07-20-2016 Out and Return to Hunter Mountain

It was a really interesting day and certainly a *colorful* flight. My big goal was to make it to Hunter Mountain, to make the jump across the Catskills and make it back. It was quite a struggle and quite exciting to have been able to make it there and back.

Early in the day, the clouds started to trigger around 11:15am. I was watering up the glider and figured that the day was working. I launched the first time at 11:50 or so and couldn’t connect after my first thermal. Dumped the water and tried again. The next time around, I climbed up most of the way up to cloudbase and left, looking ahead thinking it looked pretty good.

I hadn’t adjusted for the conditions as I didn’t have a lot to work with yet and drove along under the fresh clouds, looking for a decent climb. None was to be had, though really I should have accepted weaker earlier. I mistimed the cycle and tried a couple clouds near Zitone and when that didn’t work, I was starting to run out of ideas. My alamo over there are the cliffs on the West side of the Delaware River, so I headed over there. There were some clouds on top of the cliffs, into the high ground, so I figured that there should be lift there. I connected just a little under 800ft, after some desperate searching. That got me up most of the way to 4000ft and I moved on to some nearby clouds, over the high ground. The big objective now was to simply get up high and stay high.

The thermals were setting up in an interesting way. The lift was forming on the sunnier, East facing slopes. The wind down near the surface was fairly light, NE or so. Up higher, above about 3500ft, the wind shifted WNW-NW, getting up to 10 knots at 6000ft. This was not all that much, but it made it quite difficult to find the lift underneath the clouds as the thermals formed a “C” shape.

I was surprised that the lift was so mediocre, considering the NWerly flow and the cloudbase being at 6000ft+. Three knots was often a luxury.

Anyway, driving along to Rondout Reservoir, looking out ahead the air became quite wet. It was clear to me that I had to tiptoe my way into the mountains. The goal was to see how far I could get in and if I could connect with the convergence, possibly continue through Hunter Mountain.

I tried a number of clouds along Slide Mountain without any success. I cut over towards Piolis and flew the tailwind. In the vicinity of Wurtsboro, I noticed that there was a wind shift on my more SEerly excursions. Furthermore, the clouds seemed to have a step in some places, so I figured there must be a convergence there somewhere. Near the edge of the escarpment, I hit a thermal that got me up to 5700ft. With all the moisture it was hard to tell where to go and my first attempt to go across the Ashokan Reservoir failed. I returned back, and took another climb. This time the air dried out a bit and the convergence was more visible. It ran just along the edge of the escarpment and at the end of it I hit a thermal up to 6700ft. This was high enough to cross the reservoir, so off I went. I did not reconnect with any clear convergence after that point.

Making it across to Indian Head Mountain, I did not find a single thermal. I started heading toward “Strip in the woods” and hit some weak stuff. This got me up to 4500ft. At this point, I figured my best odds were to head toward Hunter Mountain airport and try to find something along the way. This finally worked and I hooked a climb just below the tops of the mountains, near the airport. A long slow grind got me back up to 5500ft and a final climb up to 6300ft was sufficient to make a safe crossing back.

It was getting late, 3:45pm and the day was starting to wind down. I took every climb along the way, expecting the day to shut down at some point soon. My final honest climb was near Wurtsboro and it took me to 6700ft and just enough to make Blairstown. I flew at best glide for most of the glide back, though found a weak thermal just over Crater Lake. The 400ft were quite handy and then it was a completely dead glide the whole way back.

Thanks a million Bill Thar for letting me fly your wonderful bird! The Duckhawk is a lot of fun.

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