Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Cross country flying has resumed with a mighty growl as well. Some challenging and fun downrange flying from Makapuu on Tuesday, March 11, started us off, followed by a few days of various chronic loops at Kahana, and some green wall sorties from Makapuu. The next week brought more Kahana chronics and crossings, and some trips venturing further, to Waiahole and Ahuimanu, with the occasional optimistic return attempt. Last Saturday's attempt was successful, and this is the story of that flight.
But it’s really the story of a beloved landmark standing sentry at the confluence of five valleys: Puu Ohulehule, the pyramid, the keystone between the valleys of Kahana, Kaaawa, Kualoa, Hakipuu, and Waikane. Not to mention boogaland. She’s the gateway between the coastal foothills of Koolauloa and the inland main range of Koolaupoko. On rare days with light winds and high cloud base, the pyramid beckons, and we are compelled to attend her.
On any day we’re connecting to the pyramid from Makapuu, the conditions are naturally good, with light winds and high clouds, or we would not have made it that far. But when we’re starting from Kahana, the wind is typically stronger and the clouds are often lower, so the decision to drift back to the pyramid can be a tricky one. The best days are the ones with higher clouds and winds that are so light it's hard to get up and away from Kahana. That’s the kind of day Fireman Dave enjoyed on his historic flight from Kahana to Makapuu. And Saturday seemed like that kind of day.
biggest ever FAI triangle! Thanks to BC Al for the impromptu retrieve.
This time I came in to the foot of the pyramid incredibly low. I’ve never been lower there. I was looking at tiny yards and fields and trying to figure out where I might land. I was clinging desperately to light bubbles of lift around a lone pine tree on the hillside, wondering if I’d made a terrible mistake. But I wasn’t sinking. So I hung in there until I found myself climbing foot by foot, yard by yard, rising along the ridge line and starting to think this might work. The thermals were drifting straight up the spine. If I fell off the spine I was in sink. That’s always the hardest drift line, but I made it work and eventually topped out above the pyramid at cloud base. I dashed into the valley, just like I had on Wednesday, and I was pleased to find that the headwind was not quite as strong as it had been on that day.
But as I approached the mouth of the valley I wasn’t as high as I’d hoped. As I tried to tuck in at the shoulder of the Kaaawa side, I found myself in horrible wrapping rotor flow, pushing me down. I widened my tack, pulling in even lower now, and hoped against hope for some kind of lifting flow down below the halfway line. And incredibly, I found some. I milked light lift up the Kaaawa ridge and eventually got myself up and out of there. Whew! I was back!
I headed to Kahana, and then to Punaluu, and then to Hauula, turning in thermals that were incredibly well defined and buoyant the whole way. I was very pleasantly surprised considering how overcast the day was. I was having so much fun in the sweet thermic conditions that I couldn’t bring myself to land, so I headed back to Kualoa to tag Mokolii, and then headed back the other way to the condos at Punaluu, before reluctantly giving in to the demands of my bladder and top landing back at Kahana.
As I stood on upper north launch, a huge feeling of relief overcame me. Five hours of stressful fun drained away in that moment. I gazed up at the sky and gave thanks for a rare marathon of amazing thermals and low saves. I took off one last time and headed down to land, after soaring both sides of the tree line in the sweet northeast flow.
Posted by Alex at 12:55 AM