Sunday, February 20, 2011

Nana Kewl E

Nanakuli is cool! Or as my neice would say, KEWL! For the past year, I have heard of a lady on the west side who knows a thing or two about pleasing pilots. I have heard Jeff, Jim, and others speak of her often. Sometimes with reverence, other times with disappointment, anger, and spite! She is sometimes generous. Other times, she will make you pay dearly for only the slightest of comfort. It seems that her moods change. She is more wild, and thus needs to be addressed as a wild thing. You do not approach a wild animal. You circle it, slowly, and let it approach you.

Click here for full-screen version of this video!

So it was that I found myself contemplating what to do yesterday: wait and see what my lovely local girl, Kahana, would bring; or travel far afield to try and get a glimpse of something wild. After talking with Gaza and Allan, the choice was made. We would travel to the fabled west side, meet Berndt and Maui Doug, and pay homage to the lady Nanakuli. Lately, she seems to be feeling generous. She has offered up bountiful flights to those who would dare to wrestle her (JK, Allan, the Alaska crew, Mad Dog and Thom). I was feeling pretty good about my chances, but you never know.

As I drove from Hauula, I noticed that there seemed to be a large amount of darkness in the clouds over the Waianae range, and the development was bordering on overdevelopment. When I got to Nanakuli, the dark clouds were pushing out into the valley, shadowing the peak and completely obscuring the Waianae range. It did not look good, but we had all traveled a bit to get there, so we decided to wait a bit and see how it developed.

Turns out that Jeff had called it perfectly: she overdeveloped a little, but then the overdevelopment snuffed itself out. Within a few minutes, we saw signs of clearing, and the sun began to shine on the slopes again. The game was on! Allan and Berndt headed out first, which made sense, as they are both mountain goats. Gaza, Maui Doug and I followed. The hike is a long one (by Oahu standards), and it was hot. To me, it felt good after the last three weeks of no exercise and way too much work (and wine probably). At low launch, there was enough wind to soar, but it was coming in slightly cross. After hiking that far, I figured I wanted the altitude and a better chance of catching a ride to cloudbase, so I continued on to high launch. As Gaza and I arrived at high launch (school side), Allan launched. He flew around for probably 20 minutes or more, before finally giving in and heading to the ball field.

Berndt launched next, and simply elevatored up off of launch. He quickly made his way to base, and putzed around waiting for us to join him. Gaza was up next. While he was setting up, conditions had changed, and now the wind was directly splitting the ridge. He brought his wing up into the super cross flow and decided that he needed to relocate. We all agreed. So we checked out the dump side. It was doing the same thing. The way the wind was splitting the ridge made for some ugly launch conditions. It took a while for a good cycle to come through, but Gaza got off into something and decided that that was not the something he wanted. He eventually also headed to the ball field.

About this time, Berndt had decided he was no longer interested in waiting and headed for the beach. Allan had been hiking back up, and he arrived on launch as I was beginning my setup. I set up on the school side of high launch, and found conditions much like Gaza had found. I brought my wing up and it pointed almost at the dump … clearly I was in the wrong location. So, I brought her down, and with the help of Maui Doug and Allan, I rearranged a little higher up, and closer to the bowl directly below, facing more into the ridge. I watched as cycles came up from the dump side, and then switched to school side, and then back. I was going to have to time this one to avoid a bad situation.

I waited for a good cycle and then launched -- very quickly I was up above the ridge and able to get situated. I caught some real nice cycles and went through some ups and downs, but I made it to the peak pretty quickly. There I found that cloudbase was at about the level of the peak, and I started playing dodge ball with the clouds at 2,200'. Needless to say, the clouds won.

Maui Doug launched next, and worked his way along the dump side. As he was scratching up, Pete came over the radio to wish us all luck and great cross country flights. Maui Doug fought valiantly, but eventually he had to succumb to the will of gravity. As he headed to the ball field, I thought about heading to the beach. But I thought about seven seconds too long.

The flush cycle came through, and I was quickly hovering above Berndt and Allan on launch. Not wanting to be in the way, I decided to check and see if there was anything on the school side. There was something (Yeah!) -- Massive sink (Boo!). I also headed to the ball field.

Allan and Berndt waited for a while as it clouded up, and they were thinking that they may have missed a second shot. After a while, though, the sun came out and both of them were able to launch and have great flights. Berndt went to the beach for a second time in four hours, and Allan headed to Maili Point, eventually landing on the beach down there.

All in all, I have to say that my introduction to Nanakuli was a good one. It was not one of the days where the entire range is visible, and thoughts of cross country flying run rampant. It was not a crazy thermal rodeo (although it was thermic). It was simply a great, fun flight with a great bunch of monkeys. After three weeks of downtime, I needed that. For me, it was probably the perfect nice first flight to have at Nanakuli. I feel lucky to have had it, because as you know, she is wild, and wild things are not kept well. They are there and then gone.



Alex said...

Thanks for the video and the writeup, Duck. Makes me feel like I was definitely with you guys out there, at least in spirit. I think that track from the Lion King soundtrack was an inspired choice.

I love how you guys salvaged a great day of flying out of conditions we would traditionally have considered not worth the hike, with clouds coming offshore all day, and drooping as low as the peak of Halealaka.

Alex said...

Did anyone take any pictures of the valley while they were flying? We are quite overdue in sharing some aerial shots of the valley with the community association, as we promised in our agreement for the permit. Please forward them to me or post a link, thanks.

MauiDoug said...

Great flight Duck! Awesome kiting skills in a very strong all up thermal cycle. What a great way to meet Mrs. NanakewlE. Also, thanks for the video and story, AWESOME!

allanc said...

Duck, great article. You are becoming a professional at editing the videos. Next flight I will put my go-pro onto video and give you the sd card to incorporate into the group video. Very cool.