Making the Jump into the Deep End

Making the Jump into the Deep End

Sunday didn’t look like much at first. Some folks who stopped by at the airport wondered why I was rigging the DG-300. I explained to the sceptics that I noticed a dry unstable air mass above 900mb in Sunday morning’s forecast and was hoping for blue thermals. Being the “glass-is-half-full” kinda guy when it comes to soaring weather, I decided to go for a long tow to Mt Ditney, which is well above the 3,000ft stable layer.

With 7,500ft off tow, I reached Ditney a little higher than needed but was able to use the excess altitude to glide to Goat Flats, where I was welcomed by a couple of vapor wisps. I had been here before earlier in the season, spending about an hour thermalling while never getting above 6,500ft. This time was different. I was able to maintain altitude at 7,500ft, giving me time to scout what lay behind Three Fingers. I noticed a line of puffy clouds, quickly cycling through their many lives, and decided to go for it, throwing myself behind Three Fingers into the valley where Fred once took me in the Grob. Last year’s discovery flight with Fred at the controls proved to be a big confidence builder. I knew about Darrington, and the escape routes to Green Valley and Arlington. While landing out was certainly not a preferred option for me on a Sunday, I felt comfortable enough to push forward and follow what looked like a thin convergence line stretching from Mt Baker to┬áStevens Pass.

From Three Fingers I hopped on the convergence train at Helena Peak, heading south towards Monte Christo, working my way between Sloan Peak and Del Campo Peak. As the energy line stopped working its magic before reaching Monte Christo, I decided to make a run for a small puffy cloud over Lake Isabel. By the time I got there, the puffs were gone, and so was the lift. While I enjoyed one more upwards boost just north of Mt Stickney, I quickly got to learn about the dissipating stage of cumulus clouds.

Heading towards the North end of Spada Lake, I reached a low point of 5,600ft, out of reach of Arlington, and barely within reach of Green Valley. Any further loss of altitude would surely result in a field landing near Lake Bosworth. I frantically tried to hold on to a dying CU, get +4kts on one side, while getting the same as a negative value on the other side. After 15m of hovering at the edge of despair, I finally caught a breath of new life under the cloud that once looked so promising.

With an extra 1,000ft to spare, I decided to take a shot at trying my luck at the other side of the Pilchuck valley. While Liberty Mtn didn’t produce anything, Big Bear Mtn produced a nice 3.5 kt average climb to 7,200ft, enough altitude to make one final flyby of Three Fingers’ lookout before heading back to Arlington.

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