Monday, January 16, 2012

Sunday Gaggle at Nanakuli

I will provide a brief recap of the gaggle of pilots that filled the skies over Puu Haleakala this past Sunday, in some beautiful and light southerly conditions, rewarding those who were patient and/or lucky enough to choose the right cycle. I will recount the day's activities from my perspective, which turned out to be at 1,700 feet, near the summit, where I cleared an amazing launch, that is, if you feel like hiking to 1,700 feet in the heat.

The day started out with the ideal conditions for flying the west side: light southerly flow, high thermal index, and high cloudbase as viewed from Honolulu. Morning tasks taken care of, 12-pm on the road full speed ahead and on route to hike and launch while the day's thermals were still kicking off the hill. Scrappy, Steven, MauiDoug, and several visiting pilots were on the trail when I arrived with Alex and Berndt. I knew the hiking trio would be at the top in no time and the three of us made it up before anyone else launched. Light conditions on the way up helped to guide my decision to hike high. However, when I got there it was evident that there was a whole gaggle of pilots there looking to get their flights and decided to hike higher. Having cleared a very difficult launch the weekend before at Ka'ena Point I figured that I could find a good clearing to improve it to something resembling a launch opening up yet another option for our gaggle.

Continuing up the trail my goal was to find a potential launch and one of the several thermal triggers that have worked well for me in the past. Stopped at a few candidates but knew that up near the summit there were some relatively flat areas located where three ridges come together aka a "Hoffman Triple Point". Finally at 1700-ft elevation found the perfect spot, I am calling it by far the easiest and most accessible launch at Nanakuli aside from the hike. Better yet you have at least four or five house thermals to choose from so this launch should work in even the lightest conditions. Got out my trusty saw and began to clear the small trees from the launch and before I knew it an hour had passed, a launch that can access the school side, main ridge, or the dump side was cleared. Scrappy and Alex had each caught the same thermal to cloud-base as I launched and easily climbed to 3000-ft just behind the peak of Haleakala.

The light wind up high and the very organized thermal I followed behind the main peak made the decision easy to make a glide for the back of the valley. Upon arrival at the back wall of Nanakuli Valley the thermals were much weaker and the main source of lift was from ridge lift provided by the light Southerly wind. Meet up with MauiDoug and skimmed the clouds at 3000-ft in the back of the valley and discussed flying over the back of the Waianae Range towards Kunia Road. I had not yet made this trip and thought the light conditions would make for a safe glide and did not expect to find many thermals over the central Oahu plain but decided to go for it as Scrappy said he would pick us up.

Tanked up as high as I could and watched MauiDoug make the left turn, hung in for a little more altitude and headed over the back directly above the two large antennas. Glide over the back was as expected, sink for the first few minutes and then a decent glide slope to the road. No real clouds or thermals to play with but a good experience and one more step in understanding the dynamics of the atmosphere on Oahu.

Thanks to Scrappy for the ride, MauiDoug for the companionship, and Alex for the inspiration. I am sure there are a million other stories, this one just happens to come from the prospective and solitude afforded by a 1700-ft launch and flight in the opposite direction of the typical flow of the day. This may have been the first flight were I did not ever get below 1700-ft until I was landing. Kind of strange.


firedave2 said...

Great stuff Allan, though you are almost assured of being alone at that launch, as much of a guarantee as it is. Not many Oahu pilots have the stomach for that type of hike. Most have a hard time getting past low launch, no matter how light it is. I'll go!

JK said...

Way to chaaarge it, Allan!

Thom said...

Good Job Allan,
I am one that Dave speaks of. Boy that is a hike that I hope I will never need. You called it the "G" word and I ruined the last launch site that was give the 'Guaranty'.

Thanks for the coffee read and picking up the slack from Alex. Who is well in to debt on stories.

allanc said...

Will take pictures next time I am up there. It is easy to find and even easier to setup a glider there. Seems like it would be a great tandem launch as well on the right day.

Alex said...

Allan, great story, thanks for sharing! I included the pictures I took that day, and I think your launch is pretty clearly visible in one of them.