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.
James Hayes: my flight the other day, thanks for the tow Jim Matush and the retrieval Lindsay Matush.
Not as far as Marcs, or Graces possibly, but was was awesome none the less, slow going on such a light wind day..thermals were really broken up down low (below 3000/3500ft) but pretty solid after that and far stronger. Required lots of patience which is why it took me so long to climb out of the valley from tow. As the day was light and I wasn't in any rush I tried to climb in any lift I found, then follow the cloud streets that were forming. Just before I landed I was pretty tired, I haven't done much thermal flying lately which'll hopefully change, so I didn't want to fight the turbulence and light scrappy lift I was in just before I landed.. was stoked to land right next to the creek for a nice post flight 'swim' (it was so shallow I was more floundering around) haha.
Also as a side note, I tried using something I remember Dennis Pagen mentioning a while ago regarding thermal triggers. Cloud shadows, as they move across the ground the change in temperature can trigger thermals to pop..I was watching my shadow a lot after pin off and keeping it along the edge of the cloud shadow, it seemed to work as it kept me up.
Also some of my turns in the thermals are quite shitty, a few reasons.. I'm still getting used to this wing (aspen 4), I haven't done a lot of thermalling lately, once high I was trying to capture photos&vids, as well as trying to practice turning to my weak (left) side.
Richard McDermott: Dream flight today! Flew from Eagle Cliff (Miles) cemetary to Salt Lick Point today. Beautiful day!
Anna Acock: I have proof you went over the house!
High pressure day, low humidity and temperature in the low 80s. Winds were 8-12mph on the ground from the northwest with mostly clear skies with a high cloud layer. Some cumulus clouds were visible in the far distance. We scouted around looking for a tow road that didn't have trees rotoring from the west. We eventually settled on the usual 7 Mile Rd, but a bit further up the road where a pond creates a natural break in the tree line.
Chris Caywood towed and I went up as a wind dummy. He kept a pretty low line tension as the tow was a bit turbulent low down and we expected sharp thermals from the high pressure. I hit a strong piece of lift around 800' AGL but decided to stay on till the next one. That happened around 1200' and I called for an early release. Hooked a turn and basically kept climbing at the same rate as when I was on tow. The thermal was a bit rough for the first 1000' but then it smoothed out and was easy circling to the top.
I carried this initial thermal over Salt Lick Point where a small cumulus cloud was continually forming and dissipating. I made one upwind leg to return to this cloud to top off before setting out on glide. Winds aloft ranged from 12-15mph. With the wind strength, I knew I could be patient and try to top out every climb while still making progress down course. I appeared to hit an inversion layer around 6000' which correlated with the Skew-T plot for the day. The steady climb at 2m/s would suddenly stop and just go to zeros, even as I circled wider to try and reacquire.
Each transitional glide would bring me down below 1200' where I was studying not only ground trigger points but also potential LZs. I was a bit frustrated that I couldn't hit any thermals part way down but instead seemed to only encounter them when I was on the deck. But the ground triggers I picked out seemed to work and I'd eventually find some zeros to work. This bought some time for covering a bit more ground and although the edges were ragged, these bits of lift would coalesce into a steady climb back to the top. The Kaskaskia River was a trigger point for one thermal near Evansville, Ill. My lowest save was along rolling hills when I dropped to 400' but a series of tree lines trapped enough warm air that I maintained until it coalesced on the uphill side of a small river bank.
As I past Chester, Ill. where the river valley switches from the Illinois side to the Missouri side, I got under the edge of a high cloud layer. There was a definite boundary between the open blue skies and this long, continuous cloud line. I stayed under the cloud side and in zeroes at around 5400'. Occasionally I would hit pockets of lift and take a couple circles before going on glide again. This pattern eventually helped me push through the inversion layer where the lift solidified again and I got up to a high of 6400'.
