Monday, May 28, 2012

Flight of the Minnow (a 3 turnpoint tour)

It was my 1st day on the Island, and my 1st mistake of the day was seeing the huge vertical development taking place and thinking how good the lift was going to be, instead of thinking how dangerous the clouds were going to be. Having only flown Kahana once, and not getting up on that occasion, I headed up the hill expecting to just get the lay of the land and try and identify the best areas of lift. Woody was already up and playing out front as Alex, Duck and I began our ascent of the hill. Being totally out of shape and with a bum toe to boot, Duck and Alex had already launched by the time I made mid launch. With just a slightly sketchy launch, I got airborne and began to work my way up to the main ridge. The air felt pretty thermic so I was right at home and soon worked my way up to about 1500 ft. before heading back to Pu’u Pei’i? I then joined Alex back out front to climb some more under the wispies, then followed him around for a while.  At one point I stopped to climb in a thermal on Pu’u Pei’i? and took a couple of collapses just before going into a cloud that had suddenly formed in front of me. Alex radioed he was in the cloud, so I responded I was in it too at 2400 ft. and headed 60 degrees. I was only in the whiteroom about 2 minutes before popping out the top. Duck and Alex were headed towards Sacred Falls with Duck reporting strong thermals, so I headed across the valley hoping for my 1st Oahu XC. I headed towards Alex as he was obviously climbing over the ridge. There was some really good lift there, but now Alex and Duck were heading back toward the ocean and there was a huge cloud developing in front of us. Duck was already under it and Alex was headed back toward launch. When I saw Duck pull ears, I immediately went to ears and speedbar, but was still going up at 2-400 ft. min. About a minute into the cloud, it looked like I was breaking through, so I let my ears out thinking I could just fly out the front. That was my second mistake. This is when the flight really started going bad. I began to doubt if my course toward the ocean would get me clear of the clouds, so I radioed for directions to get clear. I was told to head North, but this didn’t compute because at my home site North is to my right when facing the ocean. At about 3300 ft. I started to come out the top, then pulled ears and found some holes in the bottom. The terrain was looking awfully close at this point, so I let my ears back out and suddenly hit extreme turbulence and a rush of 1600 ft. min. up. At this point, things started getting progressively rougher and wetter, and holding a steady course became nearly impossible. At one point, I thought I was seeing small hail, but I think it was only water droplets streaming off my risers. When I finally saw holes below me, I was still about 3400ft. I pulled big ears and was soon sinking at 6-800 ft. min. I finally broke out under the clouds at 2500 ft. and could see ocean in the distance. What I didn’t realize at that point, was that I was on the opposite side of the Koalaus. But what I did know was there were miles and miles of jungle between me and civilization. I thought about trying to get back under the biggest cloud which was to my right, but didn’t have enough height since it was over a ridge. My next move was to follow a big valley toward a sunlit area hoping to find some lift there. Not sure I could get there, I tried a ridge to my left, but inadvertently flew into it’s lee and the corresponding turbulence. When it was clear that I wasn’t getting out of the mountains, I began searching in earnest for a fairly level spot with the lowest or sparcest trees. Spotting one, I made a beeline for it, but didn’t have enough altitude to get downwind and had to come in pretty hot. I was having to be so active just to keep the wing open in the incredible turbulence that there wasn’t a lot of control left for course changes, so I was fortunate that a fairly bushy tree slowed me down before I hit the solid one. Landing on my head, once again I was glad to have a good helmet on. After it became clear from the lack of wings in the air above, and silence on my radio, that I had no radio contact, I began searching through the thick underbrush for the cellphone that had fallen out of my flight deck when it opened on impact. I was quite relieved to see that one little bar on the display, and immediately put in calls to Thom and Don, the only 2 local numbers I had. Then I took stock of my resources. Let’s see; ate my last granola bar before climbing the hill. One swallow of water left in the bottle. Wing is nicely laid out between a snag and a small tree. I extricated the wing from the tree packed up, and began searching for a way out of my predicament. Every way  I tried to descend to the creek below was blocked by vertical drop offs, and every step was a struggle as it was total deadfall covered in uluhe fern. I was getting dryer by the minute, and after some conferring with folks on the phone (the battery of which was rapidly declining) realized that I’d better just do the smart thing and call in air support while I was in a good pickup location and there was still daylight and clear sky above. In contact with the good folks at Fire and rescue, I guided the chopper to my location, they lowered a guy on a rope, he graciously shouldered my pack, hooked me into my big blue diaper, and away we went, swinging under the chopper and over the jungle to a park in Whittmore Village. Pretty cool ride actually. Then I had to hike about a mile to the right bus stop, talk the driver into taking my pack, transfer to another bus, talk that driver into taking my pack, and arrived tired but unbroken back at camp in time for dinner. The highlight of the trip was the scenic tour of the North Shore and a cute, but very wasted little filly named Trish who kept me entertained on the bus. Aloha to Fire rescue and all the HPA guys who helped out, Woody and Thom for accommodations and Frank for hiking Cactus with me on Sunday for a nice relaxing Makapu flight. LZ coordinates: N 21  33  874, W 157  56  882. Elev. 1743 ft.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the right up, unfortunately your not the only one to ever get sucked up here and spit out the back side. My hopes is that someday people will respect the clouds a little more after reading these tales and stay away from them.
    Glad you came out of it safe and sound.