100 Miles From Bakewell

the author@7000ft

Australia Day Long Weekend.2003,  Justin Post and I were hanging out for some decent XC after months of pretty crap weather and decided to camp out at York on the long weekend rather than follow the masses down to the coastal sites at Albany.  We left fairly early loaded up with winch and camping gear, hoping to get off Mt Bakewell early before a forecast SSW change in the afternoon. The forecast was pretty good, and the York weather station was telling us there was a perfect 11knot South Easter.  I have collected all the weather info from the day on this separate web page for those who are interested.

We sensed there was something wrong on the way out, as we got an unbelievable run of green traffic lights and no traffic, there  were nice cloud streets popping up by 9:00 and the wind was perfect, too good, something had to go wrong.

We got to Bakewell just after 10 and although the clouds were dissipating it still looked great, there were heaps of hanggliders on the radio discussing whether to go towing, or try the lower launch, we were trying to work out why they wouldnít  use the top launch, until they told us, the gate to the track to launch was locked, Ashley had gone on his annual holiday.

The hanggliders now had a difficult decision to make.  It wasnít too hard for us, the conditions looked too good to miss, so we drove around to the gravel pit and started walking.

30 minutes, and a few litres of sweat later I was on launch.  It still looked good, with some strong cycles coming through. Between all the phone and radio calls I suddenly started getting I managed to set up. Iíd just received a Gradient Bliss to test fly, and was now glad Iíd practiced a bit of ground handling with it the day before.  I thought is was going to be hard to decide when to go, as we really didnít want to bomb out on such a nice looking day with the prospect of walking back up.  Turned out to be easy though, as soon as I was ready to go the wind looked good,  the Bliss inflated nicely and I was plucked straight off the ground.

I didnít get a lot of height initially but was able to work the ridge after 5 minutes I started to get low and was about to head out over the gravel pit when a bubble came through and saved me.  Justin launched as I climbed back up past launch, and before long we had joined each other circling back up behind launch.  It wasnít actually the greatest thermal ever, we kept losing it, but each time we thought of running back to the hill we saw the other was going up and decided to stick with it.

The lift faded out about 4500 feet and we headed for the gravel pit hills a few km behind launch, I got a few bubbles there and we eventually searched around and found some decent lift getting back to 4500 feet over Muresk, a spot that normally doesnít work that well.  I had climbed out above Justin a bit and tried to wait for him to climb up to me by searching upwind.  It actually worked too well as I kept finding better lift and staying above, until I realised I was above and behind Justin, and not being very helpful. I was obviously at the inversion so I glided off towards the army camp, hoping Justin would follow. I hadnít been able to raise him on the radio, but kept talking assuming he just couldnít transmit, turns out his batteries were flat, he was wondering why everyone was so quiet.

I got some scratchy lift before the hills of the army camp, but had lost Justin, who seemed to have glided towards Northam and was quite low.  I could see his glider pitching about wildly though, so he had obviously found something. My bubble didnít last long and when I saw Justin climbing thought about backtracking, but there seemed to be a wall of sink between us, so I ended up carrying on down wind, and the bubbles kept getting better until I climbed through the bottom of the inversion to 5000ft over the silos.  I had now completely lost sight of Justin so decided to just concentrate on my own flying.  I would later hear Justin had got up from a couple of hundred feet from the old quarries just before Northam, and followed the river along to Toodyay before turning North to join my route again.

Buckland breakaways, in the middle of the pic, seems to be a reliable thermal source. Lots of walking if you land there though.I recognised some breakaways ahead were I had got a low save before, and was pleased to get lift there again, it was broken and slow, but I have had a lot of outlandings around midday lately so decided to stick with it as well as I could, a couple of more broken thermals kept me going slowly without getting through the inversion again until just near Bolgart where I had some strong, but very rough and disorganised air.  Again it was a place I have landed out a few times, so I decided to put up with the unpleasant air and try hard to make something of it.

My heart rate was about 200 I think and I was getting quite jumpy as the air would suddenly rip the glider this way and that. This was my first flight on a new DHV 2/3 glider, which didnít help the nerves. The glider did nothing wrong, I just didnít have enough experience of it to be sure what it would do.  It turned out I got nothing worst than the leading edge dipping a foot and snapping out before it really went, but it was a pretty wild ride between 1000 up and 1000 down before I finally managed to get some full turns in lift and climb out. This one was good once through the inversion and got me up to a nice chilly 6000ft, right in the haze layer from the bushfires.

I was now at Bolgart and decided to glide downwind, crossing over the Victoria Plains to come back onto the highway at New Norcia, but as I glided my drift changed, it felt like the wind had changed to SSW, maybe the shitty air had been the mixing zone from the sea breeze?  I changed direction to the new downwind, now following the Bindi Bindi Road I was over to the north, and ran into a wall of 900fpm lift. This could be good I thought, sea breeze convergence?  I climbed quickly back to 6000 ft and carried on up the road, but couldnít find any lift street, in fact I found a fair bit of 1300fpm sink. Time to try out the top speed on the Bliss,  it goes fast, but still feels like straight down in that kind of sink.  I started to look for good options for a low save, and the crops on the edge of Calingiri looked good, at worst I could land on the nice green oval if it didnít work.

