Today set up yet another spectacular wave at Wurtsboro! Yet again it was possible to do a Diamond Climb off of the Catskill wave.
The forecast set up quite late, which is why little was said about the day. What happened was that the high pressure system that was building in during the day ended up moving in faster than initially expected. This sorta ruined the prospects of a good ridge day out of Blairstown, but it strengthened the wave setup at Wurtsboro. As such, I changed my plans and decided to explore the wave some more.
Dan Yates said he could tow me, but then had to be on his way after 8am. It was going to be an early morning! Looking for another person to fly with (and come and get my butt if I landed out), I contacted the enthusiastic Danny Zelek to come and join me. He is sniffing around for a Diamond of his own and was more than glad to join the expedition.
Driving up to Wurtsboro, the sky was a bit foreboding. It was almost totally overcast and even had some light rain along the way. Once I got up there and started to get the club LS-4 ready to go, some holes started popping through the overcast. Looking toward the mountains, it was clear that the primary was working. The big question was how to get there?
We launched a little past 8 and found solid ridge lift and moderately strong rotor in the Wurtsboro valley. I did my low notch (down to 1000ft MSL thank you very much) and headed up to Ellenville, hoping that the window would open up there. Ellenville is a classic wave entry point and it was much closer to the strong primary.
Once I got up there, I found good rotor up to cloudbase (4200ft), but didn’t find a hole. After poking around for a couple minutes, I decided to head back to Wurtsboro where there was a nice big opening in the clouds. Looking downwind of the ridge, there was a good looking wave bar. I figured I could climb up in the little wave by Wurtsboro, drop back to the wave bar downwind of the ‘Gunks and connect with the secondary of the Catskill wave.
I had little difficulty connecting with the Wurtsboro wave. Only 3 miles or so SW of the airport, I found really solid lift. 3-4 knots right above the clouds! That little wave turned out to be much better than I thought! It took me all the way up to 11,800ft; good enough for a Gold Climb in its own right! Looking toward the primary, this was enough to make the transition directly over the clouds. No need to make the detour downwind of the ridge and to the secondary.
I pushed out at 80 knots and drove toward the primary. Between Wurtsboro and North of Ellenville, it was totally overcast. Going on top of the clouds is certainly an unusual experience in a glider! But looking at the glide angle, I had plenty of height to get to the next hole and I always had the option of pointing downwind toward the ‘Gunk wave. I felt reasonably comfortable.
The transition took a while! With the strong crosswind, I was only making 35-40 knots on the groundspeed. That said, I found good air along the way thanks to the widespread weak wave.
Getting closer to Piolis, I contacted the primary at 8000ft. Not content with two knots of lift, I kept driving along looking for the sweet spot. And at 9500ft, I found it! Four miles North of Piolis, five knots! Bingo!
I parked in that spot and watched the mountain fall beneath me. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. And the glider was galloping upwards; compared to last week I was skyrocketing! Even at 13,500ft I was still climbing at three knots. Looking around, it was amazing seeing all the waves all around. There was a distinct wave in the valley toward Blairstown and what looked like a strong wave setting up off the Pocono plateau. The sky looked quite similar to my 18k climb last year…. Perhaps there was a high climb near Blairstown too?
The wave weakened at 17,000ft and made me work for it a little bit. But then it went back up to 1-1.5 knots and I cruised right on up to 17,900ft. Compared to the effort of working 20 fpm lift, this was a rocket ride!
At 17,900ft, I pulled the brakes out and went back down to 17,500ft to avoid the airspace. Even though I hadn’t flown all that long, I desired to slowly work my way back down. All the gear and the oxygen are just not all that fun to fly with for really extended durations. Nonetheless, to avoid stressing the gelcoat, I descended quite slowly and explored the wave on the way down. Near Saugerties, it was a bit disappointing. Skysight predicted this area to be strong but it didn’t set up nicely. Nonetheless, the primary West of the Ashokan Reservoir was gangbusters. I drove along the bar at 80 knots at 12,000ft and didn’t lose any altitude!
Heading SW toward Wurtsboro, I was quite tempted to jump downwind of the ridge and fly the valley wave toward Blairstown. But with the strong wind and aching body, my motivation for getting out of gliding distance of Wurtsboro plummeted. I drove along just South of Wurtsboro and turned back.
Once below the clouds, I explored the streets and headed up toward Ellenville to look at the sight picture of the wave. Interestingly, the primary was still evident. Furthermore, the wave did not look all that obvious. Unless you were looking for specific wave-related features, it was easy to miss.
4.7 hours I landed, got the glider put away and waited for Dan Zelek to come back. Unfortunately, he didn’t get lucky on the wave cycle and got stuck at 14,500ft. He made a valiant effort, staying up there for several hours without climbing, hoping for it to surge. He’ll make it next time!
It’s getting more and more evident that Wurtsboro has excellent wave soaring potential. I hope to keep exploring the possibilities and that more folks can join the fun. Furthermore, it also clear that Blairstown also has a strong wave setup nearby with the Pocono Plateau. I think that yesterday it was possible to do Gold or possibly Diamond climb from Blairstown.
Thanks Dan Yates for towing us early! And huge thanks to Aero Club Albatross for letting me fly that sweet LS4. It’s the most beautiful LS-4 out there!
Find the flight log here.