Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Monsoon shmonsoon

Typical nasty weather

It's been dismal for flying around here lately! The Monsoon flow has been great for our drought conditions, but also extracted a low yield for XC miles. Practically everyday we have seen big over-development in the mountains and some rain in the valleys. This past weekend was a bust. Greg was out of town, Cody could not be found, and other pilots who have been flying here in Utah forever were in a quandary as to where to fly. Guess we'll just half to wait and be patient while mother nature does her thing.

Early afternoon cell

All photos courtesy of KSL News

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Saturday the crew headed up for some fun at the short divide. Cody's back went out, so he volunteered to drive for the day. The conditions there were the strongest I've personally launched in. Still, the site worked great for us. Matt, Greg and I were in the air and benched up by 1:45pm, but none of us were getting much higher than 8500 ft. Greg was the first to break through 9000 ft, as his drift took him due north over the back of Gunsight Peak. Matt climbed through 9000 ft and turned north along the ridge line that runs parallel to I-15. He disappeared low into the the mountains behind launch. Greg and I were not anxious to make the same choice.

Over the next half hour, Matt reported rough conditions and minimal gains. However, the last transmission I heard from Matt, he was at 10,000 ft and crossing Weston Canyon. My plan was to wait for a better climb and take the same north east track as on previous flights from the Short Divide. An hour and some change after launching, the thermals began breaking through and we were getting better climbs. At 10,500 ft, I radioed to Cody that I was heading over the back. With a reasonably flat glide, I cruised the following 5 miles losing minimal altitude. I arrived over a series of small hills that yielded a 500 ft per min. climb back up to 10,500 ft. I topped out in the lift and headed downwind. The next few miles was very similar to my last flight in the area. Moderate ground speed and slow climbs. I ended up landing 25 miles from launch. Greg had a hard time getting high enough to go over the back and settled for staying local. Cody found Matt at the mouth of Weston canyon and was soon on course for my pick-up along highway 91 outside of Preston Idaho.

Flying. On course.

Not flying. A picture of the side of our house. The concrete retaining wall was poured last year. A few weeks ago construction began to complete this ambitious landscaping project.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Short Divide 7/15/07

The crew converged around noon at the gas station below Gunsight Peak. After grabbing lunch, we headed up to launch and set up our gliders - and waited. Out in front of launch it was blue with some high cirrus clouds. The problem was the over-development behind us. Around two o'clock, Jeff decided the growing clouds behind us were not a threat and he proceded to ready himself to launch.

Jeff gave it a valiant effort and lasted thirty plus minutes in the raspy, unorganised thermals. The launch at the Short Divide is only a few hundred feet above the primary LZ, making it difficult sometimes to gain the higher peaks in back of launch. However, once you are a few hundred feet above launch, you enter the lift band on the main ridge, and you're "in like flint"! Soon after, Cody launched with a repeat performance. Practically a carbon copy of Jeff's flight.

Jeff helps with Cody's launch

The conditions began to change. The southerly flow became more consistent, and nice looking cumulus clouds began forming out front. I launched, and not too long afterward Greg followed. I was able to climb out to ten grand under the growing cu's and fly upwind eight miles, following a distinct convergence line marked by the nicely formed cu's. Greg played in the smooth evening ridge lift for a while and topped his flight off with a good landing.

The field I landed in, with Gunsight Peak in the background

Greg gets his gas money

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Colliding forces

Julie and I arrived at our home in Park City Sunday morning. The trip went fine and our flight back to Salt Lake was routine. Yesterday Greg and I decided to fly the point. Being rather late in the day when we left and given the conditions, we both had reservations about our soaring prospects. As we began setting up, brothers John and Guy Lindbergh along with Dude, showed up and began unloading gliders. As we were closely monitoring a growing cell over the Oquirs, Greg noticed a quickly advancing gust front moving into the valley from the Lone Peak area. We hastily broke down our gliders and loaded up. As we watched, another micro burst from the south was heading up the valley toward the lone pine gust front. As were leaving the point we watched as the two, mainly dry, gust fronts collided. Kinda cool - wish i'd had my camera!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Time to Kill

Tuesday, Julie and I traveled to Oklahoma to visit my parents for a few days. On Thursday morning we borrowed one of Julie's parents' vehicles and headed south to Abilene, Texas. On the way down to Abilene, I couldn't help but notice the great cumulus formations that made up endless cloud streets. I've always been fascinated with weather, especially with cloud formations. Before learning to fly hang gliders, I realized and appreciated the awesome power of thermal convection, personally experiencing several tornados and viewing a few from afar as well. To harness that power (in a very limited way) and use convection for non-powered sustained flight, is a dream come true. Literally!

From time to time as we traveled the two lane highways connecting the small Texas towns, we encountered overdeveloped cu's with small diameter bases but towering 25,000 to 30,000 ft. tops. Hope someone's out here taking advantage of these great soaring conditions!

We're heading back to Utah on Sunday morning. The soaring conditions here in Texas make me look forward to the remainder of the XC season in Utah. Still plenty of time left for fulfilling personal goals and record breaking flights.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Today started with high hopes for high mileage. Most of those plans quickly dwindled, as a driver could not be found for our retrieval purposes. Both Greg and Jeff bailed for good reasons, and Cody and Dorothy are in Florida. So I set out for Inspo on my own. Once on top the conditions looked rather poor. It was hot with very little wind. I felt a repeat of yesterday's sledder comin' on. A few para gliders set up and thrashed around on launch in the light but sometimes trashy thermal cycles. The paras finally took off only to find light conditions out front as well. The paras flew around for half an hour or so and landed below in the school LZ.

A fine shot of Mt. Timpanogas courtesy of Jeff Obrien

A fire that started at the base of the mountain a few days ago burned all the way up to launch, leaving an 800 acre black spot on the hill. Can someone say thermal generator? Not long after the paras landed, I noticed small dust devils forming on the blackened hills below. At times there were five or six going off at once. Ironically, just last week I read an article in the latest Hang Gliding mag about a similar occurrence. The fine black ash left behind after the fire is easily picked up by the dust devils, therefore marking these small meteorological phenomena that normally could not be seen by the human eye. Anyway, that was enough to get my butt in gear and get ready to go. Right after launch I encountered a somewhat solid core that put me a grand over Cascade. After hanging out in thermic ridge lift on Cascade for half an hour, another solid core landed me at 13,950. With the strong south wind, I was over Mt. Timpanogas in no time at all, losing only 1,500 ft. I continued soaring Timp's awesome spine for over an hour. After leaving Timp and a 30 min tour over Provo, I landed at the main LZ. To top things off, for the second day in a row Jeff drove me back up to launch to retrieve my truck!! By the way, his phone number is 1-800-IDRIVEU.