Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Beating A Dead Coyote (Chelan Ozone Open 2022)

What follows is a bit of my myopic view from our now annual paragliding competition in Chelan Washington. First, there are two different weeks of competitions, the first week is a ‘C’ glider comp, the second week is the US Nationals. Only JK and Reaper double dipped for the second week of fun!

The 2022 crew: Ian ‘Drop Zone’ Cherteiny, Alex ‘Stewie’ Colby, Marc ‘Speedie’ Collins, JK ‘Mystery Man’ Smith, free flyer Scrappy ‘The Carrier’ Phillips and finally Pete ‘The Garbage Man’ Michelmore. The Hoffman’s, Matt competing, Doug free flying rounded out the crowd.

Task 1 56km-


Everyone was itching to get going that first day. A tour around the flats was the call of the day.

 Launching and climbing in a comp is by far the most stressful part. It seems easy to launch first or launch last, but to be in the middle is super difficult. Launch first and risk sinking out early or climbing quickly to the top and spend the next hour turning mindlessly under a cloud with a hundred pilots on all sides. You can’t go up, don’t want to go down and aren’t going anywhere for a seeming eternity. All you do is make yourself silly flying circles trying to dodge midair collisions and hoping for the start time to approach. It is terrible and awesome at the same time, it might define comp flying in general. Flying with the gaggle is the way to move fast, but flying alone is more relaxed fun as well. I guess you choose your poison. I have accepted that I fly the task with other gliders, knowing that somewhere down the road I will likely spend a lot of time alone.

On day one, I launch late and sink out fast, I can’t believe I blew Day 1 so fast. As I sink, I find Marc down at Dead Coyote Flats as well. Suddenly I don’t feel so bad, shared pain is always better.  Actually, the climbs were pretty slow and low for the whole field at the start.

 Marc and I are already working hard in low save territory, but manage to grind back up to launch height. Marc heads deeper to the launch Butte for more altitude. I spot a glider climbing over the river and on route and head for him.

 The glider stops turning and jumps in behind me for a seeming death glide to the flats. Too low at the flats to glide on with any expectations of climbing, a few of us retreat to the river, Scrappy included. We are low, low enough to glide across the river and just land, as Scrappy did.

 Two of us scratch endlessly over the now famous house where Matty Senior was once shot at for flying too close. I honestly think my day is over, but it is still early so it seems a good idea to fly as much as I can.

   My now partner and I inch our way up very slowly and after 25 minutes hook in to the good stuff and get high. Many of the early guys weren’t finding the good stuff out on the flats either. The sky is now starting to get dark with clouds, I ping the first turnpoint and head off to get the second with lots of gliders around.

   The weather starts turning, the clouds getting thicker and I now canglide straight at 8000’ with no reason to turn. I remember thinking that the flying is now getting good.

   Over the radio we get the message that the task is cancelled. Now at 8000’ under a darkening sky, I find it hard to get down. I land next a road and a bunch of gliders, oddly Alex and Marc land at the exact same spot, Alex on his way back from the second turnpoint.

   Ian, JK and Matt were well on their way to the third turnpoint before the day was stopped. JK took advantage of his altitude to fly all the way back to the volunteer camp near town, so he wouldn’t need a retrieve. Tacos and beer followed, almost a ritual in Chelan.

Day 2 107km to Wilbur-

  Day 2's task is the classic that you come to Chelan for.107km straight downwind over canyons and Banks Lake. This is a pretty straight forward task with the lake and the blue hole after it being the days crux.

   I launch early and go straight to the top, the opposite of the day before. I have an hour and ten minutes to pass before the start over the Butte. It takes about 90 seconds to complete a turn around the swirling mass of the start gaggle, being hyper aware of gliders on all sides. Like endlessly merging onto a crowded freeway. It is both terrible and awesome at the same time, like comp flying in general.

   All our guys start well with the leaders, making good progress, getting high. We seem to join up and then separate, only to meet up again at some later thermal.

   Alex heads a different way when he spots Kari Castle catch a good thermal. Marc heads off that way as well. I spot guys over the canyon climbing below climbing well and head over to join.

   Ahead, I spot a blue Gin glider high take a pretty big thirty percent collapse and do nothing about, the whole time climbing faster than anyone I will see all day. But I couldn’t figure out why the pilot couldn’t fix it. Of course, I immediately headed the way, thinking I might hook into that moon beam.

 We all head out on our way and I end up on the ground somewhere after the lake crossing in a blue hole. I was at my highest point of the day at 9k’ and 15 minutes later was low and desperate with no gliders ahead of me climbing. I make a last ditch 50’ over big transmission lines and finally hook something. I get back into my pod and turn for it but get bucked and go land next the highway just too low to fight for it. The pilots behind saw it came in and hooked in back up to top and on towards goal.All of our guys landed in the area with Ian going a thermal or two further.

   After the flight, Ian asks if I saw his collapse. He reported he took his giant gloves off to try and pee, took that big whack, and his gloves got stuck in the lines trying fix it, eventually the skydiver in him got it all sorted, but I doubt he finished peeing. That was the event I saw earlier  


Task 3 77km-

Today's task is a run up the big valleys to the north as the wind is forecast to be strong. It is another classic task and everyone is excited to get going.

