Golden in June: It's ON!
The last three days of flying in Golden have been insanely good. For various (all good but important) reasons I've had to check in on the phone and be able to land near my car to drive home, meaning relatively short flights in the Golden area. On Friday I flew I really nice 60K total out and back flight, a common but still stunning flight over my favorite range in the world. Here's a photo looking down the main (Beaverfoot) range to the south from somewhere near launch. The Columbia river valley, where we land, is to the right in the photo, and you can see about 75K down range. Believe it or not, the valley to the left with the Vermillion Range on it's east side hasn't been flown much if at all! There's just so much potential around here for new flights, you just need a good 4WD vehicle to chase you if you go down in the logging cuts visible in the photograph. No cell back there either. Anyhow, The Columbia valley floor (geologists call it the "Rocky Mountain Trench" 'cause it's a big damn trench) is at about 2500 feet, the photo below was taken at about 12,500 (aviation is done in feet all over the world, so I'm sticking with feet).
All smiles on the flight back to launch. It was surprisingly warm up high, I'm dressed to freeze as is normal in the spring, but the air hasn't been to bad, plus the pod harness really helps to stay warm.
Conditions were really nice for spring in the Rockies--often we have very strong but also chaotic lift in the spring, today was strong (I hit three climbs that put the 20 second averager over 6ms/1100fpm with many spikes way above that) but not too bad. Conditions mellow nicely starting in early July--still strong, but without the "Grrrrr" factor of the ballistic spring conditions. I'm flying my Boom 5 "Manila," which I haven't flown in big air before (the conditions at the World Championships were pretty darn mellow). The 5 is going super well and seems surprisingly stable even in rough conditions. There's a world of difference between the flat-land flying we were doing in Australia and the Rockies in spring, but the glider was good to me. The first few spring flights of the year are always a bit "pucker inducing" for me and today was no exception, I found my heart-rate spiking hard in the strong climbs. The flying was so good it was worth it though, yeah! After heading out and back I top-landed in fairy strong wind on launch, checked in, then relaunched and found that the whole west-facing (east side) of the valley was lifting off, you could truly fly about anywhere and not lose much altitude, just super fun. I tried to cross the entire the valley to the west, but a 20K west wind kept from me quite getting established over there. It's a long glide, about 10K, but if you could get over there and get established you would be in some very cool terrain...
On Sunday I was back out to fly some tandems in the morning, and then back up on launch at about 2:00, with an incredible sky. It was over-developing in Canmore on the east side of the Rockies, but perfect in Golden as it so often is. I was on the same "check in every three hours max" program so I couldn't go huge, but base was pretty high, so I decided to try and fly a "box" task I've always wanted to do but never really tried with proper heating: West (WG edit--I'm a spastic with directions, I originally wrote east...) across the broad Columbia Valley, north along the range over the Kicking Horse Ski Resort, then back East to Moberly peak, then the return leg South to launch, about 55K all in. This sort of task is super common in Europe where the winds are generally light, but we almost always have some degree of west wind in the Rockies, which makes going west really hard. But the winds were obviously light even up high, plus the Boom 5 has been inspiring confidence for going into the wind, it has the flattest polar (best glide at speed) of any glider I've ever flown. I launched, climbed out a bit then really climbed out over Mt. 7 to about 12,000, then headed off east.
Here's a photo looking west from a few days ago, I glided in on the left side of this photo just above the clear cuts. The east-facing side of the ridge doesn't work so well as it's a bit in the lee and not sunny, but the west face is of course laden with booming thermals mid-day, I found a good one!
In Europe they often have days with "light and variable" winds, meaning no dominant wind direction. Today was the Rockies version of that-- "strong and variable." I had headwinds of up to 25K at times, then no wind, then a touch of tail wind, kinda cool. I came into the ridge with enough altitude to easily climb out, good strong thermal. The picture below is looking east back toward launch after crossing the valley with Golden in the lower left of the photo--it's a big valley! The middle of the valley is also reportedly the largest "river wetlands" in Canada or something, so not a lot of thermal action in the middle normally.
Photo below looking northwest sorta toward Revelstoke. No roads down there, I had to always make sure I had a glide back out to the east or I would have been spending the night and waiting for the snow to firm upso I could walk on it if I landed down there!
Photo below looking north along the Dogtooth range. The valley bottom to the left is still snow packed but melting like crazy, I could hear the roar of the creek even at 12,000. I flew north along this range for about 15K; I didn't take the climbs to base as there was lots of lift, just keep gliding along.
Photo below gliding back east across the valley toward Moberly Peak. There was a bit of west wind here to help the glide at first but then I ran into an east wind coming into the peak. Strong and variable winds...
Photo below after getting beamed out in a really nice thermal on Moberly Peak and flying back south toward launch. The main drainage coming in from the left is Kicking Horse Canyon, you can see the road winding up to launch about dead-centre in the photo.
Flew over launch to close my "box," photo below heading out toward the Muller Flight Park at the Nicholson GEAR. You can see the small white "7" and cluster of buildings in the field to the right of the main road, that's the LZ.
About 55K of flying, 2:20 in the air, a super fun flight! I'm starting to wonder if it's possible to cross the valley to the WEST (doh, did it again) more often, as well as fly east into the Vermillion range and then back west. Hmmm... Funny how just having a different set of parameters (call in once every three hours) can change the way we look at things. If I had unlimited time I likely would have tried to fly a large out and back, which I've done before. This was more fun, and gives good ideas for comp tasks... The last four days have all been just epic at Golden, today looks good too. I sure hope we get a week like this for the Nationals at the end of July!
PS--just figured out to make a Google Earth File of the flight, click here to download it.