Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day 4 - Reserve Toss Day

No pictures again today. My focus remained on actually getting out of the valley and on to the second way point again. The start of the races was not a lot of fun. Flying in gaggles of 60+ people is hectic but doable, but flying in gaggles where everyone is scraaaatching the trees, rocks, and hills just to stay in the air is not fun at all. Before the window opened half the field moved away from launch and part way down the hillside. Pilots were hanging onto the lift like it was some 5.14b slab with fingernail holds. Even a few established comp pilots fell off the wall and bombed out in the valley.

Somehow I managed to maintain just above launch, and was completely blown away when I saw Nate return from the lead gaggle to climb out again from launch. Nate was all smiles, gave me a whoop and told me to follow him. Of course I left lower than Nate, my glide is about 7500 times worse than his new comp glider and I was 5 times as slow through the air. I arrived super super low, repeating the internal mantra of "patience patience patience." Half a dozen slow and low figure 8's later I somehow managed to gain enough to start making circles again. I climbed up above the ridge with three other pilots and as I made slow turns trying to top out before heading out to the first way-point I heard a pilot shouting and the sudden rustling of fabric.

I looked over to see 1/4 of an orange and gray UP glider wrapped around another pilot's pod harness. As soon as the mid-air collision occured the pilots turned away from one another. The UP re-inflated and flew away, but the pilot in the pod took what he later described to be 4 riser twists. The glider was inflated and flying but with that many riser twists there was no way for the pilot to weight shift or put in any brake inputs. We were relatively low (500 feet) off the deck and the pilot did the right thing and yanked his reserve and drifted down under his reserve parachute. His reserve hooked up in one tree, and his glider got tangled up in a second tree leaving the pilot suspended in his pod harness about 90 feet off the ground and 20 feet from one tree trunk and 40 feet from the second tree trunk.

I likened the whole event to a boat getting pinned. Fortunately the pilot had a tree extraction kit (100 feet of p-chord, two floss boxes, some slings and carabiners) and a rescue crew had him out of the tree 4 hours later. His glider, harness, and reserve spent the night in the tree. I don't know how that extraction will work.

After I radioed about the downed pilot I topped out as much as the thermal allowed, headed for the end of the ridge, tanked up again and had an incredible glide across the valley, arriving high I worked up the ridge, luckily found a good tight core, glided to Bald Mtn., got a fantastic final climb and I was out of the valley for the first time since last Saturday!

I thought I could clip the corner of the second waypoint, but pushed it too far and lost a bunch of altitude when I had to make a 90 degree turn and tag the cylindar. I made it a few miles further. Here is my track log.

Looks like bad weather for the next couple day. The event might be over.

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