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Old Oct 10, 2012, 04:54 AM
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Wind, hill, ... I'm keen ...
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Australia, QLD, Woody Point
Joined Nov 2006
5,026 Posts
Andrew P and I headed back down south to Tekapo today. One of the guys has generously loaned us an oldish but very practical 4WD with chunky tires and low range, which has heaps of room and is a perfect slope wagon.

There’s been snow in the last couple of days, and the white cover extended a lot lower than last Wednesday … in fact we could see that the top site that Alex and the guys Dsed while I was getting bad air with the Shockwave, was today shrouded in white. We got to the “main” site on the ridge about 3pm and the wind was blowing along the backside. Didn’t even try to fly.

We drove right back along the ridge to the spot that we DSed at the end of last Wed, where the ridge turns more west … but again, the air was roaring across the ridge and into the backside. It was very north.

But the amount of wind was stunning. For a day that the ground level forecast for Twizel was maybe 12 knots, this felt like a gale. I stood on the lip with Alex’s wind meter and read a solid 32 knots, building up to 42. Probably more if I’d waited but in a minute my hands were sore from wind chill!

Rather than head back down we decided to keep exploring further along the west-sweeping section, hoping to find a calm backside zone. Thru the next gate, we stopped and walked over the back … well, here it was. If I’d been dropped in blindfolded and asked whether I thought it was good, I could have said it was a perfect zone. (Somehow it just doesn’t seem right saying “perfect backside” …) The grass was calm. A bunny scarpered away. The hill covered in short grass dropped a seemingly impossible distance to the valley floor below. I felt the butterflies of anticipation in my gut … “this could be it!”

We drove up further to park, and checked out the LZ. Hmm. Not bad if you don’t mind landing on gravel. I walked over the backside from this end and felt disappointment as I realized the wind was following me down the back. It wasn’t separating, and there was plenty of wind over the back. There was one small area behind a small ridgetop knoll that felt calm, but everything else was dodgy. Looking across, even the spot I’d been at 5 minutes ago which seemed so calm, was now being blown around. Climbing the fence back to the frontside I realized it was very rounded, no sharp lip.

But Andrew P was keen to have a go with his vac bagged Scratcho anyway. Due to technical difficulties (a nice way of saying that some klutzy jerk forgot something) he had to fly it without ballast, and it was way underweight for the wind. He launched, but I wanted to look over the next knoll to see if there was a better zone. I walked quite a long way and the zone was better there, but there was nowhere to land. The frontside lip of the hill is basically sandblasted clean of grass so there is rock everywhere. And some big flat lichens. Just behind the lip (ie just where it would not be safe to land, you’d get dumped below the shear) there is grass. There’s a line like a scar where the grass finishes before the wind scoured frontside.

Anyway Andrew flew beautifully but the zone was crap. I watched him do the most beautiful landing, parking the plane lightly onto the gravel. He was really brave to even try DSing in that air. He is an extremely competent flyer and when I’m watching him, I tend to forget that he’s a DS newbie because his skills are so good that he inspires confidence. Give the man a serious plane and he’s going to do big things.

We then tried the next zone, where I’d walked. It was a scramble around rocks ands steep slopes but once in position the zone was better, but still not good. Big roll-ins, and not good power. And it was a challenge walking back near to the car for landing. I was contemplating putting the Shockwave together, filming to capture the Scratcho landing this time, when he suddenly got a fright losing lift , so I decided against flying anything big today. Discretion is the better part of valour.

But basically I don't think this corner area will ever work well. It seems that the L shape of the ridge forces the air into massive rivers of wind flowing thru each dip in this angled corner of the ridge. You can occasionally see these torrents of air kiss the backside and blow a bit flat road of grass down the hill, and you even hear the grass swooshing from a distance. But the scary thing when you're DSing (as we found last Wed evening) is that even when you can't see the flow on the grass, it's still there ... it's an invisible giant river of air flowing out the back and when you fly into it, you get cowabunga'ed. In a good zone, when you stand just over the back it's calm. But in this area it has a scary feel, with the wind flicking one way then the next, not separating, and wrapping over and around the hill.

We headed back to Fairlie, swapped cars and went for a drive down to Lake Pukaki, where we saw the area of cloud in which Mt Cook was hidden. Still very very awesome, and all the way back as the sun was setting I couldn’t take my eyes off the giant snowy mountains all around.

We’re going back up tomorrow. The forecast is for perfect wind direction, but not strong. Given how strong it was today, it’s quite possible it will be pretty decent wind! Hoping for a great day.
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Last edited by AvB; Oct 10, 2012 at 05:07 AM.
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