Marfa on Monday
Robin Hamilton writes:
Conditions looked very good with top of lift forecast to be up
over 20,000' AGL and average lift of 600-800 fpm. Winds were forecast to be
12-18 mph out of the west with possibly lighter up high.
We had a fairly slow start, launching after 1pm with Rich and Larry out ahead of
myself. I got to tow for first time behind Greg's 150hp mega trike - it is
utterly amazing. I think he should be piloting it in bad-assed motorbike
leathers. It is that BAAD.
Meanwhile, I didn't get any thing good and strong coming off tow and had to
dribble out of the airport at around 2,000' AGL in zeros and the stiff breeze,
finally getting another 1,000' in a weak/broken climb by now 3-4 miles downwind.
I took that precious height and headed north, cross wind towards the foothills
of the Davis Mountains, until I got down to around 400' AGL, harness open above
a small rock outcrop where I got a 400fpm save that took me up to 11,000'MSL,
glad that all the extra clothing and O2 were perhaps going to get used this day.
Clouds were forming over the mountains running up towards Alpine (about 32km out
from Marfa) and the big, fat lift was becoming exceptional and consistent at
600-800 fpm, with climbs up to 16,500' msl. The westerly tailwind breeze hadn't
backed off much with altitude but the clouds were lining up to the east towards
Marathon and beyond so I continued out that way.
Conditions and the view of this part of rugged, mountainous west Texas were
spectacular. I was doing 80-90km/h over the ground on glides and the climbs were
ranging up to 1500 (yes 1500) fpm with cruising altitude limited only by the
18000' MSL restriction. I passed Marathon at around 70km out and eventually
turned another 30 km past Marathon at the beginning of the rocky badlands. It
had taken under 2 hours to cover the first 100km, including the slow start.
Into wind progress back towards Marfa was into a 18-26km/h headwind, that slowed
me down but the regular strong climbs back up to 16,000-17,000' MSL meant that I
could make steady progress. I did get low (4,000' AGL) at one point between
Marathon and Alpine but after warming up a little and some groveling, found
another tractor beam to get me back up over 16,000'.
After that it was fairly straightforward - pointing the glider up the course,
pulling in for the worst sink (some over -1000 fpm) and hanging on for the rowdy
600fpm elevators. The headwind was persistent and if anything seemed stronger
over the last 30-40km section towards Marfa. But how good are these Marfa
My last climb on the edge of the mountains before the flats some 30km out from
Marfa at 6.15pm was 1000fpm back up to 16,000'. Got back to the airport
before 7 after around 5 hours in the air for an out and return distance of
around 200km (~40km/h). Not bad for a late start and the breeze. It seems the
legend of this place is well-earned.
More to come the rest of this week.