Monday, September 12, 2011

Heaven and Hell

Sometimes a day of flying can offer widely disparate experiences to those aspiring for airtime. Some people will ascend to the heavens, while others will suffer below, in a place that feels like hell. Yesterday at Kahana, we sent a few pilots to both realms.

The conditions were very light and thermic, and staying up proved to be quite a challenge for most pilots. I was camped out on launch with Ken since the morning, waiting for it to turn on, so I was able to launch first in what I guess were the best conditions, at around 1 pm. I got up high in the back in nice strong thermals, and crossed the bay right away, hopscotching thermals from Kaaawa to Kualoa. It looked like the ultimate day to continue to Makapuu.

But I wanted to wait for a few fellow angels to join me on that heavenly journey, and unfortunately for all of us, that never ended up happening. Most of my buddies were stuck in hell, hot and sweaty and tired, and hoping for a breath of wind to help them off launch, or scratching in limbo to find a speck of lift, or sinking out. Thom got up nice and high over Puu Piei and made one attempt at crossing the bay, but he came in too low and had to turn back for a toplanding at low east launch. Jim got up high at Puu Piei too, but never quite enough to make a crossing attempt. Gary was stuck in limbo over the rhino horn looking for a way to climb higher. Bill and Doug waited forever on launch as the wind seemed to have died completely. Ken and Ginny both hiked up and then hiked back down again.

I heard many of them cursing my name over the radio as I looked down from my lofty domain. But I ignored their curses, and hoped that at least some might find a way up and out of there to join me. I circled my way up to three grand while I waited above Kualoa, my highest ever there, over the very back of the spine, above Puu Kanehoalani. Then I flew back to Kaaawa and worked one thermal way up and over the very back of Puu Manamana, to find cloudbase at 3,500 feet, the highest I've ever been back there, and my first time being that deep in the back. From that perspective the pyramid of Puu Ohulehule looked very small, like I wouldn't even need to stop there on the way to the back range.

But I didn't want to go to the back range all by myself, so from there I took a line directly across the bay to Puu Piei, to join Jim as he thermaled up to start a trip downrange. He went the front way to Punaluu, and I spun my way up to 2,700 feet or so and flew the back way, straight to Sacred Falls. Jim worked hard to get established on the front of the ridge, and finally started to climb out. In the back, I circled my way up to above 3,000 feet in smooth thermals back there, and after gazing into the multiple falls and pools below me, I set a course from there back to Kahana, and crossed Punaluu Valley pretty easily in the almost non-existent headwind.

Back at Kahana, I thermaled a while with Gary at the rhino horn, then flapped my angel wings a couple times to get high above Puu Piei one last time, and I couldn't resist crossing the bay one more time for good measure. But I think that really didn't go over well with the souls who were trapped down on the burning sands of hell. This time I arrived on the Kaaawa side a bit lower, and didn't have the motivation to fight it out, so I returned and finally came in for a landing, only to be pelted on my final approach by a barrage of nuts thrown by all the lost souls down there. I guess that's what I deserved for scoring one of my best thermal flights ever, while everyone else was struggling so hard. But next time, I'm not settling for such lonely vistas. Next time, a whole heavenly host of angels will be flying to Makapuu!

Roll call: Gaza, Thom, Bill, me, Maui Doug, Jim, Ken, Duck, Bonnie and Ginny.


allanc said...

Alex, thought yesterday might be a really good thermal flying day at KNA. I will get my butt up there next time it is truly light and thermic for some exploration. Would love to wind my way through the deep valley's behind the front range if high enough and there were some established thermals. Great flight and will be on the chase next chance I get.

Thom said...

I hit my highest over Puu Piei 2700+ and left to catch Alex. On my way had the voice of Mad Dog, "Never Leave lift". Not sure why but I sank hard. I actually made it across and fought a loosing battle over Crouching Lion Knob & Bowl.

I did not want to suffer the fate of the Splashers or Tree Hangers so I turned and burned when I hit 750. Made it back to East launch with just enough to top land at Mid.

I took a nap and listened to FlyStrong curse from the launch above. I gave him a hand but he too soon top landed and tried again.

Tired and defeated, I launched and headed in.

Yes, Alex we did have some choice words for your flight and the pelting of nuts was apparently still needed since you lacked a "nut" to continue on what seemed to be an awesome day, for the only one that crossed. TWICE !!!

Actually, your choice was smart and I hope it would have been my choice as well, not to try alone.

The nut barrage was truly out of jealousy and jest. I am glad you did not listen when I joked, "Alex, I don't even want a coffee read".

Great flight, wish I could have made it so we could have gone furhter, but the angel of mercy showed none upon me.

Next time.

Sharky said...

I snuck out late afternoon to MDKP with a spray bottle with Woolite solution and spent some love time with Roxy.

Tried cleaning up some stains but need a more thorough soak and cleaning than just spray job and light rubbing unfortunately.

Winds were light and I kited for about an hour and got sand and other crud out of my gear. Kept an eye to the sky but didn't see the King or any of his court cavorting about the peaks of Kualoa and assumed it was "not that kind of day".

Internally debated about going to the LZ, but decided to be responsible and head home to take care of much needed domestic duties so that I'd be ready to get a flight in later in the week if opportunity arose.

Sounds like there was some fun to be had after all...LOL!

=-) Sharky

sandy said...

Wow Alex! Awesome flight! You can count me among your jealous admirers -- although I am not in nut throwing range, nor am I so compelled as I was not there fast in the fires down below you.

Thank you for demonstrating that there are still plenty new challenges to be met on Oahu, and especially Kahana. With the numerous bay-crossing reports (of which I only have one) it was starting to sound like things were getting too easy for everyone there. One of my favorite most memorable flights at Kahana was a morning thermally flight. Keep showing us how it's done, we'll follow! (eventually)