Mount Baker

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Another noteworthy flight by Evergreen’s chief explorer Ron Clark. This took place on 7/29/2017, when Arlington had typical stable summer conditions, while there were nice looking clouds visible further east some 20 miles away.  Ron realized the potential of these conditions in the high country and took a long and high tow, resulting in another of his pioneering flights.

 

A PERILOUS JOURNEY AROUND AN ACTIVE VOLCANO

by Ron Clark

Okay, maybe Mt. Baker isn't erupting, but there is steam coming out of the top.  I have pictures....

And at my age, everyday is perilous.  And I did go around a volcano, so that should take care of any accusations of hyperbole concerning the title, right?  

Soaring conditions on the west side can be a bit difficult this time of year.  It's hot with high pressure and good soaring days are hard to predict.  Sometimes you get lucky, and that was the case last Sunday.  

appch_mt_baker-400x275.jpgI went to the field with minimal expectations after a mediocre flight the day before, but noticed some clouds over the Finney Peak area, and some very good looking clouds around Mt. Baker.  Getting a somewhat late start I got a tow from Chris Klix about 1:45.  Once we were in the air, the clouds around Mt. Baker were more visible and I determined to get over there.  Releasing west of Mt. Higgins I glided into the lift over Round Mountain and made my way toward Gee point, eying the nice clouds on Mt. Baker.  Gliding across the Skagit valley cost me 1500 feet before connecting on Goat ridge.  Cloud base was variable between 6500 to 7200 feet.  Taking a clockwise path I stayed as high as posible and turned the corner to the West side of the big mountain.   

mt-baker-flight-400x292.jpgPeople always say "don't look down" to those afraid of heights.  Well, in my case I would say to glider pilots "don't look up".  Looking up at the summit at over 10, 000 ft was making me feel mighty low, even though I was well in glide to Kendall airfield, and even closer to a big field near Maple Falls.  There were good clouds, but the downside was the amount of shade they were throwing.   

While making a little detour I noticed a couple hikers waving from the high point of a scenic ridge named Skyline Divide,  I flew by and waved hello and sped off around the corner to the North side of the mountain.  The pressure was on as I crossed Barometer Mountain and on to the ski area and Artist Point.  Making a turnpoint near Mt. Shuksan I had a little concern about the downwind side of the mountain, but the wind turned more southerly here and with good clouds ahead I traversed this tricky stretch with the help of good clouds and minimal headwinds.  Finally closing the circle I made my way to the Twin sisters Range, which is quite an alien Mars-scape, especially after flying over glaciers, snowfields, and green meadows.  The clouds on my path home were quickly evaporating, so I made a bee-line for Iron Mountain Ridge which provided no thermals, but some reduced sink.  Ready to turn back at a moments notice I glided over Day Lake to the low ridge on West Higgins Mountain for a much needed climb.  Heading Southwest I got another small thermal in the valley between Frailey and Stimson Hill.  A little climb here, and AWO was in glide.  I landed in a healthy crosswind,  and rolled to a stop just short of the taxiway.

That was an unexpected and lucky little tour around the mighty Mt. Baker.  I suspect the conditions to make that flight don't happen often.  It was a short window of opportunity, and I was in the right place at the right time.  It wasn't a particularly long flight, but definitely one I'll remember for a long time.