Wednesday, April 03, 2013
The flow was due north and light, and the atmosphere was predicted to be pretty dry and stable. It was definitely dry, but I think I found some unstable parts! A small posse decided to check out the northern options this morning, and KMX was the first stop. It seemed flyable, but a bit light and cross from the north, so we continued on to Dillingham (aka HDH). It looked perfect there. Brian and Dop had already soared their mini wings and landed before we arrived. We hiked Kealia, and I decided to launch last for a change, sending Woody off first to show everyone how it should work. Next off were LE, Ben, Maui Tim, Motorhead Paul, Doug and finally me. I got off almost two hours after Woody launched! Now poor Woody knows how I feel, having to launch first all the time and wait for everybody!
While we were all sorting out our gear on launch, we saw sailplanes coring thermals up to the 4,000 foot cloud base. That's not something we see out there too often. It gave us a warm fuzzy feeling. Then Woody launched and immediately cored thermals to cloud base too. Oh boy! Finally we all got airborne, after many launch attempts on everyone's part, including me. Both Woody and I broke lines launching there. I wanna like that launch, but it's just not easy.
I launched directly into the mouth of the biggest monster thermal ever. It sucked me up and spit me out a few thousand feet higher in a few seconds, and at that moment I knew this was going to be a special day. Then I looked behind me and saw a golden Gradient wing flying deep, back at the crest of the ridge above Makua. OMG. That was my cue to just keep turning and drifting! What a shallow slope, but this must be the day to fly back to the crest!
Woody had come back to launch to fetch me, and make sure I didn't just cruise to the point. No worries there. I circled with him towards the golden Gradient, but I somehow magically out thermaled him and left him far behind. Wow, I must be good! Later he told me he ditched that line because it was crazy. Well, it turns out it really was. Motorhead Paul was the dude who had tracked all the way back there in his golden Gradient, and I thermaled back to join him, but when I got there I realized it was a terrible mistake.
Yes, it was amazing to be on the crest between Dillingham and Makua. But I mean, does Paul's radio even work? We were pinned back there. WTF. And we were sinking in a strong headwind. But I was higher than Paul and I blazed back forward immediately. Full speed bar, holding my B handles for all I was worth. He wasn't so lucky - I watched as he got pushed down to the height of the crest, and then he started to creep his way out forward along one of the shallow spines, trying to avoid spilling into the ravine on either side. That was the craziest tree kicking ride out of hell I have ever seen. Apparently at the end he actually ended up down in one of the ravines, but he managed to catch a little something and climb out to reboot his flight. Whew!
I knew this was a good day to fly towards Kaala, but I was feeling chicken and hoping someone else would go first. Motorhead was obviously delayed by his misadventure. Woody was thermaling in that direction with me, and he wasn't talking on the radio, but he gestured very emphatically in the direction of Kaaala, so I knew that was the plan. I blazed out that way, but then I watched Woody get flushed in a sink cycle behind me. I kept going, and he climbed back to join Paul and chase me. That was the only reason I continued on - if those guys hadn't been chasing me I surely would have chickened out. They were leading from behind! I blazed on, circling in thermal after thermal, trying to ride the line between too deep to get out and too shallow to stay up.
After a lot of pants pooping transitions over the shallow sloping ridges and deep ravines, I ended up in the biggest bowl on the face of Kaala, finding amazing lift and barely needing to turn. As I approached the summit I felt myself getting hammered in some violent air. Up until now I had been riding thermals - strong ones - but at least the air was predictable. This was something else. Then I noticed the cloud above me had a decidedly offshore drift. Crap! The Waianae side was winning! I was in the rotor. Kaala seems to create its own airflow, no matter what the sensors say. It's a pretty big fricking mountain, so who's gonna argue. I hit my speed bar and sped out towards Waialua, just trying to keep my wing open. I hit massive sink as I headed out, but at least I was escaping the violent part, and I was resigned to a landing in the fields down there.
I headed over to the Benedictine Monastery, and as I was almost landing there I got a few beeps. What!? Was this the hand of God? I turned half-heartedly, and then turned again, and then I turned as if my life depended on it. I didn't want to imagine that I could actually climb back into the game from here, but I guess it was worth a try. And man, if that thermal didn't take me right back into the game. What a low save. From there I watched Woody sink out and grovel on some low foothills before landing in a field somewhere down there. Yikes. That might be me really soon. In fact I headed straight for Woody, thinking I would join him, but I got distracted by some lift along the way. I worked any lift I could find, although my vario battery had died by this time. That vario was a gift from Woody. Hmmm. Did he plan for the battery to die just in time for me to sink out with him???
But I fought my way back up and above Peacock Flats to sail back to Kealia, where Doug and Paul were waiting. We all zoomed out to the point together, only to find the airflow had turned more NE, and we had quite a headwind returning. All three of us landed at the YMCA. One of us landed right in the yard. The dude there wasn't too stoked about it, but he tried to be nice. We asked if we could fold up on their grass. He said, "I'd rather you didn't." Okay. Wow.
Anyway, an amazing day at HDH. Aka, Dillingham. The best day we've ever had. Seven paragliders flew, plus four mini/speed wings flew. Some paragliders made it to four grand, and three flew to Ka'ala, with two returning.
HDH roll call: Woody, LE, Ben, Maui Tim, Motorhead Paul, Doug, Alex. Mini/speed wing flyers: Brian, Dop, Adam, Mason.
Posted by Alex at 2:07 AM