First 200km flight from the Mississippi River bottoms
Classic spring day with cumulus clouds forming by 9am. Low 60's on the ground with temps at cloudbase forecast for the 20's. I was expecting cirrus to shade out the area by 2pm so I setup with not much expectations for the day.
Launch was a little tricky with a crosswind from the WNW. Forward inflating during the lulls worked out best. Strong lift up to 8m/s on tow below 1000' but then a long stretch of dead air until 2500' release. Turned to a nearby cloud and had the first climb out.
Cleared the forested area over the bluff on the first glide then just picked my way across the farm lands, using clouds when I was high and targeting specific fields and tree lines as I got below 2000'. Top of lift was over 6000' so even as some glides were sinky, there was a lot of time to check out different clouds and different lines downwind. Winds even at cloudbase were only 12-14mph the whole day.
Each time I got low, there was a climb waiting to take me back up so it never got particularly nerve-wracking. In part because my expectations were low, I was happy to take any climb and would have been satisfied at landing out at any point.
Clocking past 100km with plenty of daylight left, I set my sights on 160km, trying to bag my first 100mi flight.
A couple of long glides got me there with no drama. I was more focused on trying to get warm descending on transitions, but there was really not much to think about. The clouds seemed to be forming slower than usual and staying intact longer, so not a lot of prediction and anticipation needed. The climbs I found low tended to not have clouds associated with them yet, so it was really just reading ground triggers, staying over dark fields, rock quarries and downwind tree lines.
After the 100mi mark, I set a nice round number goal at 200km just to have something to look forward to. The climb at 5pm was still strong, 2.5-3m/s, because I had stayed out ahead of the cirrus.
During my last climb I noticed that the cumulus clouds were beginning to clear out in my wake, the western sun was finally catching the high cirrus and shading out the ground.
I saw a river ahead but I had a bridge in sight so I knew retrieve would not be more complicated if I crossed it (at least, not any more complicated than the 100mi drive already entailed.) I spotted an intersection with a gas station and headed for an adjacent field. I didn't know how long I'd be waiting for retrieve so I figured I might as well have a place to lay up.
Turns out, by the time I was packed and walking onto the parking lot, Derek was pulling up to ferry me home.
I think there was a lot more potential left in the day, I didn't take the most efficient route and given the lift strength on tow, we probably could have started the day even earlier. I spent time in some weaker lift even tho both the beginning and the end of the day showed stronger cores were out there. For my current flying level, staying up is still the name of the game. Always room for improvement!
XContest track log
Hazy conditions, no blue in the sky. Small, short-lived cumulus clouds popped up but longish runs to get to each one. Winds were cross but light. Released early from tow at 450’, at around half of the available tow road. First solid thermal out hit 5m/s, 3m/s sustained. Cloudbase was around 5000’ early on, but climbs slowed approaching base so left each thermal without getting to base. Dark colored, large fields were working, thermals were forming up in the center of the fields, not always at the downwind edge.
The downwind path was split by a continuous forested area lining the Kaskaskia River, so had to choose to fly on one side or the other. The clouds were better along the northern route, but the wind was pushing more towards the southern route. I went with the wind for the most part.
The early part of the flight tried to work every climb, even light lift. I wasn't sure how good the day was with the hazy conditions, but later in the flight started using the transitions more and only stopping for stronger lift.
Passed up a couple good thermals at the end of the flight due to bladder pressure. Still had probably another hour of lift to work. Total distance was 73 miles, previous best flight in the St. Louis area was 63 miles set two yeaars ago, also in June.
Richard McDermott towed for everyone. Also flying this day were Taylor Holland, Derek Bartlem, Reddy Gadipally and Lindsay Matush.
Chris Lee: With lousy weather forecast locally during the Memorial Day long weekend, six of us took a trip to visit the Tennessee Tree Toppers and their new launch at Henson's Gap. Richard McDermott, James Hayes, Derek Bartlem, Chris Lee, Reddy Gadipally and Grace Stansbery (with Francis) made the drive over on Friday.
Winds were cross from the southwest most of the weekend, but paragliders still managed to fly each day. Saturday I managed to get out in a thermal forming of the primary LZ. Long slow climb to get above the ridge, finally got to cloudbase after 40min. Wandered around with the clouds for a little bit before losing touch and getting flushed. Picked up some neutral buoyancy around 1000' AGL and this carried me up the valley, jumping from sunlit field to sunlit field. Landed just short of Pikeville.