Towards the end of the flight, I had a strange encounter with some balloons. There was a cluster of balloons tied together and encased in a clear plastic bag. I thought I was flying straight downwind, but they were crossing in front of me from left to right. When I first saw them, they were lower than me. I started circling in some light lift, but I was watching these balloons each time I went around. They started doing large, slow circuits around a point in a counter-clockwise direction a hundred yards away. I figured if there was ever a sign of lift, that was it. So I left what I had and flew right through the center of the balloon circle. Nothing but sink. I took a few more wraps convinced something should be there as the balloons continued orbiting now above me. Moral of the story, don't leave lift! I later caught glimpse of the balloons and they had drifted back the way they had come and were even lower, I guess they can get spit out of thermals too.
As I approached the century mark, I started focusing on this arbitrary number more than staying patient and working the light lift. The direction the wind was pushing was towards areas of dense trees with fewer LZs so I had to start picking between ground triggers and LZs. When I figured I had enough glide to reach 100K, I stopped searching and picked a line with multiple LZs. As I made my base turn over a corn field, I could see the localized winds kicking up showing a thermal forming but I had already committed to landing and decided this flight couldn't end any better.
Nick, Chris and Chris' son, Justin, came out for the long retrieve. They were stopped in Sparta for lunch when I landed. Thanks guys!
Max vario 3.8 m/sec
Min vario -3.9 m/sec
Max alt (ASL) 1960 m
Min alt (ASL) 133 m
Takeoff alt (ASL) 133 m
Altitude gain 1827 m
Max speed 72.9 km/h
Mean speed 36.3 km/h
Max Distance 101.5 km / 63.07 mi
Lindsay Matush: Today was another day of learning how to fly the Meramec Valley, and proving that it can deliver! The valley still shows signs of intensive floods, and for most of my flight I was trying to dodge the flooded patches of earth. The Mississippi was swollen, and the winds kept wanting to push me over the river, but I had no interest in crossing the flooded Mississippi and causing a lengthy retrieve. The winds never got higher than 3 – 5 mph, and the lift was unconsolidated and difficult to track. Given conditions, I did not expect much from my flight.
I pinned off in a thermal and took it to 4000’. I spent the great majority of my flight above 4000’, working light lift. I determined I would use the day to practice patience, centering difficult thermals, and work on staying up instead of going distance – I decided to view it as a training flight. I believe there was an inversion around 4000’ – under 4000’ the wind pushed me South, and above 4000’ it pushed me West against the Mississippi.
For the first third of my flight, lift was light but abundant, and difficult to center. I had some light clouds that would form and dissipate quickly. If they formed in front of me and I was lucky enough to be close, I could use them to gain 1000’ or so before they would dissipate. I would drift along and catch light lift, with a goal of being patient and staying high. Given the flooded landscape, and the only option to fly South, I decided to work whatever I could. I would hit climbs of 300fpm to 400fpm but not be able to stay with them for more than 2 or 3 360’s.
As the day progressed I would hit bigger ups and bigger downs, but still incredibly erratic. I had very few clouds in the mid-part of the day– a couple to help me out, and once I even headed back to a rare but consolidated cloud that was actively forming behind me. I hit 900 fpm a few times (above the inversion), but still found the lift difficult to center. Following these few patches of major lift I would hit patches of 700 – 900 fpm down.
Ultimately, I ran out of earth! I flew as far South as the valley would allow me, and had to head East across a smaller river that feeds into the Mississippi. The last 1.5 hours of my flight were cloudless and into a slight headwind over slightly higher terrain with spotty LZs. I hopped from patch of unconsolidated lift to patch of unconsolidated lift, trying to stay always in glide of an LZ. The terrain turned slightly hilly and I was able to hop from small thermal to small thermal that triggered off of the hills and pastures between big patches of trees.
I landed in a field and was instantly greeted by a family that used to fly trikes. They were quite excited to help, and extra excited when I plugged in the distance and realized I broke our site and duration record. They called the rest of their family to come meet me, brought me a beer, a plastic bag for my diaper (yep), took pictures to send into the local paper, and drove me over an hour back towards launch. The mom who drove me brought her 4 year old daughter, in order to demonstrate the value of kindness to strangers.
