Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Northern Exposure

Let's talk about the Dill. The Dill was originally established as Camp Kawaihapai in 1922. In the 20's and 30's it was an artillery site. In '41 the Army established an airstrip at the location and named it the Mokule'ia Airstrip -- P-40's were located at this site during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The site is named after Henry Gaylord Dillingham, a B-29 pilot who was killed in action over Kawasaki, Japan on July 25, 1945.

[Editor's note: Duck's video can be seen by clicking the "read more" link!]

Click here for full-screen version of this video!

So what does the Dill mean to us? Well, traditionally it is a postfrontal site where we can soar and have fun in a local north/north-easterly flow. The ridge is BEAUTIFUL and the views to the windward and leeward coast are breathtaking. I have hiked this ridge only from "Scot's launch" below the climbing wall; other more adventurous (and more athletically inclined) folks have hiked Kealia Trail, an 1,800' dedication to the addiction of free flight. I have hiked this launch on three previous occasions and each time I have had to hike down -- I am very happy that today was not one of those days!

This day started out with a 2 hour drive to Dillingham. I initially headed out for Makapuu, thinking that it might be a good XC day from there; however, as I headed to Makapuu I noticed that the clouds were moving eastward over the ridge and blowing out of the valleys -- not a good sign. I made it to the Pali Highway only to find that a manhunt was on, and that I could not make it to Makapuu. After an additional half hour in traffic, I was lucky to receive a call from Alex and he said that everyone was headed to the Dill.

I changed course, drove through Maunawili, and headed to the Dill. When I arrived, Alex and a few visitors were already there. Shortly after, PMac, Lee and Mad Dog showed up. We hiked to the launch feeling nary a wind at our backs. As I was hiking up, I saw Alex launch and begin to head left. When I got to launch, Lee was all set up and ready to go, Mad Dog was on deck, and PMac, I, and a visitor were in the dugout. Lee launched into light cycles and eventually (after 25 minutes of scratching) headed to the beach. In the interim, PMac and I decided to check out an additional potential launch -- after an hour of setup and cleaning, we realized that the wind had shifted direction -- no launch from the potential launch. What a bust! Tired and hot we conceded and headed back to the regular launch.

Mad Dog launched while PMac and I were doing our version of Thermal Research. I sent PMac back down to "Scot's Launch" and re-packed my gear. I was HOT and TIRED and was just thinking that the Dill was a B@tch, when I stepped on a dead tree branch that swung up and hit me in the right eye, scratched my face and flung my sunglasses over the cliff and into the "Wild Dill". At this point, I realized that the blood sacrifice had been met and that my sunglasses were an additional tribute -- I was in for a great flight! PMac launched soon after and I heard over the radio that he was slowly getting up from the far end of the ridge.

I made my way back to launch to see Allan setup for a forward launch; and Gaza and TJ were on deck. After a little bit of an exciting run backwards, Allan made the launch and he also eventually headed for the beach. Gaza was a true gentleman -- he could see that I was sweated through, tired, and injured, and out of the goodness of his heart -- he allowed me to launch right after Allan. Thanks, Man!

I chose a forward launch as I had seen the boulders do their damage to those who ran in reverse. I set up, had Gaza check my camera, and then I launched. I think I had a decent forward launch, as I was flying within a few steps and no boulders had broken my shins or made me bleed profusely from random leg or head wounds -- I call that a plus! As I had seen others do, I turned left off of launch and then I proceeded to head all the way down the ridge into the sunshine. I launched at 450' and arrived at the end of the ridge at 475' give or take 25'. I found that the ridge was working in the sun and I proceeded to work my way up the ridgeline to its top at the point around 1400'. I decided to head back towards launch and found that my penetration was limited to about 7-10 mph -- no biggie; I was in lift and headed the right direction.

Then, it started to rain. I flew in the rain for over 15-20 minutes -- it was not bad rain, just steady and wet. I could see the shear line and the end of the rain, so I held out figuring that the rain would go away and a great flight would ensue (please note the previous blood and sunglass sacrifice). Turns out that I was right!

I waited out the rain while talking to Mad Dog (who was not in the rain -- b@stard) and eventually headed back towards launch. Turns out that the cloud suck was on in a BIG way--Mad Dog headed to Wailua and I was able to dolphin (I used the term very loosely) from cloudbase to sink then back to cloudbase all the way out beyond the south end of the runway. I played in some flat-land thermals and ran back to the ridge to see what was going on there, but eventually the cold and the rain got to me and I decided to head in to land. I am pretty sure I could have headed back to the launch to land, but I wanted the challenge of landing somewhere new -- that is part of my wanderlust and part of the satisfaction of XC. XC is not necessarily about landing somewhere new -- it is about the decision the instant you decide not to land somewhere familiar. All of a sudden, you are looking at new possibilities, new LZs, checking your penetration, and trying to ultimately determine how far you can push it before you are forced to land.

