Paragliding in BC

Paragliding in BC

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hallowe'en & Spooooky flights

After a bout of either rain, wind or ground-sucking stability I decided to go to Chelan for the annual Women's Hallowe'en Fly-In. The forecast looked good and I was desperate for a flight other than a sled ride. We got the carpool caravan in motion first thing Friday morning and had a colourful fall drive to central Washington.

One of my favourite things about flying in Chelan is the names of the launches. My favourite of course is Ants-in-the-Pants. Then there are the scary, Hallowe'en appropriate Green Monster and Between-the-Rocks. Anyway, we arrived up top late Friday afternoon to find light cycles from the Monster and about 7 of us had a gentle sled ride to the main LZ. Conditions are famous in Chelan for switching fast, and pilots who arrived 5 minutes after we landed couldn't fly as the wind had picked up and they were blown out. A bit freaky as there wasn't a breath of wind at the bottom. Our timing was perfect for another reason too - one of the pilots was celebrating her birthday and we were all cordially invited to celebrate at a local restaurant with her later that evening. Fun! I stopped to get her a card & some stick-on tattoos and boy-o-boy were those a hit! There were probably 30 people at the party & everyone got "inked" (of course the locations got more risque as the beers flowed throughout the night...). Next day at launch the birthday party attendees were easy to spot, and those who missed out were trying to figure out why everyone was plastered with Pink Punk Princess skull tats.

The flying was fun on Saturday with a bunch of pilots in costume. The "launch potato" did his job marvelously, teaching pilots to check their lines over and over and over and not to take off too quickly. A flying chicken, penguin, and wine table were all seen, along with some of the Canadian "Queen" contingent in the air - queen bee, queen of the undead and queen of the biker fairies. Great flying for this late in the year with people managing between 30 min and 2 hours.

The costume party that night was a blast as usual with people letting their alter-egos shine. The amazing thing was that people seemed to be talking about anything BUT flying! Usually when you get a group of pilots together all you hear is "I turned left, I turned right, I went up, I went down" but Saturday night was all about dancing and posing in costumes. We didn't do too much damage to the keg either as the forecast looked promising for the next day.

Sunday morning we got in a nice little ridge soaring flight after hiking down the North facing ridge by the satellite towers. I thought it might have been my last soaring flight of the year, but mother nature was feeling generous and a few days later in honour of Hallowe'en we were granted a spooky flight at home.

5 of us went up Mother Woodside, hoping the upper level wind forecast would work in our favour & dish out a multi-hour ridge soaring flight. But when Derek launched and started sinking our hopes were almost dashed. I launched a few minutes after since we had more drivers than vehicles & I'll take a sled ride if that's all I can get. Heading away from the hill about 100 metres below launch my vario let out a pitiful little beep. I held my breath, pulled some brake and weight shifted as quietly as I could so as not to wake the sleeping giant & let the thermal know I found it. I circled in '0' lift for about a minute, and saw Derek kicking treetops below me trying to get in the same un-sinking air. Finally the sporadic beeps got more consistant and I was hiting 1 m/sec up! Wohoo! At that moment it felt like the strongest thermal ever and soon I found myself 50 metres above launch. Derek saved himself nicely and our performance encouraged Rob to launch. Soon the eagles followed suit, and I found myself playing with about a dozen of them. We were chasing each other around the sky, eagles on my wingtips and all of us turning in different directions (those birds need to learn thermal etiquette!).

All of a sudden the air felt...weird. Like you're on the edge of a thermal and the air is disturbed, and you're looking for the smooth bit on the inside. But there wasn't any thermal. Rob was flying behind me and says he saw me just drop right in front of him. Derek sunk so low his boots actually kicked between some tree tops and if the slope wasn't steep there he'd have been hanging. Rob also had some spooky stuff happen to his wing & we all high-tailed it out of there. We landed safely and compared war stories, grateful to have gotten such a beautiful, exciting and extended flight at the end of October.