Man what a day! That Duckhawk is a speed machine fully loaded. I launched around 9am and immediately dove onto the ridge, doing 100-120 knots. It is unbelievably solid fully loaded and with the weight makes for a much smoother ride. The run down to Hawk was very fast, though this time I had finally ended my streak of going up to Sharp without turning… I passed up the Tamaqua turnpike thermal street (argh!) thinking that there was a good street set up near Hawk. Lo and behold the thing withered away and I was flailing about in a weak thermal. Two or three turns got me up to 2800ft. The amoeba on the ClearNav showed I could make Second, so I went with the “brute force” method of transitioning… dive and run. You wouldn’t believe how that glider penetrates with water….
The jump to Second was right on the money and I zipped right onto the crest with nothing to spare. After holding my breath for a moment, the lift kicked in! Several moments later, I gained several hundred feet, felt the Gold Mine line set up, turned right and zipped onto Sharp. Sharp worked just fine, though beyond Pottsville there was no apparent solid line to get across to the Mahantango. There was a ratty street over the Tremont warehouse, so here we go. After flailing about and nearly dumping my water, I gained several hundred feet over the warehouse and pointed myself upwind under the line. I will admit it was scary being at 2400ft and looking at Rt.81. But I inched along, maintaining my altitude and Sharp behind me as an option and much to my own surprise, I saw that I was going to make it and with a decent bit to spare!
Onto Bear Mountain we go and finally a nice line had set up to the Mahantango some ways down. Pulled up, turned right, climbed up to 2500ft or so and made it across. No problem! During all the jumps so far, I had never been above 2700ft…
At the Susquehanna, I decided to try to the Wildcat Ridge option for the Tuscarora jump. Turned right into a street, climbed up to almost 3000ft and turned left onto Wildcat. Again, holding my breath, hoping that little bugger was going to keep me up. But I kept settling down and settling down. There were bits of sink that were simply depressing. Beeeeeeoooouppppp! But, down at 1700ft it held! Floated all the way abeam of the gap, feeling just fine. Turned right, sped up and thought everything was a breeze!
Until I was just at the gap itself! Then the bottom fell out from underneath me. Oh ****! Nose goes down to 110 knots and I round the corner at 900ft. Ouch! During this whole time I was well within gliding distance of the landout option on the other side. But that was exciting!
The run on the Tuscarora was extraordinary. The speed range was 120-140 knots and it was pretty smooth too. Maybe when you go faster than a certain point, the glider itself gets more stable and it was going great! The jump around Sidney’s Knob at Burnt Cabins was very benign. The miles were going by very fast. It was only 11:30! In fact, I was a little scared that I got here before the thermals would be good enough. But nonetheless, after McConnellsburg, I slowed down for the jump to Sleepy Creek Mountain. Got up to 3300ft, the amoeba said I had it made and then some and here we go….
After crossing the Potomac, the bottom drops out on me. Not again! I scoped out a field on the way there and was intensely staring at the beginning of the ridge. The angle stayed true and I slid in maybe a tad below crest. Phew! The ridge was solid, though before I knew it, it was time to climb up and get to the Massanutten. I only got up to 4500ft, not enough to jump across the Shenandoah valley. This meant the best way to go was for Great Northern Mountain, another 10 miles crosswind of my position. That is an exciting area… not very abundant in landing options. But it was solid and I resolved to keep myself in glide of the options to the extent that I could.
The jump to Great Northern was easy and I stayed high on that ridge. It was quite solid and it got me to a real corker of a thermal. That thermal got me up to 5500ft, more than plenty to get across to the Massanutten and then some. At this point, the day turned completely blue and hazy. The wind definitely eased off quite a bit. But here we go, aiming for the wild blue yonder.
I joined the Massanutten quite high and was apprehensive if it would work well enough to get to my turnpoint. It is a tricky mountain in weak conditions. Once you join it, you realize it changes elevation quite a bit. Going downhill is quite easy, even with a weak ridge, but once you get to the uphill parts, you will find yourself in trouble quick if you don’t climb fast enough with the gradient. Anyway, I joined the ridge at a high part and it worked fine… up until the last 5 miles or so. Then it got very soft. The ClearNav was telling me the wind was only 7 knots! I got to the tip of it not much above ridge top and started floundering in a weak thermal. The expectation was that the ridge was going to be stronger, so I placed my turnpoint 3 miles beyond the tip of it. This would lessen the distance I had to go into the plateau on my next turnpoint.
