Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Play Time

Jeff and John met at my house last Saturday so we could car-pool to Mount Greylock in western Massachusetts.  We made a small detour to Benardston to pick up Matt, who volunteered to chase for the day.

A small group of hang glider and paraglider pilots were already milling around launch when we arrived.  As expected the wind was light and highly variable.  Peter warned us to keep an eye on our gliders since dust devils were occasionally ripping through.

A couple paragliders pilots managed to launch and hang on by the time I was done rigging.

Everyone else was lounging around; I'm too impatient for that scene!  After a couple failed inflation attempts by the paraglider pilots on launch, I moved to launch with Keith's help.

Photo by Geotaru

A slight breeze was blowing in so I wasted no time and ran into the air.  I danced about in front in weak thermals and attracted attention.


George and Jeff on launch

It wasn't long before we had a hearty thermal drift through and we all starting climbing to base.

Jeff (with swarm of pilots around launch below)

George and Jeff followed when I took off to the north.  A small wispy cloud formed below as we cruised through.

The flying was fun and easy.  We took our time and stayed high which allowed George and Jeff to stay within a comfortable glide of LZs while we flew into the Green Mountains of Vermont.

Yep, they're green

Looking back at Mount Greylock

The sky started to overdevelop as we approached the area north of Bennington Vermont where the LZs become scarce.  I wanted to get high before flying into that area.


I flew out over the valley to explore a dying cloud while George and Jeff stayed on the sunny lee-side of the mountains.  I was surprisingly rewarded with a brisk climb while they fell out of the sky.  We were no longer flying together.  (They eventually landed near Bennington).

I continued on to another climb as the area around me became entirely shaded.  PK, who was stranded by tailwinds on launch at Mount Equinox with Doug, John, Nick, and Ross, was also complaining about the near total cloud cover.  I kept looking for bits of climb under the mass of ragged clouds or over sunlight forests but I sank to ridge height just as I approached the area with no landing areas.  Sigh.

Trees everywhere

I used what remaining altitude I had to fly back to an good LZ.

I sniffed out a very weak (50 fpm ; 0.25 m/s) thermal and did my best to not lose it.  Meanwhile, Kip and John were making their way onto the Green's and PK was asking where I was.  I responded "pick the last place you would want to be; low, in the valley, in the shade, with your back against the trees; that's where I'm at!"  PK chuckled and tortured me with chirping vario sounds.  At first I thought he was still on launch giving me grief, but soon realized he was in the air climbing to the north of me.

I made it back to ridge height in my little thermal before it faded away.  I still wasn't high enough to move on.  I searched the valley for a real thermal before slinking back to that same field lower than before.  However this time I found a stronger consistent climb in the same place.  Although I didn't get back to cloud base, I was finally high enough to move on.

PK flew south to greet me and we shared a nice climb on the west side of the valley that once again got me almost to ridge height before we continued north.  I was crushed on the following glide and headed for the main LZ at Mount Equinox.  I flew over the main LZ but decided to turn around and land in a freshly baled hayfield and planted cornfield.

I was packing up when Ross and then John landed after sledding off Mount Equinox.  A bit later the owner of the fields, Hamilton Hayes, pulled up in his tractor.

Hamilton Hayes

He was very gracious and we had a good chat.  I told him I was impressed he managed bale hay given the non-stop rain we've had.  He said even the hillside was still soggy and he would have to roll the bales over to let the bottoms dry.  We talked about his relative that is a smoke jumper and is on duty in Colorado before he returned to baling hay across the far tree line.

I was killing time chatting with John and Ross when Kip floated in from Greylock!  Nicely done.

PK, who landed in the secondary Equinox LZ, stopped in for a chat before I talked him into giving me a lift to the ice cream stand up the road.  Matt, Jeff, John, and George passed us as we were turning into the road-side stand and did a quick 180.  We enjoyed ice cream and shared stories before heading back to the field to pick up my gear.  (John landed at the airport in Bennington).

Back at the field we loaded Kip's gear on my car and then drove back to the bail-out LZ in North Adams where he, Nick, and Ross met us.  (We didn't have room for another body in the car).  George took off for Gary's place, Nick and Ross left for home, and we dropped Matt off before continuing east to home ourselves.

It was fun day playing in very pleasant air with my friends.  I even got ice cream!

Here is my video from the flight,

Other pilots also posted some videos herehere, and here.

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:33, Distance: 34 miles

1 comment:

theohank said...

It was nice to see my cousin Hamilton in his realm. I have spent parts of summers watching the hang gliders come off Equinox behind the farm house across the road from where you landed. I have often dreamed of doing that, but alas, too old and heavy. It looks so peaceful, but I imagine you are woking quite hard, like a swimming duck. Ted Harwood, Duluth, MN.