What an amazing day! I learned a lot about flying light lift, reading the clouds, and being patient. And being the recipient of such kindness from strangers is one of the best ways to learn the art of giving kindness in return.
Max vario 4.6 m/sec
Min vario -4.3 m/sec
Max alt (ASL) 1800 m
Min alt (ASL) 138 m
Takeoff alt (ASL) 146 m
Altitude gain 1654 m
Max speed 53.9 km/h
Mean speed 27.3 km/h
Max Distance 75.0 km (15.2 km/h)
Fun second flight today. On tow I spotted a couple hundred pelicans thermaling straight ahead so I pushed forward after release and got my first ride.
Spent the first half of the flight bopping under one cloud to the next. Trying to learn how to read the swirling edges and also get in sync with growing v decaying clouds. Lost a ton when a read didn't pan out but was saved by a bald eagle and two red tail hawks. I spotted them way under me but by the time I got there we were at the same altitude. They kept sneaking away from me to better air but I eventually got up to see a new cumulus cloud forming over us.
I thought we might have been in a convergence area today as clouds would move in from the north and the east and merge together right overhead.
The track log looks like a blind squirrel looking for a nut.
1:25hr flight, XC distance: 0km.
Had the new Skywalk Chili 4 S out for a couple kiting sessions but this was the first flying opportunity. Winds were a little too gusty and a little too south when we first arrived. Some parawaiting and some kiting, typical day at Eagle Cliff. Around 5:30, the winds finally started settling down. Richard assisted on launch to keep me from being plucked early, especially rounding out the top of the hill. We got a nice steady cycle and agreed all systems were go.
Air was smooth and just the right speed, but still a little cross from the south. I was able to maintain and even climb a bit over the mausoleum in front of launch, but as soon as I transitioned to the southern ridge, it was a steady decline. I decided not to scrape along the trees on a maiden flight and put it down at the edge of the prairie restoration field.
Taylor launched next and also made some passes before clearing the launch area for Richard. He shot the gap but left enough margin to make the return leg for his first landing by Bluff Rd.
Both Richard and Taylor did second flights, nice sled rides just before sunset as the winds continued to drop toward evening.
Taylor eager for an off-road retrieve with his Ford F-150 Raptor.
Lindsay (left) and Richard skying out over Salt Lick Point on a northwest day.
We've heard stories of the hangies flying out in front of Salt Lick Point, but to date no paragliders have ridge-soared there. That changed on a perfect spring day with northwest winds. Short tows from Old Bluff Rd. then a mad dash over power lines, railroad tracks, Bluff Rd. and a field to get to the shallow slope in front. Bench up and it was smooth sailing after that.
Lindsay, Richard, Chris and Grace all made it to the ridge. Lindsay got into a thermal triggering off the ridge, hit 4k and went XC.
MAR 18TH, 4:53PM
Richard McDermott: Big Headline! Toggle Monkeys Soar Salt Lick Point!
Chris Lee: Any of you crazy Monkeys still flying? Who had the best flight?
Richard McDermott: I had the most exciting. Grace's was the most adventurous. Lindsay's was the furthest and Captain's was the longest.
Nice winter thermal day, overnight low was in the 20's so even though there was high cirrus cloud cover all day, enough sunlight fed the thermals. Punchy thermals up to 3m/s and even larger swaths of big sink.
My first launch was through some of the strongest lift I can remember, I glanced at the vario and saw 9m/s at one point, the logger recorded 7.27m/s on the integrated climb rate. I pinged off early and was relieved to find that while the lift was good for the flatlands, 3m/s, it wasn't insane.
On my second flight, I followed the levee north along the Mississippi River, relying on it to trigger thermals in the SE wind. It also looked like heat was getting trapped in the forested areas between the levee and the river, making for a somewhat reliable generator.
As the river made its bend near 7 Mile, I couldn't take the climbs as high without ending up way out over the river, so my glides got shorter and I landed just on the other side of Fountain Creek.
1:49hr flight, 18 miles.
Thanks to Chris for the tow up, and thanks to Richard for the retrieve!
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