstrates). But, with my skills any less wind than that simply won't work. There are too few steps and too many boulders in the grass. Don't be late!