I did get some lift, enough to drift me past the town, but I was still at only about 1300 ft when I lost it.  A quick scoot downwind over the nearest high point and I got another bubble.  I still couldnít climb out, but at least Iíd drifted past the 100km mark.  The third time I got lucky and the lift coalesced into a nice core.  The Bliss worked nicely at trying to turn efficiently in the broken stuff down low, I was starting to really like this glider.  The thermal got me back to 6000 ft.  Justin landed on the nice green oval at Calingiri, while I was still being blown low over the fields to the North, tired and happy with a flat vario battery, although he was a little disappointed to find later he had landed deliberately at about 98km instead of going on for the 100. He had still doubled his personal best and had a great flight.

Miling from 7000ft, and the end of the road.  Swampy looking stuff is the Moore RiverI found it pretty easy from that point on.  It was late in the day so I went in to survival mode eking the most out of each thermal as if it was my last, but every time I went on glide Iíd hit something good before dropping too far, even after 5:30 I was hitting 1000fpm cores, so I may well have been able to fly faster if I had believed the lift that was there would be there.

Bill, Eric, Chris, and Dave had all launched after us and all got up from the hill. As I reached 130km Bill had picked up Justin and was heading back to York.  My route had brought me onto Gt Northern Hwy for a while so they suggested I try to hitch back to Perth.  It was a nice plan, but the day was too good.  As I kept hitting lift I reached the point where the highway turned east.  If I wanted to go further I was back on the back roads.  I decided I was prepared to walk 10km or so and kept going, although my commitment to making the most of the lift was waning as I now knew each km I flew more was probably a km of walking.  At 6 oíclock I dropped below 1000ft and picked out a landing field.  There seemed to be a house with huge green lawns around it just beyond though, and I thought it would have been nice to land there. the green field, which turned out to be a swamp, I landed by the road to the right.Unbelievably I got more lift at 300ft, at after 6pm (OK, they may fly to 8 (with daylight saving) in Manilla, but Iíve never stayed up much past 6).  I was able to circle and make it across to the house, but could then see that the green was some kind of swamp, probably salty, there were lots of trees and powerlines, and the wind was now over 30kph.   The paddock by the road was looking good again.  I flew back and landed well clear of any obstacles, in a paddock that was sandier than most beaches.  With the strong wind I had a very gentle touchdown, but after nearly 7 hours in the air my legs had forgotten how to work and I crumpled gently down on my knees.  Not good with that amount of wind, but I managed to get back on my feet to kill the glider and avoid an ignominious dragging.  The GPS said 168km, nicely over 100 miles, and about 40 past the old state record.  I felt very satisfied Iíd gotten what I could out of the day, and pleased to get the state record back to a hill launch (walk up even!).
Where I landed. The sign says 214km, but I was happy enough with 168km
Half an hours walk brought me to a hilltop where I got cdma coverage (glad I bought that phone now) and let Justin know where I was, and that I had little hope of hitching.  Another hours walk got me nearly to the highway, at which time a couple of friendly farmers picked me up and took me into Miling, where it turned out the pub was shut (on Saturday night!).  They could have given me a lift right back to Toodyay, but I had to wait to avoid missing Justin who was now on his way to get me.  He arrived half an hour later and we were back in Perth at midnight.  A great day, although we didnít end up camping out in York, we didnít mind that it was a bit windy on Sunday either, although Justin still went for a fly in Perth at Mossie Park.

I'd like to specially thank Justin for flying with me and retrieving me, Bill for retrieving everyone else, cloudbase and HGAWA for maintain the Bakewell site and weather station, and Ashley for giving us access to the site through his farm, on almost every weekend except this one.

My track log colour coded for ground speed is below.  Click here for the animated version from CompeGPS (less detail).
The red text on the map are my gps waypoints, either comp turnpoints or places I have landed before, you can see the cluster of landings near Bolgart that I wanted to avoid adding to.  The slow parts of the track are where I was thermalling, the fast bits when I was  gliding. You can see the thermal drift increased from around 15kph early to 25kph later in the day.
Track Statistics  from Compe GPS
Started      11:18
Landed     18:02
Duration    06:44
Linear Distance 168.031km
Total Distance 191.722km
(doesn't include circles as I had a 25sec recording interval - I could have done 200km if I went straight downwind, but would have landed in the middle of Watheroo National Park(BFN))
Max Speed 74.3kph
Average Speed 28.5kph
Vario Stats
max height 7641ft QNE
best climb 1220 fpm
worst sink 1550 fpm (did not do any height loss manouvres, did try out the speedbar in sink)