Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Task 2: In Space, No One Can Hear Your Vario Scream

Another super challenging day. As usual in these events, I was left behind right away, and I wasn’t willing to commit to the deep lines close to terrain that other people were taking. But while staying further out I just couldn't seem to get high. I ended up just working what lift I could find on each finger out front until I was sick of it, before hopping over to the next one. I wanted to give up each time but somehow I made myself stick with it. Eventually I connected with stronger stuff and ascended to 14,500 feet in front of White Mountain. I wasn’t sure if my O2 was working but I sure hoped so. Later I saw the bottle was fully depleted so apparently it was working. But there’s no obvious sign of it at the time with the kind of system I’m using.

My vario was making unrecognizable noises when I hit the strong stuff. The normal beeping sounds sped up to the point where the device was just screaming a single high pitch, and then it would slow down to beeps again as I rounded the circle, and then it would scream a high pitch again as I came back into the core. I’m not sure that screaming sound is really good information. I mean it’s pretty obvious when you’re going up that fast.

My phone died while I was up there, which is not good because I am using it as the display for my flying instrument! I hadn’t thought I’d need to plug it into my external battery. Now I had to open my cockpit and dig around for the battery and cable while fighting invisible dragons. I ended up just dumping the entire contents into my lap and grabbing what I needed. The rest trickled down to the bottom of my harness. I still haven’t found everything a day later.

Anyway, I finally got my phone powered back on just in time to figure out my line to the first turn point. I got some nice high thermals at 12-13,000 feet all the way to Boundary Peak. I saw a few stragglers from the real race crew skyed out in convergence up there, but I couldn’t figure out how they’d got up there. I ended up just shooting out over the flats towards goal, catching some sweet flat land thermals to climb up over the town of Benton (pictured), then I circled up and over the next small ridge to land between some crazy huge salt flats, after four and a half hours flying.

Just as I landed, a Jeep pulled over to see if I was okay. I waved and he started away. I waved again frantically to please wait, and he did, so I dragged my gear over to the road to see if I could get a ride. It turned out to be one of the retrieve scouts, and he called for a van, which showed up shortly after. But we had a lot of other people to pick up all along the road to goal, and we didn’t get back to HQ until 8 pm. What a crazy long day.

I ended up around 10th in the sport class for the day, making 62 of 108 kilometers, a little over halfway. I was quite surprised to make it that far, especially after such a slow start. And 14,500 feet is definitely a personal all time highest altitude for me.

There was another accident today, the third in three days. Best wishes for full recoveries to all of our injured compatriots. This place is definitely not forgiving. The thermals are hard and rough and so is the ground. Hopefully we’ll see folks flying further from terrain on the remaining days.

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