I made it out past the airfield and then decided to turn back to land at Mokule'ia beach park. Mad Dog had landed out near Wailua and he and Alex picked me up at the beach park. I found PMac and Lee back at the LZ and had to give PMac recognition as he had noted on the way up that he and I would be each others' "Lucky Charms" -- neither of us had flown this site before, but he said we would today. Thanks PMac!

I have to say that the Dill is a potentially AWESOME site! It is closer to me than Makapuu, and I think that we have not even begun to tap its XC potential. The hike sucks (what hike doesn't). The launch is much better than it has been and it will only get better. We have seen that the traditional conditions do not always apply -- for instance on this day it began as light and variable but somewhere in the day it switched to true trades. I think that the Dill may hold some promise that we have not truly explored, but that in the long run you may have to do your own blood (and sunglass) sacrifice -- what's new there? I have bled for Makapuu and Kahana and then went on to have great flights. I think that on some level, you always have to pay the piper -- it just takes a different toll at each site.

On that note, I also think that Kahuku is a great site with lots of potential … let's do some Thermal Research!

All in all:
Alex, PMac, Lee, Gaza, and a few other visitors flew great local flights.
Mad Dog flew an excellent XC.
Duck and Allan flew decent XC flights.

Mahalos to Allan as he was very helpful in getting others off the hill -- that is the spirit of our club in many ways.

Thanks to Alex and Mad Dog for the retrieve!



Thom said...

Duck thanks for the history lesson.

You guys are so lucky I have hiked up and down the climbing wall launch trail and have only been blessed with one sledder to the beach, after eleven launch attempts.

It has escaped me so far but I will remember to bring some "Cheap Sunglasses" to toss to the wind gods.

Duck said...

Don't forget, you aparently also have to bleed... :-)

Anonymous said...

We used to tow hanggliders in the 90s out there. Release at 800' and scoot over to the ridge... climb out.

This was allowed by the airport and there was a protocol in place. The guy with the tow rig moved away.

Couldn't a scooter tow make the site more useful?

JeffMc said...

I like the cut of your jib, Anonymous. Reaper, let's get on it.

Anonymous said...

Great write up Duck. It was fun flying with you. Unfortunately it is already time to head back home. See you next year.....

To be continued. Pmac

allanc said...


I most surely was bleeding by the time I launched at the DILL. Seems like those rocks hidden in the grass are like heat seeking missiles that go for my SHINS. I need to work on my FORWARD launch as the running reverse puts me much lower on the hill after I launch. May also be that I can get better at my running reverse launch.

Just glad the DILL let us fly. I would like to see how far we can make it to the East. Must be some epic thermal possibilities out there when the wind is light.

Sharky said...

Nice writeup Duck! I think all my hikes down, or just going up to assist have built up some karma factor. Been having some great launches in new spots, and winds higher than I would have chanced previously.

Roxy; my spicy girl has been really good to me and I'm much more comfortable with her sexy watoosi she does sometimes to tell me how she likes it... LOL

Looking forward to busting the ole XC cherry soon.

The articles I anxiously await for coffee time in the morning, keep me thinking about ways to improve my flying and broaden my skills!

Thanks for the writeup and your blood sacrifice! :)


Anonymous said...

Duck and others check out the landing pattern the planes use it looked like you may have inadvertently flown directly through it.

Nice flight. That was quite the convergence over the point. I'll bet you could have crossed over and soared the west side as well!


Duck said...

Thanks for the observation--I was actually very keenly watching the set-up and approach from the gliders. I made sure to stay well out of their pattern. I think that you are correct in that we could probably have flown all the way to the west side and followed the cloud street from there, but I am still discouraged by my personal lack of Huge Balls.

I'm with you man! I think that many of our lauches require some level of blood sacrifice, but it is one I am able and happy to pay. Forwards are definitely the call for "Scott's Launch". I think that we have a lot of Thermal Research to do from this site.

Sharky--Let's get it on--XC coming your way! Let's get Roxy going.

Anonymous said...

That was as good as it gets, actually it does seem to have some amazing potential. Duck, one thing I've learned recently, is not to be in a hurry to fly, you seemed ready,though I am always prepared to launch. Though Dillingham proved to be a conundrum and the way off is certainly the forward launch, yours was text. After I botched 2-3 reverses running into boulders that left me with a charlie horse, etc. I sucked it up and braved the forward. Thanks Allan for your suggestion and your assist off launch, scholar,gentleman, and I felt guilty watching you struggle with your solo launch, the place is a beautiful B*&%$, lucky to fly there! gaza