When I woke this morning the wind looked strong and persistently so. I decided the highest ROI usage of my time in the earlier part of the day would be some programming. If it weren’t for the occasional uncooperative weather I’d never get paid. I also just generally felt kind of pooped and imagined this to be a good day for a rest day. As the afternoon played out the wind seemed poised to offer me some guilt-free sloth-time, but then changed its mind and got really nice, forcing my hand. I grudgingly hopped in my car and arrived at FPS ~1530. The investment of time would not disappoint.
The wind seemed reliably locked into 11G12 by the time I had set up, an intensity that makes for easy going launching, but feels just on the edge of soarable, if only the traffic pattern proves cooperative. I kited for a while waiting on conditions just a touch stronger but found myself with an insurance policy since Ariel and Alex had staged a ride at the bottom in anticipation of their doing a tandem ride. When I saw them start to sink out I launched with the expectation of quick sled ride, but perhaps proved too fixated on getting to the bottom in time for a return trip. I imagine if I had turned sooner I might have managed for some soaring. Oh well. T’was still a fun flight that allowed me to chain together multiple turns and still get down in time for a free ride back to the top.
Back at the top I quickly set up to go again and launched without any issue. I felt like I was just on the edge of being able to soar, maintaining launch height for the first several passes, but again eventually sunk out. Before I got going Ariel happened to get some nice shots of me as he returned from again staging a car for a subsequent tandem ride. As I looked downhill I saw Ariel waving his arms in a fashion I took as sign language for “you have two minutes to land or you’re hiking”. Given my already slowly descending pattern I opted to accelerate my descent so I could quickly return to the top for another go of it.
On my third flight I took my time getting going to give Ariel and his tandem passenger the space to launch without the complexity of my competing for the airspace. Once I got going I thought “this is it” with regards to finding a sustainable soaring loop but various complexities interfered with that happening. Firstly, I found myself having to give up altitude either to avoid pinning other pilots uphill of me or risking getting thus pinned. Secondly, while I found the west end of the hill nicely lifty, possibly offering me salvation, I proved gun shy WRT to the risks of venturi, instead opting to turn before passing over the bump-out. Eventually I sunk out and, arriving at the bottom, I imagine my evening’s flying to be at an end, but happily an orange Subaru blazed into the lot below, coming to my rescue, as Ariel was staging cars for one more tandem ride. WOO!
Back at the top the wind seemed to be strengthening just a tiny bit, albeit in a good way, while the sun rapidly waned, so I rushed to setup for one final flight. Ariel, setting up for one final tandem flight, opted to hike slightly downhill for his launch, and maybe I ought have done the same, but I felt like the top was manageable, and mostly it was but I’ll admit it proved a little spicy. I had the good sense to inflate at an angle, sensing that we were probably rocking 13G14 by this point, which is close to the edge of what I can safely handle. Twice I had to return from a forward kiting position to a reverse one, the first one just barely happening in time and leaving me winded after a wrestling match with my wing, the second one being done more proactively when getting to the lip was proving excessively difficult. When I finally launched I was sucking wind hard for maybe the first half of my first pass, but the wind proved wonderful so the effort felt well worth it. Ironically after all the struggle on earlier flights this one felt a little too good for the growing circumstances. With the light dimming and the wind growing I played things conservatively so I would not be out too long or get pushed too far back. I gave myself a wide margin in front of the hill and let myself sink, albeit very slowly, savoring the gorgeous sunset in the distance. Shortly after I arrived at the bottom so, too, did Ariel and his tandem passenger, affording me a fourth and final ride back to the top.