Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hiber Nation

Thirty pilots flocked to Kahana yesterday, to enjoy a full day of the best cross country flying conditions we've seen in weeks. It was perfect timing for us to store up some nice fat flying memories to tide us over during the long cold fortnight of downtime we know is coming. Over twenty five pilots flew, and at least a dozen went XC, both uprange and downrange, most of us landing out at a wide variety of spots, for a total cumulative distance of almost sixty miles. Cloudbase wasn't super high, just over two grand, but that's definitely enough to go places when you're flying the foothills.

When I got there, Scot was already up at cloudbase over Puu Piei, flying tandem with his dad. Doug Hoffman was in the air as well, and he started off the charge by flying downrange and then coming back before anyone realized he was gone. I'm not sure how far he went, because I only noticed him as he was returning, and he doesn't talk much on the radio, but he must have at least made it to Punaluu (a 5 mile round trip). Then Mad Dog headed across the bay, making it on his first try, and he flew a couple of laps to Kualoa and back to Kaaawa while waiting for someone to join him.

I had launched without a helmet, having absentmindedly left it at home, and I was just too lazy to go back home and get it once I saw that people were already in the air. I figured I'd just be extra careful and try not to land on my head. I did have a bandana to wrap around my hair-challenged pate, to keep it from burning. I may be foolhardy but I'm not crazy!

I made one attempt to join Mad Dog, crossing directly from Puu Piei, but I got flushed at the wall of sink, and I had to retreat and regroup. Joey and Maui Doug made it across, but they arrived pretty low, and were struggling to get up past the Crouching Lion. Maui Doug retreated, but Joey hung in there. While he was pinned there, I came in just above him on my second crossing attempt, and I pressed past him on full speed bar, to reach Hidden Valley as low as I've ever made it. Thankfully there was plenty of lift there.

Joey sank his teeth into it like a pit bull, working the super strong and cross flow as slowly and patiently as I've ever seen anyone do it, for what seemed like an hour, before finally edging past the spines and into the lift at Hidden Valley. But having fought and won that long hard battle, Joey went on to cross Hidden Valley too low, and found himself below the lift band at the shoulder of Kaaawa Valley, and he finally had to retreat for a landing at Swanzys (2.5 miles). He then caught a ride back and hiked again to launch for another session!

Mad Dog and I both flew to Kualoa and then returned to Kahana (13 miles out and back for Mad Dog, 7 miles for me, so far), to bench back up for a downrange run, and see how far we could go. I think of it as a slingshot mission, when we push uprange before zooming back past Kahana for a long downrange run. He was hoping for a Hukilau landing, while I had dreams of the golf course at Kahuku. We tanked up again, and as a nice cloud passed overhead, Mad Dog hitched a ride over to Punaluu, and I followed.

Trailing behind us was a mysterious silent pilot flying an Airwave, wearing a full face helmet complete with visor. Who was that masked man? I thought it might be visitor Jayson, remaining uncharacteristically silent, although I didn't remember that his legs were that nice looking. Finally I asked who it was over the radio, and Cherie managed to chirp out her own name, but she was having trouble transmitting so that was all we heard from her, aside from an occasional radio beep.

At Punaluu we climbed to around 2,300 feet in the back, just above and between the clouds. From there we soared over to the Hauula ridge, and worked our way up in the back, close to 2,300 feet again. I convinced Mad Dog to head out on final glide first, so I could take pictures of him as I followed close behind. But just as he left, I got a nice boost, gaining maybe another 500 feet or so, before leaving to follow him, and then my camera died shortly after that. He thanked me over the radio for suckering him into going first, as he looked up to see how much higher I was. Cherie was just arriving at the Hauula ridge as we headed towards Laie and she watched our lines from there.

We soared high over Pounders and started to check our options. Mad Dog felt too low to make Hukilau, and hedged his bets to land at BYU (6.5 more miles). I definitely had Hukilau, where I could see a few kite surfers enjoying the brisk conditions, but I wasn't going to make the golf course, with the wind not quite east enough to give me the tailwind push I would have needed. I crossed Laie Point and set up to land at Hukilau, just to satisfy myself that I could have made it, but then I was still high enough to make a few spiral turns back downwind and join Mad Dog at BYU (7 more miles for me). Cherie ended up in the soccer field behind PCC (6 miles). Harvey came to get us, and we rushed over to grab some cold refreshments at Tamura's before doubling back to Pounders to wait for Joey and Maui Doug to land there (5.5 miles).

We packed everyone into Harvey's truck, and finally got on the road back to Kahana. Just before rounding the rhino horn, we saw five gliders landing at Hauula: Pete, Bill, Jim, and two new students (4 miles). It was super brisk by that time, and we heard that some of the landings were quite exciting. Another student, Johnny, had landed on a postage stamp of sand at Punaluu (1 mile). Thom rounded up all the lost sheep in Pete's truck, and brought them back to Kahana.

A beautiful Niviuk wing was being kited at the LZ. I thought maybe it was Allan, perhaps having just landed there, but it was Allegra, on an identical wing. Then a couple more sweet looking Niviuk wings came sailing down to the LZ shortly after that: Steve and Bonnie, just in time for the big party to get into gear. We all celebrated our good fortune long after the sun had set. Glasses were raised, safety meetings were held, stories were told, and many brain cells were sacrificed. Apparently there was an incident much later involving the spilling of strong spirits, and the shedding of damp trousers, but I can't remember the details too clearly. All I have is a few pictures on my phone that someone was kind enough to take. I'm not even sure who that person was, but you have my thanks for making the evening that much more memorable.

Roll call: Doug Hoffman, Scot and his dad, Jorge, Dr. John from Florida, Joey, Cherie, Harvey, Ken, Alex, Mad Dog, Maui Doug, Travis, Ray, Reaper, Bonnie, Jim, Bill, Jeff, Chili, Ginny, Steve, student Johnny, and about 4 other students I don't know yet, Allegra, Thom, Donna and Maile, and Duck.

Thanks to Harvey and Thom for the retrieves, and to Jim for the grape juice. See you all after the long cold spell of downtime is over, sometime in early January. Or maybe I'll see some of you before that, if we can rouse ourselves from our winter torpor to go for a hike or something. In the meantime, I'll be surviving the winter on memories of days like this one.


Anonymous said...

You forgot myself, and Steve.


Alex said...

Whoops! I fixed that just now, thanks for proofreading! What a fun day. Let's do it again soon. Who knows, maybe we'll fly from Dillingham to Makua and back, instead of hibernating...!

Thom said...

President is back one day and I get a read.

IKE JAYSON, you flew 4 out of 5 days prior to Kings return and no story.

Ok dry spell has been delayed but mother nature is only allowing the little wings.

Thanks for the read Alex.

JaysonB said...

Don and I wondered why we basically had MPU all to ourselves!
Base was too low and the wind on the brisk side for the type of XC adventures you guys all had out at KNA.

I did snap some pics in lieu of a story Thom. Couple pretty good ones of Don and hangie (Tim?):
Makapu'u Pics