Unfortunately, the day did not agree with that premise and I only gained several hundred feet. Hoping that I would get something in the valley, I pushed on out, floating and turning in anything I got. I rounded the turnpoint and saw that I was going to get about halfway below the top of the mountain. Again, heart rate went up and I slid in, going as slow as I dared. A thermal set up right along a spine and that climbed me back up to crest. Phew!
After cruising back along the Massanutten, the day was still quite blue and scary. At this point, there were quite a few upwind jumps to go up to my second turnpoint, which was close to Tyrone. The thermals at the end of the ridge were quite pitiful and only got me up to 3500ft. I tried pushing out beyond the ridge and over the town with a large quarry, hoping for a solid climb. Unfortunately I would have none of that and fell back on the Massanutten. I found a decent thermal and dumped a quarter of my water and up I went. There was nothing apparent that set up the thermal there, so I figured it might be a blue street. At 4500ft, I pushed out upwind and find a nice line! After several climbs in this street, I didn’t do any more turns until Tussey Mountain. The run up to Great Northern worked out fine and turned right, floating along.
(The run from Great Northern to Tussey was the most extraordinary glide I had ever done.)
The jump to Sleepy Creek was painless and at that point I saw Ron zooming along. Nothing is as motivating or as scary as seeing a 1-26 zooming along on a ridge 200 miles from home, still going the OTHER way! His task was a 750km Out and Return, turnpoint on Great Northern Mountain.
The jump onto Dickeys and Shade Mountains worked out just fine and there was a nice street that set up going to Jacks Mountain. Again, pulled up, turned left and away we went! Got across plenty high and spotted another street going up to Tussey. Pulled up, turned left and away we went! That’s beautiful country up there. I flew right over Raystown Lake.
At Tussey, I couldn’t find a clear path to get to my turnpoint. Gregg placed the turnpoint very well, right at the edge of the plateau. This is good because you can be quite low over the plateau and still slide back onto the front ridge. Unfortunately, the turnpoint was largely in a hole. I figured my approach would be best crosswind, nip the turnpoint and fall back on the ridge. A couple thermals got me 5 miles to the West of the turnpoint, at 3800ft. This is quite low there and the wind was really howling. I flopped along, doing S-Turns in the bits of lift I could find… circling simply drifted me over to the back of the plateau for no gain! It was enough to get to the turnpoint, breathed a sigh of relief and dove onto the front ridge, passing by Eagle Field and Ridge Soaring along the way.
Near Ridge Soaring, I found a nice thermal that got me up to 6000ft. I either lost it, or got frustrated and moved on, never getting to cloudbase. I saw a nice line set up to the Tuscarora and connected right with it. That run got me all the way to Mahantango, Bear and Sharp without turning! Sharp worked fine and at the end of it, I floated right up to 2600ft. Figuring that the runs were working out so nicely, why not try to get to Hawk without turning too? Bad idea… Floated onto Second and turned right, heading for Hawk.
After hitting bodacious sink, it was readily apparent that I screwed up that jump. I scoped out a field ahead and slid onto a higher part of that ridge at 1400ft. One turn to the left, and it didn’t work. It was quite scary to be at the base of the ridge, with the wind blowing as hard as it was and not climbing. I turned to the SW and went to a lower and steeper part and connected with the lift, which got me to the top of the ridge. I won’t be doing that jump like that ever again…
The run back home was quite fast and not a problem. I finished the task at 7:45, averaging 80 mph. I was somewhat disappointed because I had so much day left! So I decided to go for OLC points and started make miles. Went up a little beyond Culver Gap, got scared and did two laps up and down our ridge.
Couldn’t ask for much of a better day at Blairstown. Thanks a lot guys for being so supportive, but especially Jim for towing and Bill Thar for letting me fly this awesome glider.
Find the flight log here.