…and first flight for 2013

A strong sou’westerly dropping to moderate in the late afternoon had me take a chance and walk up Lion’s Head with my paraglider. ¬†The Gradient XC3 is quick, and can thus tolerate a bit more wind than the average glider, but until I saw some tandem pilots sitting at the lower launch I wasn’t sure if I was going to be completely alone or not. ¬†Fortunately, Stephan on his very quick Ozone Enzo launched just after I arrived, and showed the wind strength was acceptable…

…just ūüėČ

Table Mountain looks inviting, but the clouds tell a story of a tricky southerlyTable Mountain looks inviting, but the clouds tell a story of a tricky southerly
Table Mountain looks inviting, but the clouds tell a story of a tricky southerly.

I launched the XC3 ahead of some tandems getting ready and climbed immediately. ¬†Stephan on the Enzo had flown far out to the south, almost over the sea, losing very little height and penetrating slowly into the wind. ¬†I cut into the smooth fast lift on the SW face and rocket up to the top of Lion’s Head, where I found my ground speed into wind was less than a walking pace. ¬†The XC3 has a great response to speed-bar, however, so I was safe to climb steadily above the peak. ¬†The air was cold and beautifully smooth. ¬†Judging from the clouds and wind direction at this level (around 650m ASL) it looked too southerly to fly Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles, but I always get itchy wings when over Lion’s Head, so I gave it a try. ¬†The sink was potent in the last section of the crossing, and I arrived at the bottom of the cliffs near Kloof Corner. ¬†I could see the Enzo back at Lion’s Head; Stephan was biding his time and seeing if I got thrashed. ¬†It was certainly turbulent, with southerly flow wrapping around the cliffs from Fountain Ravine, but I worked the lifting patches and played the little flows until just below the top. ¬†There I found some southerly coming over the mountain, which made Sexy Lexi (the XC) very unhappy… she tried a few times to climb back into her bag. ¬†Deciding that the moment was not optimal, I flew out parallel to the Apostles to see if there was a band of lift to be found. ¬†Far below, the Enzo had made the jump, arriving with no more height but perhaps slightly further into the ravine than I did. ¬†Stephan also climbed steadily, but soon also made the decision to skedaddle back to Lion’s Head and the razor-thin Enzo writhed unhappily above his head.

Watching the sun set over the Atlantic from the air
Watching the sun set over the Atlantic from the air

My efforts to find a lift band along the Apostles failed miserably, so I tucked into a south-facing ravine to try scratch back up. ¬†Nothing! ¬†With the contour path approaching fast I turned and went on glide towards Camp’s Bay, thinking it was soon to be over. ¬†The great glide of the XC3 still¬†surprises¬†me, however, and turning downwind with some speed-bar added soon had me back at Lion’s Head, albeit below takeoff. ¬†Here the crisp handling and speed of the glider came into use, and I scratched back up again. ¬†I spent the next hour in cycles of climbing high, enjoying long periods of smooth hands-off contemplation¬†flying out and practicing spirals and wingovers – I’m still getting used to this on an EN D glider! ¬†Finally, it was time to watch the sunset from the air, crank a spiral and land at the Glen for a well-earned libation. ¬†Here’s to 2013!

Final glide out over the sea before heading to landing at the Glen Country Club
Final glide out over the sea before heading to landing at the Glen Country Club

 

Last flight for 2012

Cape Albatros Hang-Glider Club mate Adam and I decided on a whim to head to Porterville on 30 December despite the so-so forecast.  He had a brand new Wills Wing T2 to get to know, having done only one flight on it at the training hill.  I was keen to try some more XC on my trusty Moyes Sonic.  Conditions at Dasklip Pass were good for a launch, with climbs up to about 1500m ASL predicted: not high at all for Porterville in summer.  Deciding that any flight is better than no flight we quickly rigged and took off.  Adam immediately hooked a good climb and spent most of the flight high above the ridge; I struggled low down and fighting hard for the first 20km before getting a good climb to 1400m.  By that stage the topless T2 was well ahead, so I carried on at my own pace and crossed over into the Citrusdal valley at the N7 pass.  I had forgotten to take my hydration pack, and the rough thermals and heat low on the ridge made me dehydrate fast.  Past Citrusdal town the headache and nausea overtook the fun and I took a long last glide from 1700m ASL to land just short of 50km at Constriction Рmy new personal best.  Adam, in the meantime, was having an awesome flight despite being very new on the glider.  He worked hard most of the way to Clanwilliam and then found a sweet spot in the sky, flying from there nearly all the way to Vanrhynsdorp with very little stopping to thermal along the way, for a total distance of 140km.  A long retrieve followed, but worth every moment!

A couple of GoPro frame grabs:

Airborne on the Sonic, heading north from Dasklip
Airborne on the Sonic, heading north from Dasklip
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Banking in a tight thermal
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Low down on the ridge and not loving it
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Nearing the top of the inversion while climbing over the ridge towards Citrusdal

Unfortunately, I don’t have a tracklog, as my GPS was stolen the day before and the ThermGeek iPhone app crashed just after takeoff (just the app, not me). ¬†However, Adam’s log is here and is far more impressive than mine would have been. ¬†Next time ūüėČ