A large percentage of my flights are 'playing hookey' flights, where I sneak away and fly for a couple of hours at lunch time before getting back to work. It's an efficient use of time but when conditions are good, it can be a little frustrating.
So I've decided to save 10 days of vacation for flying on days with really good forecasts; that way, I can concentrate on the flying and forget about logistics. Today's forecasts were good but not stellar and didn't quite fit my 'flying day off' profile. But I've been away for a bit, I will be traveling in April, the forecast for the weekend is so-so and I couldn't resist it.
Things looked good in the air, and I headed north to Cheval Blanc, a big rounded mountain that tends to just get in the way rather than give decent lift. There's a good spot to gain altitude a few km before the summit, but then there is a decision to make. Head N to the rounded summit and continue N to Carton, or head E away from the Bleone valley system. I had tempting clouds leading E but choose the route over Cheval Blanc - go figure.
The next few kms were very sinky and I arrived at the summit of Cheval Blanc too low to warrant continuing. Back S, build altitude, but no nice clouds to the E now - so do I try N again, or settle for some local flying? I settled for flying locally and visited some of the rounder, seldom flown peaks out to the W.
Late in the day I headed to the Crete des Serres; I thought I had plenty of altitude but encountered tons of sink at the start of the transition. No big deal, I climbed easily back to ridge height. I could have flown a bit longer, but I'd been in the air for nearly four hours and decided that was enough for today.Time to land!
Easier said than done. The valley winds in the Verdon go S to N during the day; the valley winds in the Asse tend to spill over from the W. The resulting convergence gives lift (good!) and turbulence (not so good!). The result is that the 'standard' LZ at St Andre is best avoided on many days, but today the whole of the valley from St Andre to La Mure was best avoided! It was very lifty and very turbulent.
I considered flying to Moriez or Thorame (both in different valleys) to land and that would have been the sensible choice. But I was a bit lazy. I'd find a little island of sink or weak lift, spiral, my sink alarm would sound and I'd be happy. But a few seconds later, still with lots of Gs, my vario would tell me I was going up again! But eventually I landed at La Mure, happy with my 'flying day off'.