I arrived at FPN ~1515 to find fickle wind. Ariel had just benched up but others were now kiting patiently in weaker stuff. I took a leisurely pace to setting up, swinging by the restroom first then continuing to dawdle for want of pressure to the contrary.
I was strapped in and good to go by ~1540, performed a preliminary inflation to clean my lines, and was rewarded by almost losing my footing on the snow and wet grass, the wing flopping back to the ground after it got past me owing to my clumsy management of low friction conditions. I got my bearings, inflated again, let things ride for a moment, then deflated to wait for the wind to amp up.
Eventually I felt the wind strengthen, saw a couple other pilots make a go of it, inflated, and… found myself in a messy fight to approach the ledge. For a minute or two I spun my proverbial wheels in a forward kiting posture as the strength of the wind and the slickness of the snow made for difficult circumstances. With persistence, however, I powered through and was off.
I managed to ridge soar for ~25 minutes before sinking out and landing at the bottom. If I had been more skilled at exploiting thermals I might have managed to bench up but the baseline wind on the ridge was not adequately directly inward to enable that. It was a good flight in and of itself but also offered insight on what more can be had with greater skill in exploiting the available updrafts.
The flight offered one scary moment where my left wingtip presumably exited a thermal well ahead of the right one, causing the wing to dump hard hillside. I applied, IIRC, moderate brake on the left and harder brake on the right to both prevent an asymmetrical deflation and correct my trajectory. All was well but with such little ground clearance the experience offered a sobering reminder of how on-the-ball you have to be at all times when flying near the ground. I also had to be constantly reminding myself to maintain tight cognizance of my relative position with the LZ because imminent sink-out was a constant threat.
After the return hike I found myself tempted by the wind to try to soar again but eventually decided that my time would be better spent on kiting practice. I was happy to find that the recent kiting binge on Ariel’s borrowed 18m wing was fresh enough that in more modest winds I found the muscle memory serving me well on my 37m. I’m not sure I had ever previously felt so comfortable inflating with my hands only on the center As and in control enough to stay that way for some time, using only body position manipulation as the other control.