Kelly Cooper-Wave

The winter here in the Columbia River Gorge is coming to an end soon and I can't wait!

I'm happy to have a couple of months off from soaring. It's nice to take a break, look at some photos and recall some good memories of people and adventures you had.

It's also great to have the time to repair and improve your glider. Best of all it gives you time to think about the upcoming soaring season, set some new goals and make some new plans.

March generally provides some opportunities to soar in wave here.  Actually there is great wave over our area all winter. The problem is that it's accompanied by a lot of moisture, after all this is the Northwest. Come March the atmosphere over Hood River sometimes starts to dry out a bit between frontal systems. I say sometimes because it's usually brief. Only for a day maybe two and sometimes it only clear at night with clouds returning the next day.

This makes it a bit challenging to time it right especially if you need a tow plane and pilot. If the forecast in March calls for a 30% chance of precipitation during the day this means it's definitely going to be raining at least 30% of the time. Not so good for trying to plan a flight and wonder which 70% of the day is going to be flyable.

Sometimes when pilots think about accessing the wave above the Hood River area, they imagine getting towed into the wave, opening the Mt Hood Wave Window and climbing to 24000 ft

I applaud their enthusiasm. I personally have never flown higher than 17999.9 ft. I have flown that high in March and it is very cold so plan accordingly.

Finding Local Wave

Over the years a few of the Hood River locals have discovered a more frequent kind of wave which on many days never exceeds more than 10,000 ft. Its not always marked by lenticular clouds and the westerly wind is not always strong, maybe 10 knots on the ground and 15 at altitude. There are some small indications that the wave may exist by observing cloud formations near the commonly known "hotspots" where it can be found.

A great wave day for me consists of the usual 2000 ft launch to the ridge three miles east of the airport. The Hood River airport is 638 ft MSL (mean sea level). Once you have established that the ridge is working you start making a plan to search for wave, maybe conversion or a thermal at many of the "hotspots" that are within reach. If there is more than one ship doing this it makes the job much easier. Many times this 2000 ft AGL (above ground level) modest start turns into a great 3 to 4 hr 200 km flight.

Sometimes using your skill, knowledge and luck you end up circling Mt Hood at 17,999.9 ft. .Of course sometimes you try to get off the ridge for two hrs with no luck.

Winter Mt Hood
Brrrr-winter time beauty
Lightning over gliderport
Yeah...let's not fly today? by M Stubbs
Hood River Valley and Mt Adams
Mt Adams from glider above Hood River
Wave soaring
Wave soaring near Mt Hood

Another way to fly in wave here is not to take it as high as you can go. This is an especially good Idea on days that there is a lot of cloud cover and the ceiling may close out.

I have found that if the wave lift is strongest at say 9k ft, turn it into speed and stay at that altitude. Its extremely fun to be flying fast in smooth air and its very easy to connect sections of wave when you are flying 100 mph plus. An added bonus:  its not as cold.

See ya up there!
Kelly