Friday, August 2, 2013

Cowley Gliding Camp

The Cowley Gliding Camp, held annually, is the biggest event on the Western Canadian gliding calendar.  Cowley is famous for its wave and mountain flying.  I managed to join the first half of the camp with Edmonton Soaring Club's ASW-15.
On Friday, I drove down to Chipman to derig the glider and repack the bearings on the trailer.  A few club members were around to help including Arel who was coming to fly at the camp as well.  I left Saturday morning and arrived in Cowley in the evening.  There was no flying going on at the time with most people just arriving.  The sky looked quite good however.
Sunday was the first flying day.  The morning was overcast and not looking particularly promising for a good soaring day but the sky quickly opened up and cu started to form.  I had a quick site check in the morning in the Cu Nim ASK-21 then got the ASW-15 rigged for a flight.  I started flying in the Porcupine Hills in weak conditions.  There was a storm cloud growing over the valley but I heard Struan Vaughan in his DG-400 reporting wave by Centre Peak on the Livingstone Range.  I went over to investigate but did not find anything right away.  I eventually connected with the pressure wave on the side of the storm and got above the clouds to 10,500ft.  I started heading east along the front edge of the cloud and was having a good run but then heard over the radio everyone landing back at Cowley.  I talked to Bruce Friesen who was just landing and he recommended landing soon if I wanted to make it back to the airfield but also offered to pick me up if I outlanded.  I was tempted to keep going as the street was working quite well and looked like it went for a long way but decided to go home to avoid getting rained on in some field.  Soon after I landed back at Cowley it started to rain and I got lots of help from the Cowley group to get the glider away before conditions got worse.  Sunday Flight on OLC
Monday rained most of the day but it cleared up for a few hours and we rigged the Cu Nim DG-1000 and a few site checks and student flights were completed.  Tuesday was the next flying day for me.  In the morning Arel had a flight in the ASW-15.  When he landed I was debating having a flight as reports from those in the air were of weak conditions and low cloudbase.  I then saw Bruce Friesen come in to land and was even more convinced of not going.  Bruce however was going again and talked me into to going as well.  The thermals were reasonably strong to 7500ft but that is only 3500ft above Cowley and with the terrain around not quite enough for most of us to go x-country.  I had an enjoyable local flight checking out the local landmarks.  Tuesday Flight on OLC
We all expected Wednesday to be the best day of the camp.  I had the glider rigged and on the flight line early.  Cu started to pop just before 11am but we were concerned it looked ragged.  I was the sacrificial lamb and launched first at 11:30am into the Porcupine Hills.  It took a bit of searching but I eventually found a solid 3 knot thermal to 8000ft.  There were some nice looking clouds over the Livingstone Range and even better looking ones behind it.  I flew close to best L/D speed over the valley to make sure I had enough height to connect with the clouds next to the ranges.  The valley was completely blue and the air completely still until I hit the foothills.  With a bit of searching I made it to 9000ft and saw much higher clouds on the other side of the range.  I pushed to the other side and quickly made it up to 11,500ft.  There was nice cloudstreets heading west.  There is an airport called Sparwood in the Elk Valley which was a good safety if I could not connect at some point.
I had been looking at Tim Woods' flights on the OLC where he pushed into the Columbia Valley up to Invermere and beyond.  After making it to Elk Valley, I pushed on a bit further.  The clouds were spreading out a bit past Elk Valley and although I could have easily made it to the Columbia, I decided to stay a bit closer to Cowley to ensure I could make it home at the end of the day.  I headed east for a bit and then started flying up and down Elk Valley.  There is a lot of mining in the area and at one point I was breathing in some of the mining dust in a thermal.  By then I had made 5 of the 6 legs the OLC would score me for.  I decided to head back towards Cowley.  Crossing the Livingstone Range, back into the valley, the cloudbase went down to 9500ft.  I flew to the other side of Pincher Creek and then headed back to Cowley.  On the way back I realized I had not closed my triangle and flew back to where the towplane had dropped me before landing.  Wednesday Flight on OLC
Cowley is a great spot to fly and there were a great bunch of people on the ground organizing.  In particular I would like to thank Phil Stade for putting everything together.  I look forward to going back again and maybe pushing into the Columbia Valley or completing my third diamond with a good wave flight.

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