Sunday, October 05, 2014

Winter Season Opener

Our late summer season is finally starting to give way to signs of a reluctant winter: low pressure systems, cold fronts, and light and variable winds. Winter means we have to work a little harder to figure out where to fly, but we do look forward to a higher cloud base, and we get to fly a wider selection of sites. Today, three winter sites would be flown. This is the story of seven stalwart pilots who answered the call of winter's headquarters: the west side.

I gathered the troops at Nanakuli at 10 AM, and we watched as a huge tower of cumulus bubbled up over the hill. I suggested we all go check out Makua instead, since it was a rarer opportunity, and probably less likely to overdevelop as early. But Drew said: forget that, we’re already here, and we have time to beat the clouds! And he just started hiking. Sebastian joined him, and soon Sandy and I decided to do the same. A bit later Steve and Duck showed up to round out the team. But AK Jake liked the idea of trying Makua, so he headed over there on his own, guided only by my very cursory directions.

We thermaled to the long forgotten altitude of four grand, just above cloud base over Haleakala, and started to explore from there. There was amazing lift over Haleakala, but there was also some serious sink in many directions. We made excursions to the antennas (Sebastian), to Aircrafts (me), to the bird covered cliffs behind Haleakala (Duck), and to Maili Point (all of us).

We had hoped to fly towards Makua, but the valley was blue, and we weren't ready to commit to the deep route along the back range. But everyone was glad to dial up their bump tolerance at our most thermic site. And I am pleased to admit, Sebastian outclimbed me today at every opportunity. That kid can thermal. Only later did I find out he’s been practicing his techniques in Columbia!

We enjoyed some cool refreshments on the beach before we called it a day. Later we heard that AK Jake found his way to launch at Makua, thermaled to cloud base there, and then crossed the valley to climb up again above Yokohama, eventually landing at the end of the road where Melissa picked him up.

Miraculously, the clouds never overdeveloped on the west side, and it stayed nice and sunny all day! But apparently the rest of the island wasn’t so lucky. As we drove back around the corner we saw clouds as black as doom soaking everything in sight. Tied up with a nice rainbow!

But the west side crew weren’t the only happy pilots today. Scrappy told me that earlier in the day, he, Frank and Shawn soared Koko Head above Portlock. The poor man’s Nanakuli: all the hike and none of the thermals! Scrappy told me he pulled off an exciting emergency landing in the road. Maybe he can fill in the details for us! If anyone has pictures or stories to share, please post a comment!

1 comment:

Thom said...

Wow, 4 grand, I hope everyone knows how rare that is.

Thanks for the update, looking forward to some air time soon.