I was sure my hunch was correct when I dropped into the valley around Keene, New Hampshire. The fog was so thick drivers still had lights on at 10:00 AM and the temperature was a good 8C (15F) cooler. Usually the fog is confined to the valley around town, but it was still foggy as I climbed out and then dropped into the river valley. I called Pete and warned him about what was in store for him. However, as we talked I drove out of the fog into bright sunshine. Oops, forget the warning and have a good day!
I waited in the parking area below launch so I could hook up with Amy, Dan, George, Lil, and PK for the ride up. I could also see the wind was stronger than predicted but the clouds and direction looked good.
The wind on launch was borderline strong at times, but the direction was good and it would occasionally back down. PK went first and then I parked on launch for a bit before running off into a strong climb. Amy was next, followed by George, and then Dan. Each took their time and picked the right moment to launch.
Once in the air it was obvious it was very soar-able. What wasn't obvious was how to track thermals. The wind below (29 km/h (18 mph)), especially in the valley, was stronger than the winds aloft. That meant thermals were downwind of the clouds. Not common, but I figured it out after a climb or two. However, there was a strong shear at 975m (3200 ft) where the wind dropped to 13 km/h (8 mph). It took awhile before I discovered this and could routinely drive upwind to reconnect with the thermal. But the thermal gods were not done yet. Around 1250m (4100 ft) the winds abruptly shifted direction from the SSW to WSW. Only when I was able to unlock that mystery was I able to reach cloud base between 1430m and 1500m (4700 and 5000 feet).
PK and I decided to stay put instead of heading off on an adventure since cloud base wasn't high enough to cross the Green Mountains, the climbs were tricky, the valley to the north was hazy blue, and we didn't really have a driver. (Lil graciously offered to fetch us but she didn't come along to drive for a couple strangers). Instead we played around the valley, pushing as far as we could and still make it back.
Looking west to Lake Bomoseen.
Looking north. Notice the smoke blowing over.
Looking east. You can see a glider low in the bowl and one near the top.
Amy and George landed after nice soaring flights, while Dan, PK, and I continued to play. Dan marked a couple sweet climbs in the valley that gave PK and I enough altitude to continue exploring. Dan eventually landed but didn't break down his glider. Um, that seemed odd. However, before long I noticed Amy was back on launch with Dan for round two! The wind was becoming more southerly (crossing from the left) but the air was becoming more gentle. At one point I looked back towards the ridge and couldn't see Amy. Uh oh, did she get blown over the back? I looked up and spotted her at least 600m (2000 feet) above the ridge flying with PK. Very cool for a H2 pilot with no vario!
Glider in the LZ near the corn field along the highway.
PK started complaining about sore arms and I started thinking about the long drive back so we both pushed further upwind hoping to be "forced" to land. Ha. No doing. Every time I came back low I would stumble into wide spread lift and float back up. I finally said enough is enough and spiraled down through the lift. I got banged around on my base leg coming into the LZ and blew my approach; nothing unsafe, I was just going to walk a bit more. Yet, there was more ahead. The glider started turning to the right as I was bleeding off speed and starting my flare. Normally I would just stop the flare and run it out, but that isn't possible in tall grass. Yep. I whacked. In mud. Crap. No injuries or damage, except to my ego. Funny, I was feeling very confident with my landings before that one. This sport can be humbling.
We packed up our gliders while swatting mosquitos and reliving the afternoon's flights. Amy had her longest flight yet and was justifiably stoked!
Dan, her mentor, was also happy; both for Amy's flight and for his own afternoon of soaring.
I talked with Peter and Randy on the way home. Aside from one brief climb, they had multiple sledders off tow at Morningside. A true reversal of fortunes.
Flights: 1, Duration: 4:06