Sunday, March 21, 2010

Yet More Cliffside

From a flying viewpoint, Spring has so for been a little disappointing. I've been flying most weekends, but I've been very busy and more or less restricted to Saturday flying. Conditions haven't been great and it's generally been difficult to get up and impossible to go anywhere. Great practice, but not really what I'm looking for at this time of year.

Today offered a chance to break the pattern; one forecast had Peterson Butte looking 'just right' while another had it 'too strong'. After a lot of debate we decided to play it safe and head through to the gorge - where the forecast was weaker, with a giant inversion at 2,500 ft, but at least we would fly.

Dave joined us, we stopped at Bingen but the wind was too strong and headed to Cliffside - where it was too weak! Very little wind and a thin layer of high could was inhibiting thermal production. In these conditions, you really need to launch into a thermal and just stay with it. I waited patiently, ready to take anything half promising, but, while tiny puffs arrived from time to time, you couldn't even kite your wing in them.

Eventually, Tom Nosack launched from the top of the hill (about 150 feet higher). He didn't go up, but he didn't lose much either, so I took a chance and followed him (from 150 ft lower). I struggled below launch for a while before I managed to get a weak thermal and very slowly worked up to 2,000 feet.

Every year there are more windmills at Cliffside and XC becomes more challenging. It was too weak to really consider heading anywhere today, so I didn't have to confront the sausage machines, but they do look a little intimidating.

I top landed as the lift seemed to go and other pilots were flushed. That was pretty much it at Cliffside; we heard reports that Bingen had backed off and headed back in that direction. We had nice, smooth sled rides and, down in the LZ, kiting conditions were excellent.

Very scenic and enjoyable and great practice - but not quite the real thing. Roll on some real spring flying!