Sunday, July 20, 2008


Just got back from an awesome experience. I drove to the town of Morton, Wa to try and receive my aero-tow rating. Its an 8 hour drive, but a beautiful one. The highway leading to town is located North of Mt. St. Helen's and Mt. Adams, but just South of Mt. Rainier. The landscape is stunning.

Glider on the cart

I spent three mornings fighting the weather to get some tows in and every afternoon soaring the local hill; Dog Mountain. Because of the weather, I didn't think I would achieve my goal for the trip which wasn't just to get my rating, but to be comfortable pro-towing my T2.

Mike in the tug

By my last day, I had only had three tows on the Falcon and this day the weather was looking worst than any other. Eric was optimistic so he pulled the tug out and I decided to set up the T2. By the time we were ready, the wind had died, but the ceiling was still only about 600'. Good enough.

A local soaring

I got into position and Mike who was managing the cart gave the signal to go. I left the cart and began to follow the tug into the sky. It was awesome. All my anxiety left me and I was enjoying towing the T2 more than the Falcon. I released and headed to the airport to do it all over again.

The next tow went smoothly also, so on my third tow we decided it would be appropriate to try pro-towing. I lifted off the cart and to my surprise enjoyed this style even more. The glider handled great and I towed up into the clouds getting rained on before releasing.

After three very successful tows, conditions changed and we decided it was time to soar Dog. Tom Pierce came out and the four of us flew around for an hour and a half before landing and finishing the day with a nice barbecue.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hit or Miss

Tuesday we had another great day of flying at Tarkio. Conditions were looking a bit too strong in town for Sentinel so the decision was made to head West. Tarkio doesn't seem to be as effected by high winds and it is almost a guarantee to get a long flight.

Launch conditions were looking light and it was late out already, about 7:00. We were hoping to get the evening glass-off and Brother Bill was optimistic it would happen. When Brother Bill preaches the word, all should listen. By 8:00 Josh, Bill, and I launched and sure enough were going up in just about any direction we chose. Craig launched shortly after and was quick to join us in the air.

An ideal flight for me is one where I can practice all aspects of flying; launching, landing, thermaling/cross country, and of course aerobatics. This flight didn't let me down. Launch went well and while flying, Bill, josh, and I ran about a 20 mile triangle. Working lift with your friends is always a blast. It wasn't too windy out, but when I ran down wind back to the hill, my ground speed was reading 60 miles an hour. Its amazing how quickly you can cover ground at that speed.

The evening was coming to a close so I thought it would be time to burn some altitude and land. I pulled 3/4 rope and focused on everything Jeff had taught me. I mushed the glider then slowly pulled in to a dive. I tried to roll my shoulders over the bar to increase my pitch down and speed. After a count to 5 or 6, I slowly let the glider climb out. As the nose of the glider touched the horizon, I put a little role control in and felt the bar pressure for proper bar position. As I came over the top, I looked over my left should to spot the ground. I pulled in again to enter my next wing-over.

A few more lazy eights and I was coming in for landing. We have a bed sheet in the middle of the LZ to practice spot landing and on the way up the hill, I joked about the winner not paying for beer that night. There was no wind in the LZ to I planned on coming in hot to see if I could get remotely close to the spot. Due to my lack of experience, the chance of me coming close to a chosen spot to land are slim to none, but there I was screaming towards the spot. Suddenly my attention shifted from having a nice landing to hitting the spot (recipe for disaster). Images of a spot landing competition from Texas last year popped into my mind. I could do this! As expected the spot got the best of me. As I approached the spot, I flared hard, but it was too late. My feet hit the ground running fast and I tripped. Pushed the control bar out and landed on my knees saving myself from a whack. To my surprise though, the bed sheet was brushing against my leg. Almost a bulls-eye, ha, ha.

Sentinel burning

Wednesday sucked. Friends from San Francisco were in town so we tried flying Sentinel. Conditions were strong and splitting the ridge. No love, so we drove back down. As we unloaded gliders, Ben noticed the mountain was on fire. We headed to a bar for dinner and drinks and watched the fire over take the entire mountain within an hour. It was just a grass fire, but still out of control. I couldn't help but think, if we had flown I would have been sprinting back up the mountain to save my new truck before it burnt up. Thankfully the beer-suck got us before we even launched.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Never Know Until You Try

Yesterday, Lindsey and I headed to Lost Horse Canyon so I could try a new route I had been eyeing for about three years. For the entire hour and a half drive, I was obsessively replaying the sequence of moves over in my mind, nervous with anticipation.

Three years ago when I first top roped the route, I was amazed at how gymnastic-like the moves were, as well as how difficult. It blew my mind that it hadn't been climbed yet. There was good reason. Besides the route being so difficult, no one was positive the crack, being so flaring, would accept gear to safely climb. That's how it was left.

A few days ago, my buddy Travis and I decided to check it out. The climb had never left my mind and being stronger now, I wanted the first ascent. We top roped it, figuring out the sequence of moves and possible gear placements. The moves are hard and the gear is limited. We wondered, should a bolt be placed to make it safe? After some debate, we figure someone in the world was strong and bold enough to climb it with just natural gear. NO BOLTS!

This brings me back to my day with Lindsey. I knew I could lead the climb ground up, no bolts. It would be risky though. There was one questionable piece of gear. If I guessed wrong or couldn't get it, I would be risking a 15 to 20 foot fall onto a ledge, probable breaking some part of me.

I started up the climb. At the base of the crack I placed two solid cams to protect my run-out. Above me was another run-out, this time to the mystery gear. As nervous as I was, I started climbing. "Thumbs down finger-lock in the first pod, now pull through to the thumbs up finger-lock in the second pod and quickly place gear." I reached for my .5 Camelot and pushed it into the crack. To my terrifying surprise, it was the wrong piece! A portion of the cam was grabbing the rock so I clipped it anyways. When I finally looked at it, only two of the four camming lobes were engaged with the rock. Not what you would call text book placement.

The cam that saved my butt

"Now what to do?" "Should I hang on the gear because I'm scared or should I go for it?" Knowing I would be upset at myself for hanging, I went for it. I didn't have nearly the energy necessary to finish the climb so I hoped for the best. Within a few moves I was off floating through space. About 6 feet above the ledge I came to a rest. I was pleasantly surprised to see the gear held. I rested there for a few minutes then climbed through the next run-out and on to the top for what I think is the first ascent.