Looking back over my last three soaring days, I had flown ridge, thermals, wave and convergence. When the soaring gets good at Blairstown, it is really good. Incredibly dynamic and lots of miles to be had.
As far as Saturday, I came out with the idea that it could be really good or go completely bust. There was a trough forecasted rather close to the airport which could have kept the conditions from developing. (Thanks to Matthew Scutter for giving me access to Skysight, a very useful soaring forecasting tool. It did a great job of forecasting the convergence!)
Furthermore, it was to be quite blue, so we could not rely on the cumulus to tell us when the day was to start. I got the club LS-4 ready and waited and waited. I kept watching the birds, who seemed rather happy to simply perch in the trees rather than soar. Finally at a little past noon, I saw a vulture core a thermal and start climbing away. I dashed for the LS-4 and took the first launch at 12:25.
On tow the air was active and I released in an honest 2 knot thermal near the lower reservoir. 15 minutes later, I was up at 5400ft, wondering if I may have been a bit too much of a chicken launching as late as I did.
The goal today was to explore the convergence over the Catskill Mountains, specifically get to a little airport called Maben and return. The weather set up was rather intriguing; the wind was quite weak and the sky was to blue other than sporadic cu to the North. This is very conducive for convergence as the mountains and plateaus heat up earlier than the valleys due to the sun angle early in the day. In turn, this pulls in the cooler air from the valleys and creates a convective system that feeds upon itself. This is a well-known feature of big mountains, though our little ridges and slightly higher mountains will do this too.
I found consistent air from the Reservoir most of the way to Culver Gap, just bumping along in the good air over the ridge. As I got closer to Sunrise, the air between the thermals got much nastier. I couldn’t connect with a nice line anymore and had to resort to climbing and plummeting along at 80 knots, achieving 22-1. This persisted through High Point Monument, where I finally connected with a reasonable climb. At this point, I looked at transitioning to the plateau near Port Jervis and seeing if I could connect with the convergence. My wind indication was a couple knots from the East, which suggests that the better air should be to the West. Sure enough, I connect over the plateau and a couple miles later, I hit a strong climb up to 8000ft. We’re in great shape!
From now on, I bumbled and weaved in blue convergence for quite a while. I dropped out of the band heading into the Catskills, though only down to 6000ft. I had plenty of glide to Ellenville Airport, though this area is quite forested. I tiptoed over to the clouds and finally connect with better air. I was really cautious and made some small, though radical deviations to make sure I climbed now. This all worked out very nicely as I managed to climb up above 9000ft. I started coasting along in the good air and in the next nice cloud, climbed up in 7 knots through 10,500ft!
It was rather spectacular, looking around the dead-looking blue sky at 10,000ft while in dynamic air. It’s a rather unusual experience to be this high around here. The air was quite intriguing. The clouds were developing from the NW to the SE, the better air under the wisps. Occasionally, bigger clouds would have the marked step. There were no clouds to the NW of the convergence line, but neither to the SE. The air was so dry that only in this localized area where the clouds were getting to 9000ft plus did the air condense.
At this point, I saw that I had the Maben turnpoint totally made and instead decided to continue further along the mountains up to Freehold. There’s a glider club there and I had always meant to do an out and return there. I kept moseying along in the good air along the mountains, flew over the airport and came back. I had no issue coming back across the Catskills and found another nice climb up to 10,500ft.
It was crazy to me that I almost had glide made to Blairstown airport from here. I decided to poke along the line and fly over the plateau. Maybe I could find the better air here?
Not particularly. There were few climbs to be had and I glided along toward the Poconos. It was somewhat disconcerting being over such a large mass of a forest, though I had plenty of altitude to safely glide out to a number of safe options. Near the Poconos, I finally found some better climbs and looked out ahead toward a nice line of Cu at the edge of the plateau.
I flew that line all the way up to Jim Thorpe PA, the day getting later and later. I kept myself at the edge of glide to Blairstown airport, thinking that the day may die rather abruptly. I turned for home at 5:45pm.
I kept finding good air and found my last climb of the day at 6:05pm, up to 8500ft. This was by far the latest I had ever flown on a thermal day at Blairstown. I slowed down and started gliding along, still finding somewhat active air. I had it in my mind that I wanted to just stay up as long as I could, but I was really really cold. The sun being on my back and with temperatures in the 30s, I was bordering on uncontrollably shivering. I put the nose down, burned the altitude off and came home at 6:50pm, having flown over 500 km.
It was a real blast exploring the convergence today. It is amazing how the terrain affects the air, even with no wind. I look forward to exploring the mountains more in the future and seeing what tasking opportunities they can afford.
Thanks a million to Ralph Woodward for towing today and Aero Club Albatross for letting me fly this gorgeous LS4. It flew really nicely for these conditions. It seems particularly well suited for floating along, staying in the band.
Find the flight log here.