Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
July 21, 1997

Most hang-glider pilots are, understandably, keenly interested in the weather. Actually, they're mostly interested in how the weather affects flying, but that inevitably leads to a deeper study. There's a lot of consideration of patterns in the effort to predict the best week for vacation and general planning of all the other things required for maintenance of life on the planet. Right now we seem to be in a pretty good season for coming here, as the monsoons of June gave way to a relatively dry month and improving convection. However, this occasional high and dry July ultimately gives way to hurricane season and the remnants of Danny are probably falling all around you right now. Though in the season of respite before the tropical storms march north to die, there can be found light lift to bear you to the clouds.

I found just such a bubble right out front at Henson's Tuesday. It felt promising even low, and Kathy Lee jumped right in behind me. John Lawton ran for his glider after launching us and we watched him hastily set up as we climbed to two grand over. I got low in the gap and found one near the LZ on the way out to land. An attempt at a valley crossing with that altitude gain yielded no climb, so I returned when I saw John turning near the LZ. A little more up and down from there but we both wound up in the LZ watching Kathy climb out above the ridge.

On Wednesday I launched right behind Ned and landed right before him not long after. We both hurried to break down and get back up the mountain as other pilots balked upon watching us sink out. By the time we returned, however, they'd recovered and skied. John and Kathy were flying with Lookout regulars Chip Davidson, Mike Labato, and Connecticut Nate. Ned launched me then self launched and before we were all crankin' in light but smooth thermals to around two grand over. The Lookout contingent commented that we fly more aggressively in this neighborhood than in the one to which they're accustomed. Mike Labato reported the max altitude gain at around 2200 over.

Thursday was another light but sweet day. John assisted Kathy's launched first and she began to get low before finding something workable out front. I launched as she drifted back over the ridge and the breeze of her thermal filled the sock on launch. Turning hard right off launch to follow the north face, I eventually joined her thermal and we climbed up and back to 3000 over. Concerned about the angle out front, I ran back to the ridge while Kathy continued to work the plateau. Nevertheless, we both got below the ridge and I went to the field while she found one over the escarpment and climbed out to four grand over. Still no cloudbase, though, which she estimated at better than 5000 over.

Kathy, Steve Lee, and Chris Smith got flights of the day Saturday as they got up while all others went down. Steve and Kathy reported max altitude gains of around a grand over while Chris reported three grand.

The forecast calls for increasing probability of rain through midweek with the approach of the remnants of hurricane Danny, which should hit us more or less directly. SW wind with rain Thursday. W to N under clearing skies Friday. If we're lucky, continued northerly Saturday going NE Sunday. See you in the sky!