   I end up launching late with Subodh and we both immediately climb to the top of the gaggle, but it is windy with the drift pushing you out of the start cylinder. The move all morning has been to climb to the top and then push back into the wind, hopefully with a climbing glider in your sights and repeat until start time.

 Ten minutes before the start I push up wind, but not no one in front is climbing. I start to grovel low before launch time and find Alex and Ian in the same predicament. We creep around the Butte super low keeping in range the soccer LZ. I wonder how this happened again, down on Dead Coyote Flats, but again I have nothing better to do then scratch desperately. Alex heads to the LZ, while a few of us fly into desperate leeside pockets really low and actually climb out of there. After a few SIV checks I cross over town and rejoin with Ian and try to get back in the game.

   Things keep getting better and better, and we are high and now our way, not even having to go deep, getting high over the low hills. Marc on the other hand goes deep on Goat Mountain, has his first live action full stall against the mountain and is forced to retreat to one of the few fields in Quiet Valley. He meets a friendly farmer who drives him back out to the road. 

 We hear over the radio that the task is stopped due to the high wind and low lift ceiling ahead. We land and retreat for Tacos and beer.


Weather Day-

The wind really picks up and the days flying is called off. Hanging in town and the winerys is the days call. 

A sailplane gets into trouble while flying up the 60 mile lake Chelan, without any dry to land he is forced to put it down in the cold lake. No injuries, just a difficult retrieve.



Task 4 68km-


  Task 4 is a run south into the flats, over Badger Mountain and over the weak lift of the alfalfa fields into goal. The crux being the high mountain plateau and then a thermal lacking long glide to goal.

   I launch late, hook a nice solo thermal to the top of the gaggle and go on glide, a perfect start. The wind is predicted to be from the west, but people are flying all sorts of lines south. Alex and I glide the middle route and float easily across the river. Gliders on both sides are sinking and looking for a thermal. Kari Castle glides a magic line and reports topping 12k flying straight.

   Behind a pilot takes a big whack over the rim and deploys his parachute safely into a field. Ahead, I find myself with the leaders, but after only a couple of thermals they are topped out and gliding and I am at the bottom of that climb, that is quick.

 I then get separated from everyone heading into the high ground and waste some time turning in weak thermals and backtracking. Finally, I stop trying to get high and head in the direction of goal and surprisinly find tons of lift, reaching 10k’ before a long final glide. My fingers are frozen solid, but I don’t care the end is in sight.

   I glide into goal, with Matt, JK and Marc. Alex landed a bit earlier. Reaper is there with his signature yellow pickup, with Koa, the good beer and a rocket ride home. Thanks for all of it Pete!



Task 5 53km-

The weather isn’t looking great and a short lake crossing with a ping pong between peaks is called. The start gaggle isn’t getting very high and the prevailing wind is from the north, which none of the launches face into. The dust devils on launch are getting angry, ripping up carpet and tents. The two launches that are working in the swirly air are 180 degrees from each other and the launch queue is stalled.

   The launches go dead, and it looks bad for our late launchers. Alex and Marc manage to climb out. I find myself, below launch facing a headwind blowing strong from the mountain, choppy chunks of rotor lift, spooky air.

 I again find myself low on Dead Coyote Flats. Dead Coyote Flats is the area below the Butte, it is kind of a wavering plateau with the Butte above and a cliff dropping to the Columbia River out front. The only escape from it is a really long and hot hike back around the mountain toward the LZ.

   I find myself really low here trying to find some thermal magic on the windswept flats. I soon realize I need to change gears to just get out of this situation, which requires me to push into wind low always aiming for the lowest point for ground clearance concerns. In the end, a few windy bubbles of lift let me escape this place, not even making the soccer field LZ.

   Alex flew well but decided he had enough and skipped the second loop before goal, arriving a few moments before a puzzled task winner, Owen Shoemaker. A good laugh.

 Ian bombed early, JK flew most of the task, while Marc and Matt in goal. Great effort  

 An interesting addendum to this day, with top pilots arriving in town for the next weeks comp. Farmer, Belcourt and Gavin flew a round trip flight up Lake Chelan to Stehekin, 60 miles away at the other end of the lake. Amazing because of a lack of landings in the mountain forests along the way and that it was the first time it has ever been done. Everyone was blown away!

 Wrap Party-

 Lots of beer and fun to close out an awesome week. Looking forward to next year!




 1. Galen (Both overall and women's winner!)

 2. Owen

 3. Kris

 29. Matt

 33. Subodh (honorary Hawaii Pilot)

 53. JK

 68. Marc

 73. Dave

 84. Ian

 99. Alex


 I definitely never get any better at this, but for a great XC experience with a guaranteed retrieve it can’t be beat. Plus, the energy of 100+ pilots sharing the air is unique.

 As Bill Belcourt would say, if you aren’t there to win, then you are there to practice. I learn something new every day. And like the Tour de France, I look forward to each days result individually. No one remembers the overall for very long.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Awesome Dave, thanks for the write-up. Agree about the start gaggle madness. Maybe we just need to train it more- How abouts on the next XC day we all post up at Pu'u o Kona for an hour and yell at each other before going downrange