Monday, December 17th, 2012

Some days are diamonds!

Saturday started out overcast with low cu, but which we expected to clear later. It did begin to lift and break up and by midday it looked quite soarable. A hint of shear wave was also evident with the streeting across wind and some cu’s showing a rounded or bread loaf look.
Pete Paine, Craig, Robbo in singles and Morgy & Graeme Parker in the Arcus M launched around 1pm and I soon saw the Arcus above cloud in wave. I believe Craig also contacted the system and had a climb to over 11,000 ft.
Morgy had recently competed the annual maintenance on the Duo Discus and asked if I could do the evaluation flight when I wasn’t busy instructing. I reluctantly agreed.
The singles and the Arcus returned at around 3 pm and from hearsay I heard that the wave system was now collapsing. It was after 4pm when I was able to tow the Duo out for a 4:30pm launch. I took a tow under scrappy cu to 2,500 and for the next hour struggled with broken 2 knot lift under ragged cu’s. It indeed looked as though the pattern was finished. After a long slow climbs, nibbling away at various clouds around the field I finally made it to 4,500 ft. A likely looking formation was building to the south east about 20k out, with what looked like a bit of wave in it.
A quick dash down wind may just get me there, with maybe enough height to get back if it didn’t work. A few new cu appeared on the way and once again gave broken 2-4 knots, but was enough to reach the main formation. As I searched and climbed slowly the cu suddenly began to grow back to the northwest towards Overland Corner and rewarded me with a 6 knotter to cloud base. Being underneath, I was unable to see what was happening overhead, but I used the technique of speeding up while circling at cloud base then pulling up into the wisps on the windward side. After 3 goes at this I struck gold – I was able to figure 8 in short runs up the side and around the valleys until I was about 2 – 300 ft above base, then it just went that classic smoothness with 2 – 4 kts steady for extended lengths along the cloud. The smooth edge of the cloud ensured I had cracked it and I was able to cruise at 40 kts for up to 15k NE and SW with the cloud dropping away.
At 9,000 I was 3,000 above base and about 1,500 above the tops of the tallest cu. A lenny had formed below me and looked like a beautiful huge snowfield. The other cu’s around had the most magnificent cauliflower tops and the system extended south to the horizon. Pete radio’d up to say everyone had packed up and gone home – I told him I was on the way down from 8,500 and would be back soon. Heading back through the blue gap before the next small line of cu, I was surprised to get another smooth 4 knots back to 9,500! This gave me plenty of height to check out the next line of cu and sure enough there was another 2 knot climb.
Working this I could see the next line building rapidly and moving my way with a huge lenny evident over the top. If I was to fly toward it I reckoned I’d have to fly through it. However my current wave when I turned north west on it got better and gave me a top of 10,300 which got me forward and around the northern tip of the new lennie. Once again, that beautiful smooth 2 knots and flying above another snowfield with my shadow in a perfect circle rainbow. How lucky am I! It’s now 7 o’clock and I’m still at 10 grand. Unfortunately I’d stowed my i-phone in the back seat so no photos to gloat over. A quick 30 minute glide down (with the required evaluation tests on the way) and landed at 7:30 pm. Good ol’ Pete was waiting to help put the Duo away. As we closed the doors, guess what – another lennie formed just to the east of the field – I could’ve still been up there at 8 pm!
Bill Mudge

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