Kim and I have been flying in Golden the last two days, it’s been good value. Kim has about doubled her cumulative thermal time from the last three years over the last two days, and managed to get up above Mt. 7 last night, which fired her up. It was one of those perfect Mt. 7 evenings–abundant lift until around 9:00 p.m., nice light on the range, just a great evening, and the morning was good for thermal aspirants also.
I’m still feeling congested and was pondering not flying yesterday as the air looked a bit stable, but I’m a sucker for thermals, and the cycles on launch looked good enough. Amazingly, there was almost no wind yesterday, it was like flying in France or something. The early afternoon thermals were a bit small, but going up well if you could lock into them. The lack of wind meant there were only localized winds, it really felt like France where you can stuff it into the “lee,” play close to the rocks and just enjoy the range. Base was even lower than yesterday, and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen anyhow, so once again the wilderness flying ideas didn’t happen. But after about 20K, just above Castle Peak, I spied this perfect alpine ridge with a little meadow. I’ve always wanted to land up high in the Candian Rockies, but mid-day conditions normally preclude this idea… Today things were perfect, so I did a few fly-bys just to make sure the wind wasn’t stronger than I thought it was, then tried to top land a few times. The ridge was above treeline and directly south-facing, so the thermic breeze would just lift me up the side of it too fast to land each time I came in. Finally I gave up with the standand top-landing techniques and went for the “surge and swoop” trick, which I’ve really been getting into lately. Hang gliders have been downing “fly on the wall” landings for years, but only recently have paraglider pilots been trying the trick. Basically you just point the glider at the hill from well below the top, slow it down with brake, then release and let the glider surge up the hillside. With the lift on the hillside you end getting a surprisingly long flare window, and for extra points you can hammer one brake and neatly spin the glider just as you touch down. I didn’t get an extra points due to coming in through a bit of a sink cycle and thinking I was going to pound in a bit hot, but it ended up working perfectly, I was just so surprised that it worked well that I forgot to spin the wing and managed to fill the leading edge up with quarter-sized rocks when I “whacked” it. I balled the wing up on top of the alpine ridge, took off my shirt, ate lunch, and marvelled at being in such a cool place. Paragliding is so good sometimes!
I kept careful watch on the winds; there have been at least two people who have top-landed along the range and then had to walk down when conditions got too strong to relaunch. My day was perfect, so after a while I got back into the air and flew down the range a bit more with a Swede before turning around and going hard back to Mt. 7, maybe 60K out and back with a lunch stop. I’ve been flying the Boomerang Sport a lot lately, it just gives an extra margin of confidence and relaxation to flying; I don’t think I would have top-landed on my Boom IV, but I have a lot of faith in the Sport, it’s definitely more forgiving. I was able to keep half bar on while flying through some pretty turbulent air, something I’m normally not up for.
After another downwind uphill landing on 7 I realized conditions were still good and Kim wasn’t yet ready to fly, so I set myself a mini-task to fly onto the range north of launch across the Kicking Horse Canyon (the rocks behind the photo of Keith on his Boom IV) and back; with the top of the lift at 8500 feet that wouldn’t leave a lot of room for the long transition, but it just looked like fun to fly over the canyon and explore the rocky cliffs and then try to make it back to launch to drive the truck down while Kim flew. The 5K glide over was pretty sinky and a bit upwind (a light north set up later in the day), so it was near full-bar all the way there. I came into the west-facing hillside low but immediately climbed back out to 8300 feet, sweet! Unfortunately I sunk like a rock as I flew a bit morehttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif north and ended up down to below 6000 feet. From that altitude it wasn’t clear if I had the glide over the bump between me and Golden, and certainly not enough altitude to make it back to launch. I started thinking I had pushed the day too long, but finally got back out to 8,200 and went for the glide back “home.” Somehow the whole canyon was lifting off this time and with the tailwind I got back to launch plenty high to land again, and to drive the truck down for Kim, who was already thermalling out. Keith was in the air over launch as well, we did some long glide tests between the Boom IV and the Sport I was flying. The Boom IV had a slight speed edge at 1/2 bar, but the Sport was gliding very, very close at 1/2 bar. The air was calm, which favours the Sport a bit, but I was very surprised at how well the Sport glides. It’s becoming my favorite glider for its handling, nice to get a confirmation that it also glides very well. In an upwind glide in more turbulent air the IV would likely have a bigger performance edge, but still…
So this is a long story about doing nothing but having a really good time flying in Golden. Nothing beats just messing about in the air for hours.
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