Wednesday, March 12, 2014
where the hang gliders roam,
Where the paragliders
like to play,
Where seldom is heard
a discouraging word
And the skies
are not cloudy all day.
Home, home down the range...
Today was the first decent down range day we've seen in months. Ike kicked things off this morning on the chat box by saying "Range looking good who's in?" Of course, I was in. I had been hoping we might fly Kahana for the first time in months, but it really looked like it would be too light there all day. So Makapuu was definitely the call.
I picked Ike up at his house, and we met visitor BC Al at Manics. Clouds were just barely brushing Puu Konahuanui and we had high hopes for a downrange mission. It was pretty north but also pretty light. Mike was breaking down his hang glider at the LZ, and confirming the lightness. The flow was light for launching at Manics but we thought it would be enough.
Ike and I led the way while Al repaired his wing after his first launch attempt. Ike showed me where the strong stuff was and I was off to Puu O Kona. But Ike stayed behind, thinking it might be too north or too rough. I guess it was a bit of both, but somehow I was determined to make it work.
After getting up to cloud base at Puu O Kona, around 2,700 feet there, I headed out to Olomana with a nice wide line around the north flow. But I pulled in there pretty darn low. I was well below the ridge line. I worked the last spine like my life depended on it, which it did, and finally hooked into a nice thermal that carried me above the ridge. Then I worked forever to climb out from there. The hikers must have grown sick of seeing me yoyo up and down around the ridge.
But finally I got sick of it myself, and just blazed back to the Pali pretty low, like from two grand. In hindsight that was a stupid thing to do. I came in lower than I ever have before, and I wasn't even sure I'd be able to make St. Stephens. But I got a few zeroes and drifted over that way, and then I knew I'd be able to land there. I'd never landed there before but I know plenty of guys have done it.
I was actually setting up a landing, but then I got some nice beeps. I drifted back over the Pali Highway, but then sank down below the huge array of power lines. Now I had no escape to St. Stephens: I had to thermal out of there or I'd have to land in the jungle or on a speeding car or truck. I needed to pull off the craziest low save ever over the highway.
I turned and turned in the most important thermal of my life. Looking down on the river of cars and trucks streaming down the Pali Highway, seeing the faces of the drivers below me: I'll never forget that low save. Then, once I was high and established at Puu Konahuanui, crossing Kaneohe was mainly just a question of avoiding clouds and airspace. Konahuanui, Likelike, Haiku, Temple Valley, Ahuimanu, Waihole.
The next tricky part was how to approach the pyramid of Puu Ohulehule. I got a nice ride to cloud base at the ridge behind Waiahole, and headed out on a wide line to try and sneak around the foot of the pyramid. I made it, and caught a sweet thermal there that was drifting from an incredibly north direction. Like probably zero degrees. It doesn't get more northerly than that. In hindsight, that thermal was my ticket to turn back around to Makapuu. But at the time I was still stubbornly committed to reach Kahana before turning back.
Finally I was high enough to pull in to the top of the pyramid. But then I realized the flow was not actually coming in from Kaaawa Valley like I expected. It was coming in from Kahana Valley. Like from the northwest. Holy crap. I was getting flushed in the rotor. I retreated to the Kualoa ridge, riding the backside of the ridge out of Kaaawa Valley in light broken thermals. That was the craziest line I've ever taken out of that valley. I reached the nose of the Kualoa ridge but I found it was too light there to keep me up. So I turned to extend my trip as far north as I could, milking my final glide out to the beach in front of Kaaawa Elementary.
It was a great flight. 25 miles from Makapuu is no joke. Especially on this north of a day. But I really wish I had turned around at the Pyramid to ride the tailwind back, instead of pushing forward into the dirt. It could have been a 50 mile flight!
Later I heard that BC Al made it to Olomana but dirted at the construction site there. Good job for a visitor's first flight! And many others flew at Makapuu, including Dave and Frank who boated around at Greenwalls. And I heard Drew flew his Firefly in nuking flow at Dillingham. And I heard someone flew and landed at Makaha. And Woody and Kevin flew sledders at Kahana at the end of the day, hoping for better but happy to have tried. That's four sites!
Thanks to Woody for the ride back to Ike's house. Thanks to Ozzie Daren for the offer of a ride. Thanks to Ike for bring my car back from Makapuu. And thanks to Ike for dragging me out to Makapuu for what turned out to be one of the most challenging and interesting flights ever. I look forward to more research along those lines!
Posted by Alex at 1:19 AM