On Sunday afternoon, five of us flew together in a mix of thermal and slope lift all the way until sunset (Ayvri animation above.) Derek's flight was good for a new personal best in duration, 1:25hrs. First time he was able to get above launch and see over the back side of the hill he launched from.
Monday afternoon I had another flight that was shaping up to be a sled ride but I caught a thermal low over the north end of the LZ. I was about to turn on final approach when I picked up a little buoyancy and took a turn. The streamers on the field started pulling toward one corner and I could see the tractor mowing the field directly below me, so I kept turning. The thermal consolidated and got me out for an hour long flight.
The locals didn't think much of the conditions and mostly stayed home that weekend, but for us flatlanders, the joy of running off a mountain and into the air was worth it.
Chris Lee on 777 Queen 2.
Richard McDermott on Advance Iota 2
Reddy on Advance Epsilon 9
Photos by Derek Bartlem
A full complement of pilots headed out to the tow road for the first promising cross country day of 2019. We arrived early and flew all day. At one point we had four pilots in the air who all headed out cross country.
Light winds from the northwest pushed us parallel to the Mississippi River bluffs headed toward Chester, Ill. Strong, spring thermals with big sink pockets in between, blue sky day.
Present for the flying were Richard, Grace, Chris, Reddy and Lindsay.
Pilots joining in the fun at Creve Coeur Lake included Grace Stansbery, Derek Bartlem, Richard McDermott, Stephen Stansbery, Reddy and Marc Radloff.
Lindsay and Chris in goal three out of four tasks at the 2018 Chelan US Open of Paragliding.
Initial pilot's meeting. 130 pilots registered.
The queue to launch
Lindsay after Task 2: Thanks for watching from afar and the good vibes. Do you click the Xc demon link you can see a doarama of all pilots. Yesterday i flew a deep mountain line and you can see on the log it went farther to the West than all the fast guys who flew straight down course line - prob cost me 30 min, which would have had me at first girl in goal if I’d flown straight. It’s fun to see how different people flew the same route. Check Lester’s track too - he flew way out to the east and still made goal a bit after me on a b wing.
One of he big decisions yesterday early in the task was when to cross the river - early from high terrain and ride the flats up, or later from low terrain (harder to get high). After that you for high again, crossed again, and then had to decide which route to take up to goal. Prentice took deeper terrain after crossing and boomed out - I went with a group farther to the east over some shallow terrain and got stuck - had to scrape treetops for 20 -30 min until a few of us got lucky. I was ahead of Prentice by a good margin until then. After that you can see the decision I mentioned above - and the fastest pilots flew straight there. I went left mostly to follow other markers - I keep getting caught between groups. And we hit this mini- convergence - picked a thermal up from an obvious west facing slope that was baking and took it to convergence zone - flew straight for a long time in 500fpm up without turning. Then turned east to take a cloud to 12k (only cloud of the day) in 1000 Fpm lift and had a 25 k glide to goal with no turning. Will send my track in a minute.
Lindsay after Task 3 - Tough day! Super fun across the first part of the flats- several climbs to 1200fpm meant we could fly fast - full bar most of transitions just to keep up. Then the headwind over irrigated fields was a death blow. Paraglider graveyard. Some wondered if we had followed the high terrain north of the fields off course Line - maybe it would have wrapped around tongoal. Also had some SIV
Top women: 1st - Patricia Garcia De Letona, 2nd - Bianca Heinrich, 3rd - Lindsay Matush
Open class winners: 1st - Donizete Lemos, 2nd - Nick Greece, 3rd - Brad Gunnuscio
photo by Aaron Colby Price
Lindsay Matush: Still coming down off a great weekend at the Fredonia, Kansas Memorial day fun and mentorship comp. Spotty weather got us down for a couple of days but Monday delivered with a 170km flight for the books. Thanks Marc Radloff and Britton Shaw for organizing and Aaron Colby Price for being such a great flying compadre and the pics. Spent most of the day running cloudstreets across the Flint Hills of Kansas. At 5:15 I thought I was on final glide, when I picked up a little thermal being triggered by a tractor in a big brown field. The thermal quickly turned into 6.5 m/s climb (strongest of the day) and I was back at 7200' to eek out another 100 miler. Flatland magic! Thanks to all who made the weekend so much fun.
Click on the picture below to see the Doarama simulation of the Memorial Day flights from Fredonia Airport.
The Toggle Monkeys welcomed SIV instructor David Prentice to the St. Louis area for an SIV clinic May 18-20, 2018. SIV participants: James Hayes, Taylor Holland, Chris Lee, Jim Matush, Lindsay Matush and Grace Stansbery.
We are a group of paragliding pilots based in the St. Louis area.