Sunday, July 27, 2008

First flight in Chelan

Saturday was my first day of flying at Chelan and the morning forecast looked doubtful that we would have a good flight, due to gusty winds. We drove up to launch at 1130am to look things over & see how the winds looked. My first thoughts were that the topography of the area is beautiful with the juxtaposition of the calm blue water of the Columbia at the bottom of a 2000' gorge that features amazing vertical rock walls. Once across the Columbia River gorge, in front East of launch, the land is FLAT agricultural land similar to the topography in Killarney AUS.

I was resigned to a local scenic flight. Today & tomorrow are just practice so I wanted a low impact flight to get the lay of the land. The sky was 50% or more covered in high cirro-stratus so the thermal action was dampened. A couple of students launched early & encountered some lift, so I decided to suit up & get off the hill before the mad rush began. I decided to only wear my shorts & a thin summer top & summer gloves, since I was not planning a long-high day.

The launch went well & I soon cored a thermal & got to 6000' (about 2300' over) I didn't want to cross the gorge without 6500' or so, and I didn't want to go alone, so I just boated around at the top of lift for 85 minutes while the launch queue filed into the air. Many were struggling down low so I tried to stay at the top of lift with some success. Finally a bunch of us got up to 6800' and headed across to the East side of the Columbia river gorge. I was looking at the clouds overhead & decided to let the guys on the UP Edges & IcePeaks to fight it out while I just took my time & stayed in the blue band of clouds. This plan worked for quite awhile - I'd stay in the sunny area until the clouds were approaching the sun, then fly on 1/2 to full bar until I approached the edge of the shadows again. Soon I was overflying many pilots who had raced into the shadows & dirted. I didn't have any waypoints loaded in my GPS and no map so I just kept heading East with a few other guys. I was freezing my butt off at 10000' in my shorts, but it was great to have the altitude.

Soon it was just me, Nick G. and Amir (on an XC2 also) heading for the Grand Culee Dam. I got a bit ahead & contacted Babush for a while as we headed Northeast. After 4 hours I was cold, hungry, sunburned & had a bladder stretched to its limits, so I decided to join Babush, Nick, and soon, Eric R. in a nice field. 10 minutes after getting to the road, Nick negotiated a ride back to within 15 miles of Chelan with a gun-toten, Wild Turkey drinkin' local guy for three of us. Tom picked us up in Brewster and we got back to camp around 7pm. It was a full day ;-)

Total distance 84 kilometers (51 miles)- not a bad first flight in Chelan. The comp begins Monday. My flight can be viewed HERE

For grins I'll be SPOT-Casting along the routes this week - You can see my progress by going to MY SPOT PAGE (WHICH I THINK ONLY SHOWS THE LAST 24 HOURS)

The crowd is starting to grow & it looks like it will be a fun week.


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