Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dillingham Rules!

The first rule of Dillingham: there are no rules. Well, except for the next two. The second rule: BYOB! Seriously, there are no sources of tasty cold beverages anywhere around for miles. Third rule: don't complain about the long drive, or the grueling hike, or the lack of airflow on launch. This isn't Torrey Pines. It's a character building exercise. It's like an evil mutant hybrid of the worst aspects of all our other sites. The hike of Nanakuli. The drive of Makua. The launch snags of Kahana, Juice and Crazies. The airflow of Tomato Patch.

But you don't hear the climbers and speed flyers whining about it! You just have to know you want to fly there. And how do you know that? Just look at the pictures we've taken there and ask yourself. You'll know. Dillingham is our Australia. It's the vast and desolate penal colony to which they banished us last winter, and we are now thriving there and loving it like home. I find myself thinking of going out there at every opportunity, though I often have trouble finding willing partners in crime.

But today I didn't have any trouble - Harvey called and was up for anything (as usual). He's flown Dillingham a few times before, but his last two attempts were sledders because it was so light and thermic, and he's heavy in that old Gangster. He was hoping for a little more wind today. It looked like we'd get it: by the time we got there, the wind had settled into a very consistent 11 mph average at 37 degrees on the Mokuleia sensor. Ideally, I'm looking for around 6 mph straight in from the north, but today's conditions seemed on the strong side of okay. There were wind lines on the water but not too many whitecaps, and the airflow was about 45 degrees to the east of directly onshore.

When I drove by the airfield, a tiny speed wing was soaring above the Kealia Trail, easily maintaining his height near the ridge while performing the usual frenetic speed wing boogie. That's the first time I've seen one of those guys actually soaring there. That was cool! And there were a few sailplanes soaring overhead, and the tow plane and jump plane were buzzing around as well.

I met Harvey at the climbing wall trailhead, and we checked out the conditions. It seemed pretty strong and cross from the east, but that wasn't the worst part. There was a huge black bottomed cloud growing over the airfield and stretching way out to sea. We were getting occasional little drops of rain at the trailhead. And the drift of the clouds seemed to be due east. And come to think of it, all the other sensors on the island were showing a very easterly flow. Why was the wind so northerly here? I remembered that the BLIPMAP forecast showed an easterly flow everywhere, but it also showed a pronounced curvature to the wind lines at Mokuleia, wrapping around more to the northeast. Wow, that thing is accurate!

So I was ready to give up and head back to Kahana. Strong, cross, scary clouds, rain drops... But in the face of all that, Harvey still seemed pretty determined to hike up. I guess he really wanted to make good on the sled rides he'd suffered the last two times. So we waited at the trailhead for a while, and watched to see what the clouds would do. Strangely enough, that cloud band just stayed there, and never slid over towards us. I think it might have been some kind of high convergence cloud. Finally I gave in and agreed to hike, although I swore I'd make him launch first, and then I actually raced up the hill ahead of poor Harvey. As soon as I arrived on the grassy plateau, I knew I couldn't resist laying out and launching first. Harvey said as he was hiking up behind me he knew that's exactly what I'd do.

Harvey arrived in time to hold up my wing and help me get a clean inflation, and I launched into nice cycles to climb up and out in very smooth strong lift. I headed toward the airfield and slowly climbed all the way, pulling in front of the Kealia launch which definitely faced into the airflow better. There was lift everywhere. I explored out to the drop zone, and out over the water. It thought it was a bit strong to consider going too far towards Kaaala like we did last time, but it was tempting. I bet Mad Dog would have gone!

Harvey launched and made his way towards the airfield, but he didn't feel like he was high enough to punch around to join me, so he contented himself with runs down the long ridge line that tapers down towards Kaena Point. But he went a little too far that way, and found himself stuck down there, sinking out in the headwind as he tried to return, landing on the four wheel drive road. I only went about half way down to the point before realizing that it might be tricky to get back. Soon after that, I landed on the beach in front of our cars, and tried to drive my Honda CRV onto the 4WD road to retrieve Harvey, but I didn't make it too far before I chickened out. There are some huge rocks on that road! But just as I got out of the car to assess my options, Harvey showed up riding in the back of a monster truck driven by a guy named Kolohe. What a lucky break. We shared some of the cold beverages I'd thoughtfully packed, as we happily recounted the details of our flights.

Thanks to Harvey for keeping the faith and convincing me to give it a try. Dillingham! BYOB! No complaining! You know you want it!


Jonny Malmberg said...


Still remember that flight that we scored out there years ago... Freaking launching me out of the most crazy no wind pocket of head high crap on that 6907! Running down the hill through monster rocks and getting dragged through the nastiest bush of something with big pointy barbs, and then emerging by the skin of my ass into the sweetest air of my flying life. Jorge and I had the place to ourselves on our 6907's for about 40 minutes before you guys joined us for an amazing flight. Defitely have the DILL burned into my memory forever!

Thom said...

I have paid my dues hiking that one a few times with only one scratchy sledder to my credit.

I don't just want it, I need it. but as you say the only way to get it is to keep trying. I had to work in the middle of the day today. I got my fix with a quicky at MPU in the morning and then a soaring session at KNA in the afternoon.

Glad I saved this for my coffee.

Waianae Jim said...

One day I'll be available at the right time to get pickled and look forward to exploring that spot. I don't even remember where to hike so will have to wait for a day when someone who knows is out there.
No place for beverages? Really? The little store behind the gas station in Waialua had good selection last time I was there.

Alex said...

Jon, things have improved quite a bit since we dragged you out there and we went on that bushwhack death march. We now hike an honest to god trail, or mostly on the trail, which is only about 20 minutes.

Thom, I know you want it. You just have to want it more than a flight at another site - because when Dillingham is working, chances are Makapuu and Kahana are also working. I think that is the main reason we don't fly there more.

Jim, I'll be happy to show you where we are hiking up now. We park just past Camp Erdman, at the first spot where the beach winds right alongside the road, and we hike up the climbing wall trail. There are usually a few climber's cars parked there.

The beer store in Waialua has a drinkable selection, but it is a 17 mile, 30 minute round trip. It's good to remember that store is there, but it's not a quick mission if you're already at the climbing wall trail. I could be drinking beer from my fridge at home in 45 minutes! I definitely recommend you stock your cooler on the way out there, whether at your local store or at the Waialua store.

allanc said...


Hope you got my text message. As soon as I left town my truck started overheating. Tried to solve the problem but was unable to. Think my thermostat may be sticking, need to remove it. Sounds like a really fun day out on the north shore. Sure wish I could have joined you guys. Did not want to overheat my little trucks engine. Will soon join the crew in the skies again.