Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lonesome Leesider

Today’s flight was not my farthest, but it may have been the most challenging twenty mile flight I’ve enjoyed in a long time. I was completely alone, and I had to dig deep for the motivation for a solo trek in what looked like treacherously beautiful downrange conditions. Sure enough, there was no ridge soaring possible on this stable southeasterly sea breeze day, so I had to figure out how to spin my way downrange in nothing but rough leeside thermals.

Thanks to Shawn for figuring out that Makapuu would work early in the day. I never would have considered it based on the forecast! But sure enough, the sea breeze powered up nicely, and folks were getting out of Cactus with ease. Jorge and I made plans for a downrange mission, but after I had driven halfway there he texted that he had to do some tandems instead, along with Doug. I continued and hoped I’d have some other company for that mission but I knew it wasn’t likely.

I left Shawn and London Harry to enjoy themselves at Makapuu, while Garrett and Justin launched their pretty new EN-A gliders to join the fun. The road back to Puu O Kona was extremely bumpy, but I got a nice thermal in the pocket just before the peak. Greenwalls was pretty rough and ratty, and Lanipo wasn’t really working that well. I found nice thermals along the back rim of Maunawili Valley and blazed over the jungle to pull in front of Puu Konahuanui, about halfway up. But there were no thermals working there, and I was sinking fast. I limped onward past the Pali Lookout, lower than I’ve ever passed there, a few hundred feet above the tourists, and then rode some nice thermic lift up the far side and back into the game.

I was realizing that the ridges were a sucker’s game today. The best lift was in the gaps, wafting out from the other side, and also in the flats away from the ridges. But even after I realized that it was hard to make it work. I was worried about hitting the airspace as I arrived at the Haiku Stairs, but I managed to thermal my way deep and high above Puu Keahiakahoe (Haiku Stairs) to my highest elevation of 3,500 feet. By this time I could hear Frank, Joey, Tommy and Sharky on the radio back at Makapuu.

From there I blazed across the sinkhole of Haiku Valley and around into Ahuimanu, arriving kind of low, and I was sure I must have hit the airspace. I figured out later that I was just squeaking above the top. Whew! From there on, the ridges were really not working well, and I was just fighting to stay up until I could get to a decent landing zone. I aimed for Hygienics first, but I got a nice thermal on the way, so I kept going behind Waiahole. The ridge that connects out to the front wasn’t working well at all, so I headed out to land at the beach park.

But halfway there, I caught a sweet flatland thermal back up to a decent height, and figured I’d at least be able to sniff around the foot of the Puu Ohulehule to try my luck climbing out. But it was too light down there, and I eventually set up a landing in the hilly pasture behind Coral Kingdom, for my first time landing there. It was fine in today’s light flow, but I wouldn’t want to try it on a stronger day!

Thanks a million to Duck for the retrieve. He was thinking of flying Kahana but when the numbers kept creeping above 120 he thought better of it, and graciously offered to spend the time driving instead! And we enjoyed some time debriefing with the guys at the LZ. Here's to more company on the next downrange mission!


Thom said...

Wow thanks, now this is some research.

JK said...

Nice work, Alex. That really is some serious thermal research. The track log is very much appreciated. You're expanding the envelope, indeed.