I was a Live Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum Dulles Annex, Udvar-Hazy Center,
March 25, 2006

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Sunday, May 1, 2005 - 1st Ridge Run

Although I have been flying in the mountains just shy of 8 years, I have been pretty conservative in most of my flights. You can count my cross-country flights on one hand. And all of them were over the flats, either over the back at the Pulpit or short sojourns out from Ridgely. I had never felt comfortable leaving the safety of glide-range to the main LZ on any of our ridges. I always worried that I would not find enough lift as I moved out, and would sink out to an ignominious unplanned landing out.
That status changed today, when I took advantage of a really rowdy west cross day at Woodstock. Mid-afternoon winds in the slot were relatively straight and 6-10 with gusts to 16. I launched at 2:30 and hit clean lift right out of the slot. Turned right, and at the first finger found a fat thermal (1000fpm) that quickly took me to 2100 feet over launch. I used that altitude to make my way north, hitting numerous bumps and troughs along the way. Reached the reservoir in less than 30 minutes at about 3100 msl, or 1000 over. Found big sink just south of the pond, and was down to 2500 quickly, but a yellow/green Talon that had preceded me (Dennis McReedy?) was in firm up right over the water. I rushed over to the same spot as he began his run back to the south.
With my altitude back up to about 3000 msl, I started my slow crawl back to the south. The west cross took it's toll. Within two fingers of the ridge I was down to 2300 msl, or only 200 over launch. I started planning my LZ in every section of the valley. I milked every bump or thermal I could fund. I spent a lot of time between 2400 and 2700. Then about a half mile down, I found another boomer. It took me from 2300 to 3100 in just a few minutes. However, the drift put me darn near back at the reservoir again!
This was going to be a slow trip down the ridge. With the VG pulled on and moderate speed, more than once I found myself watching the trees below go backwards, or stay in the same place but moving upward toward me rapidly. Each time I pulled in the bar more, and gave thanks I was flying the UltraSport and not my Pulse.
For almost the entire trip back to the south I was expecting to need to land out, and had two LZs picked at each finger. Virtually the entire trip was around 2400 msl, since my one attempt to gain big altitude also gave me big drift away from goal. Then, I reached the first finger north of launch. That same thermal was still working there, and in another 1000fpm up, I found myself back at 3700msl. Dang, and I was tired and sweaty and ready to land. The trip up to the reservoir had taken about half an hour. The trip back was a solid hour and a quarter. I decided I did not need to play in the sky for another 15 minutes just to cross a magic two hour mark. Even with that, I did some real speed flying out over the valley to get down to landing pattern height.
I made a standard left hand approach down the tree line, came in fast, and flared a tad late, flaring to my knees instead of my feet. But, it was a great flight, lots of work, and a new adventure out of the crib for me! Total time 1:53, max altitude 4200 msl, and my very first ridge run!.
Lots of agreement in the LZ that the day was rowdy, big lift, and alot of work. Pete Schumann collapsed onto the grass after unhooking, declaring himself exhausted. He and Tom McGowan reported 6000' over down to the south, but they both came back to land in the main LZ.
We ought to have a bunch of great flying stories from Woodstock today. I look forward to reading them all!

Cragin