Like the previous days (I missed), 5/29 had very unstable conditions. In Morrison, the cycles were pumping through at 9am and a couple birds were circling out my window. Only problem was that the moisture was blowing up into overly concerning storms by mid afternoon. Friday, I launched about 12:15 for the first flight with the goal of flying 10miles South to land at my house but after getting up sizing up a big cell along my path I quit after a few miles and headed back. Google Earth view of that flight below:
Had just gotten really high at Heritage too, so after getting back to Lookout, I got to do lots of wing-overs and then top-land so I could turn my keel mounted video on. Did my first “climb-over” kinda wing over which was a turning point.
The second flight was near Casey and Brett doing a tandem and we kinda just floundered around for the first 10 minutes. They headed South and I hung out but ended up needing a super low save to get back in the game. Here’s a snapshot from 550ft below launch!!
After getting up, the cell had drifted a little further south so I worked towards my house again.
The next 2 pictures below are the same canyon, same thermal. Kinda cool perspective I thought.
With all the clouds, and 10.5 of altitude, I pushed out East for a change and got a unusual flight apart from the foothills. Wanted to call Jim as I was over his Golden office at 12.5k! An enormous dust devil was in Golden, crossing a construction site and looked to connect to the cloud I was heading under. So I kept driving through some weak lift and half a minute later, the vario went to solid 600fpm, then 1000fpm! I ended with 866fpm on the 5second averager (says the 6030), bumping up past 1000fpm often. Flychart doesn’t quite show that much.
Video got filled up, but the clouds were forming in a half circle around the upwind side of the big cell I was following. From the lakes and the radio reports, I was keeping a pretty good “out” to run East if the gust front ever materialized but it never did. I think the cell was creating a massive wall that the East wind was bunching up against. These upwind clouds were what I was using to travel South and were forming about 5 miles upwind of the cell at first, then extended from 5 miles to probably 15/20 miles upwind with nice cummies all over the place. If it wasn’t for airspace, I would have ventured much further East! When I hopped back over to the foothills in the shade, the cell had traveled pretty far South. Instead of landing at my house and having to get the family to drive me back to Lookout, I figured it’d burn less hall passes to just try to get back to the truck myself. Made it back to Lookout and toplanded again so I could get home for dinner! SuWEET. Might be the first time I’ve driven down.
Here’s the tracklog for the bigger 2nd flight…
Miles: Flychart says 9 and 21.
Toplandings: 2 of my best
Afterthought::: If I was reading all this cloud flying stuff as another pilot, I might figure it’s “OK” to fly near a big cell that’s dropping out and what not. Just for the record, I took my decision to fly near this stuff very seriously and wouldn’t want my less experienced self to do it. I only did it based on some of these things… being super current and watchful, I was able to position myself away from the foothills at high altitude, past days gust fronts were mild, this day was developing relatively slowly, the East wind that held back previous days’ fronts was stronger and had a good chance at holding the gust back again, and I have a lot of confidence in thermaling up and away from these things if I had to get ahead of the front. The chances of a gust front coming under me were relatively high and watching every lake and flag between me and the cell was an important back-up plan. I used to be too busy just concentrating on the wonderful art of coring thermal or where LZ’s were. Leaving more vulnerability that the gust front could have pinned me in a bad place, or gone under me without my knowledge. So there it is. As the air dries and the gust fronts generate from higher/drier conditions, the potential velocities will be more dramatic. Ain’t saying I have it all figured out either… just that I was ok with my risk and had a fair guess what kinda crap-storm could have developed. And to avoid spreading complacency about flying near big developing cells.