It was close to 1100 by the time I arrived at FPS. Wind sensor readings had appeared weak but the forecast promised slight improvements as the morning wore on. Upon my arrival Chad remarked that he had been up for about ninety minutes. “WUT?”, I asked incredulously, remembering the sad looking values I had seen from the sensor. “Thermals”, he replied. “Damn it”, I thought to myself.
I quickly setup and got going. After launch I swung right and found myself slightly behind and below Ariel, a somewhat regrettable situation as I did not want to pull in behind him and risk getting pinned. Eventually he turned, I snugged closer to the hill, and then shortly before the west-end bowl I hit a delightful thermal. “YAAAASSSSS!” I shouted as I surged to way above launch and then continued into the bowl. Once in that region, however, I found the ridge lift wanting. By the time I had emerged on a return leg my wing was sinking along with my optimism. On the next circuit i caught the same thermal again though less dramatically. After a minor surge in altitude I sunk again and realized that my fate had been sealed. I accepted this, focused on enjoying what was left, and sunk out.
The return hike was a serious slog as well as seriously treacherous, especially with my being so heavy owing to the tandem wind strapped to my back. I nearly lost my footing several times in deep snow.
As I neared the top I caught a video of what appears to be Ariel frolicking with an Eagle…
Eventually, upon returning to the top, I found myself debating whether the wind and terrain merited another flight. With the base wind attenuating but the thermic action growing I decided against it. This gave me more time to reflect on the mistakes I made with regard to exploiting thermals. Two sessions in a row now I had effectively sunk out for want of shrewd thermal management. In both cases I had been trying to ridge soar when instead I should have been aiming to maximize my time spent in narrow updrafts. This clearly represents an area for major improvement, both on a specific technique and in being more perceptive of and adaptive to varying conditions. Having gotten passably competent at ridge soaring I am relying overly much on that technique by default.