Monday, August 06, 2018

Brace for Summer

I couldn't refuse another hazy, hot, and humid day in this summer of rain, so I chose to hike and fly at Brace Mountain.  Donna and Sergio were meeting early at the park-and-ride along the Mass Pike and I could have ridden with them, but decided to wait 30 minutes and meet Aine at the same place since she was making the trip alone.

Everyone was still at the LZ when we arrived including Don, Joe R, Leslie, Tom P, Zoe, and probably a couple more that I'm forgetting.  We played the "I don't want to drive but we can take my car" game before loading up and making the drive to the backside of the mountain.

As I mentioned before, it was hot and humid, so our pace up the mountain was slow.  Tom and I eventually found ourselves out front alone.  Somewhere along the hike, while commenting on the old guys leading the pack, Tom mentioned that he will have been flying hang gliders for 50 years next summer.  Probably longer than any other person!  (Tom started flying very young).  Needless to say, I was impressed and think that fact should be better known.

There was a light pleasant breeze trickling in when we arrive on top.  We had a leisurely lunch, unpacked, and generally tried to avoid the heat however possible.  Meanwhile, Josh and Shane made their way up for the afternoon festivities.

The forecast predicted increasing southerly winds (90 cross to the ridge) during the afternoon so we were a bit anxious to launch but didn't want to take sledders either.  Donna started the parade, followed quickly by Sergio and Joe.  Donna and Sergio got low but climbed back up while Joe slowly climbed over the ridge.  Tom beat me to launch, but I was in the air shortly after he left.

I sank below launch but found a slow climb to base.  Joe and Sergio were drifting over the back heading out for an XC flight, but given the sky, the forecast, and no retrieval plans I decided to stay put.

Inviting sky looking this direction...

Not so inspiring looking this direction.

Instead of drifting off downwind, I pushed upwind several times to connect with clouds across the valley.

Target in sight

The southerly breeze did develop as predicted and we were soon stuck soaring thermals shearing off the ridge line.

I played around for awhile and then decided to go land and leave the ever shrinking lift band to the others.

After fetching Aine's car, Aine, Josh and I had dinner at the Taconic Wayside Inn before heading home.

Flights: 1, Duration: 1:47

Sunday, August 05, 2018


Hazy, hot, humid coupled with stable and light winds.  Not a great forecast for soaring ... or hiking.  However, it wasn't raining which is rare this summer.  Only a few pilots turned up with the less-than-stellar forecast.  John, Pete, and Tim were already hiking up Mount Tom when I meet Dennis and Mike at Pat's (LZ).  The three of us left a trail of sweat along the path up.

We ate lunch and slowly prepared our wings in the sweltering heat.  John had a tandem flight scheduled later in the afternoon so he stepped up to launch first.  We hide in the shade while John melted on launch.  After an hour of essentially no wind, John retreated to the shade to cool off.

Just as Ben arrived we noticed a light breeze wicking up the slope from the left.  A couple of us walked over to check out the "west launch" and discovered more wind there.  That report was enough for John and Tim to suit up and move to the other launch.  We helped John lay out his glider and stood back as a light breezed puffed in when I noticed Tim hadn't walked over yet.  I told everyone to be prepared for "that bastard" to come flying past us.  About 2 minutes later, we all cheered Tim as he came by at our height after taking off from the primary launch.  He made a quick pass and, as soon as he cleared the cliff, John launched.

They both got established above the ridge but Tim sank below as he ventured north.  However he found a weak thermal and was climbing when I went for my gear.  Gravity had prevailed by the next time I checked their status; Tim was on the ground in the LZ and John was maintaining in a weak thermal.  The combination of seeing Tim on the ground and calm wind on launch slowed and then smothered any effort to suit up.

Eventually John found a nice thermal, got relatively high, and flew out into the valley, and then to the LZ to meet his tandem passenger.

I have never launched at the smaller "west launch" and what little thermal activity we had seemed more robust over there, so I suited up and headed over with Dennis.  Locals Ben and Pete, helped me lay out the wing correctly and then Pete held a streamer up front for me.  Unlike before, the tiny thermal cycles seemed to be coming from the right (north) of launch.  That was a problem since we had the wing spread out facing to the left (south) of launch.  I tried to inflate the wing several times, but each time the wing was blown to the left unevenly.  I finally gave up and hiked back to the primary launch.

Mike was launching when I arrived, and since no one else was ready, I walked onto launch, spread out my wing, pulled up, and ran into the air.  Timing is everything!

Although sparse and weak, there were thermals lurking about.  I slowly climbed above the ridge and was joined by Ben and Dennis.

Lift was plentiful for a short time.

We danced above the ridge for a short time and then started to sink out.  While the others slide down to their LZs, I found a little thermal on the south end of the ridge that I shared with a vulture for almost 20 minutes.

Working my way up.

Can see the top again!

Once above the towers, I was able to start circling and climbed to the top with my feathered wingman.

Flying buddy

Once high it was relatively easy to stay up.  I played around the ridge and watched John finesse his tandem glider and passenger into the air.

By the time John got into the air, the day was shutting down.  I flew with them for a couple passes and clung on as long as possible.  Pete launched over me as I passed below him along the ridge.  It was soon time to go land.

I talked with John's tandem passenger before packing and then John, Pat, and I hung out in the shade catching up before I headed home.

Flights: 1, Duration: 1:12