Pilot Report of a flight from Mt. Prevost on Sunday 8 June, 2014.
Lost on Prevost: A Clear Cut Case.
It’s my observation that vertically challenged people bang their heads more frequently than tall people. Take a look at the pates of your friends who are vertically challenged and note the battle scars. It’s most obvious when they are also follicly challenged. So it came as no surprise when a branch that I ducked under, while walking the dog on Sunday morning, just happened to be lower than my duck and my scalp was scraped. But it was rather annoying to bang it again that morning going into the basement, which I’ve done a million times before without incident. Now, I’m not terribly superstitious; I don’t walk under ladders for obvious reasons, and don’t cross the road if I see a black cat, but I do believe that ‘Shrimp Happen’ and they come in three’s! It was therefore with some trepidation that I headed out to Provost with Bev. later that morning even though the RASP profile looked good and flying promised to be excellent.
To get to the meat of this yarn; I had a cracking launch from Middle and peeled left for the Cairn. Initially I lost some height but on arrival at the base of the Cairn picked up some of the lift I’d expected from a southerly wind coming up against the rock wall. Soon I was soaring back hand forth and thoroughly enjoying myself. The thermals were sharp so it was a bit of a rough ride but nothing I couldn’t handle. I flew over the Cairn, out to the clear cut to the east where there was some lift and played around with Charlie for a while.
Bev. had launched meanwhile and after initially sinking out picked up good lift over the broom around the LZ and was soon soaring with the eagles :-). We rarely find ourselves in the same airspace so, when I started to lose altitude, I thought that I’d head Southwest, in her direction. Mistake number one! Not only had I lost lift but heading towards her I got into some serious sink. Mistake number two. The glide ratio was too shallow and to get to where Bev. was would have depended on getting some lift along the way.
A squawk on the radio from Charlie that I should head for the clear cut was mute. I had no other option. But it seemed like a good idea as there is usually lift over clear cuts. Mistake number three. Don’t count on lift over clear cuts! See, I said things came in three’s. Another squawk from Charlie that I might be able to make it out of there was also mute. The sink was even stronger and I had all of 5 seconds to pick a slalom course between the snags, stumps and rocks, flap my wings and dump myself unceremoniously amongst the ferns, slash and nettles with a resounding crash. When my heart rate settled to around 200 bpm I picked myself up, miraculously unscathed. That is until things started to itch on my hands and legs; stinging nettles and some other unidentified troublesome plant with thorns.
Another squawk from Charlie asking if I was OK was replied in the affirmative, and another that I should be proud of myself. What?????
I shouldn’t have put myself in that situation. I didn’t factor in the possibility of big sink and should have gone in the direction of the LZ rather than risk going in a Southwesterly direction towards Bev; a near fatal female attraction. Mistake number four.
Charlie radioed that I should walk out to the road and that James, who was still in the air, would come and pick me up.
It took for ever to untangle the glider and lines from all the ‘grabby bits’ but eventually I had a bundle that could be stuffed into the harness and, picking up the whole package, made my way to the edge of the clear cut and a fine looking road. I could hear Charlie clearly on the radio for some time and also Bev and James who said that they were just staring out to get me after getting some directions to ’THE’ clear cut.
The unmarked road I was on was a dead-end so, rather than hang around, I decided to lay out the glider and try to pack it before starting down the road to meet them. The lines were in a frightful mess and it was impossible to untangle them completely, so I did what I could, packed the glider and set off. By this time about 90 minutes had elapsed since I had landed and about an hour since I’d last heard from the Bev. and James combo.
According to my GPS the road I was on was running parallel to the main road but I thought it safer to follow it rather than try to bushwhack. I’d been going for about 10 minutes when a faint radio call came from James asking if I could see some identifying features which would give him some idea where I was. “Trees” didn’t sound like an appropriate response. They didn’t have a GPS and I wasn’t carrying a cell phone. Mistakes numbers five and six, but is anyone counting at this stage?
James had what I though was a strange idea when he asked me to describe the color of the road I was on. More on this later.
Eventually radio communication became stronger and I heard James say that they must be close. I carried on as the unmarked road was starting to turn up to the main road. And then, in a cloud of dust, Bev and James appeared around the corner. A great sigh of relief was heaved by all concerned.
The fact is that it was by almost a sheer fluke that they had found me at all. Bev. was frantic because it was clear that they had been given incorrect directions to the clear cut that I went down in and had spent most of the last hour exploring just about all the roads leading to clear cuts between Mt. Prevost and Mount Sicker ie. on the north side of Mt Prevost. There must be hundreds of them all of varying shapes and sizes. And, as I discovered on the way back down, all of these roads seem to have their own distinctive colour, varying from shades of grey (not 50) to sandy yellow. James’ idea wasn’t off base at all.
The condition of the logging roads was often atrocious and Bev’s small car had bottomed out on numerous occasions and was covered in dust. She had almost given up hope but James persisted and persuaded her to keep going just before they found me.
As a final note, James cut his first flight short and missed the opportunity to have a second flight that day to accompany Bev. to retrieve me. He then volunteered to come to the training hill to help sort out the tangled lines. I’ve never seem such a mess , not even that of a rat’s nest, as when we laid the glider out on the grass at the TH. Without the help of James I was prepared to pack the glider up and hope that one of the instructors in France would have been able to figure it out next week.
James patiently guided me through the process of undoing the shackles one by one and clearing each line in turn. After about an hour we were able to kite the glider and confirm that it was OK. James, I owe you big time!
Lots of lessons to be learned from this debacle and I’ll leave it to you to figure them out. As for me: Been there done that and don’t want to do it again. Clear cuts are for the birds and ‘shrimp happen’ in three’s, or multiples thereof.
PS. Analysis of the data from my GPS for this flight the next day was instructive.
On moving away from the Cairn I gradually lost height, dropping to 550 m. At this point I was about 150m above the trees in front of Middle launch. I then caught a thermal and climbed back up to 750 m, drifting West to somewhere between West Launch and Middle Launch. Thinking that I had lots of height I decided to head SSW to see Bev. In the 400 m to the Clear Cut, where I had no other option but to land, I lost 225 m i.e. a glide ratio of 1.8:1. My WASP has a glide ratio of 8.5:1 and a conservative ratio of half of the glider ratio could not have saved me in this situation.
New Pilot to ISS?