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Rated: E · Poetry · Action/Adventure · #2277900
Covers the many facets of a typical afternoon's hang gliding...
Mountain Soaring - British Columbia

At the launch on Thompson Lookout Wally's clump of dry grass biffed
Indicates a downwind take-off and dispels our hopes of lift,
So we're kicking at the gravel and discussing what to do
And recalling other afty's of a sim'lar sort we flew:

Might a thermal breeze form later on the westward facing slope
When the dropping sun beats stronger on those bluffs erosion smote?
Is the alto-stratus thinning? Are there ripples on the lake?
Why that cloud above the Selkirks - orographic? What's your take?

Now a tell-tale ribbon flutters, "Here's a cycle!" Wally states -
An unproven speculation the majority berates:
"Launch in sink? Hey! - if you're lucky and haul arse, you'll clear the spruce!
"Keen try it? - go ahead then - take a chance, like poor old Bruce."

Wally's eagerness is tempered, but he's Wally so he huffs:
"All this way to get some airtime, an' we're sittin' on our duffs!
"C'mon! - let's set up now and snatch the chance if things improve -
"All else fails we get a sleddy after sunset. C'mon! - let's move."

There was method in his madness, that you had to give the man,
So persuaded to his mood we took the gliders off the van;
Each one focused now, and prudent, working quietly on his kite,
Checking every joint and coupling, every wire that's stressed in flight,

Only pausing for a recce when somebody's spied a hawk
Working low above the north spur, circling tight: "No - there, you dork!"
"Raunchy air - and he can have it!" mutters Albert with disgust,
"You fancy getting kicked around? - I'll tell you, I'm not fussed."

Wally spreads his leading edge spars and the faded wings unfold
(His old Sport's a little tattered, served him flying hours untold);
Now he stoops to work in battens that define the lifting curves,
With a calm deliberation that no high strung natter swerves,

And when the downhaul's cleated and the stainless wiring's tight,
And he's squinted down the main spars judging all the joints in sight,
He inserts the wing tip fairings, straps his meter on the bar,
Wanders off behind a tree and stands a minute, legs ajar,

Eying lucerne in the valley shimm'ring blue-green in the heat
Patched by drier fields of stubble where a farmer's job's complete;
Here and there a chuffing baler spits a square bale in its wake,
Barns are filling, harrows tilling, autumn's pending: much at stake.

"Winds've switched!" - that's Albert hollerin' from the forest lookout shack,
"Comin' up the valley now instead of sneaking round the back."
"What'd I tell you?" Wally bellows, all the keener to begin -
"You'll always get your upslope once the mountain wind kicks in."

Albert hurries to his glider, does a final walk-around,
Dons his helmet and his harness, picks his gloves up off the ground.
"Hey Greg! I'll do a hang check - can you hold the wires a mo? -
"Lines are straight? My 'biner's locked?" - "Y'r lookin' fine, Bert - good to go."

Friendly hikers armed with cameras stand around to watch us launch -
One's a pilot with Lufthansa, Airbus captain, manner staunch.
"Sure I'm nervous," Albert answers to the question someone asks -
"Might be mad, but we're not stupid," with an edge his big smile masks.

Wanna know about my take-off? Better left untold, you know?
Should've run her downhill harder, 'stead've pansying round that slow.
Oh I knew that branch was beck'ning, never clipped her, I made sure:
I'm averse to eating shingle - chewed it once and don't need more.

Scratching low above a rock slide, gaining three but losing two
With your eyes on stalks for clearance, judging when the next turn's due;
Always turning from the mountain lest a freak gust take you short,
Hoarding airspeed for that quick break that might be your last resort.

Horizontal in your harness you've your elbows wide ajar,
Quickly shifting, firmly straining - seldom resting at the bar;
Side-to-side your glance is shifting - there! - a gust down in the trees.
Worth a look? Let's go and sample - oh! it's a thermal, if you please.

We'll take it, here we go now, left wing down and turning tight,
(Just a little too much airspeed, but we're climbing - roughly right).
Flatten out now, she's a wide one, where's the centre? Round we go.
Way to scale a mighty mountain, lightly riding on the flow.

Here's a raven on the wingtip banking tight to take a gawk,
(Thinks: preposterous invader, making out to be a hawk?)
Unimpressed by our fine colours, nothing daunted by our size,
Quite indiff'rently he flaps a wing, as if he would chastise

The clumsiness of foreign birds unsuited to his realm
And fool enough to venture there, untutored at the helm:
("You extrovert! You parrot! You - you equatorial nerd! -
"Best go home and plop y'r mangroves - Gees I hope y'r life's insured!")

Way down low there's Albert's "Airwave" working tight against the bluff,
Must've hit a patch of sink and now he's testing every puff.
Shapely silhouette ascending in a spiral - veer away!
On the level now, waved signals ("Yes I've seen you") - now let's play.

You're wingman to his leader, up in tight and turning too,
The lower now, you've right of way - his job to yield to you.
Traversing south you're gaining on him - till he cranks a turn,
And port-to-port you pass each other, grinning fit to burn.

Up boating on the summit, here's a pond you'd never seen,
Dark black and rimmed by rock and scrub, you bet that water's clean.
Pay attention here for rotor! - too far leeward, don't you think?
I'd give nothing for your prospects, mister, trapped downwind in sink.

Well I'd been hoping for a long one but a certain oversight
In the rush to get aloft's put paid to any record flight;
Excuse me while I bless the soil - ah yes! - I needed that!
Truth told, it's good to feel the old dogs planted on the flat.

D'you see my lousy landing? Flared too soon and popped up high,
Same sad shambles as the last time - not as if I didn't try.
Still my set-up wasn't all bad and that final turn was right,
Lots of speed - and leveled out with Herbie's windsock in my sight.

Here comes Wally from the north, still prone and howling in his glee:
Swooping down above the woodlot, fast and fancy - look at me!
Bleeding speed he skims the stubble, timing perfect with his flare,
Puts down light as any magpie - and as proud - and sings for beer.

Seven gliders clustered tightly by the windsock in the field;
Happy pilots chatting quietly, all anxieties repealed;
Curious glances from a lady on a tractor shifting bales,
And the scent of ripe alfalfa cooling fast as twilight pales.

No-one hurries packing up - "You roll the fabric - see, like this;
"Wrap them fittings Greg, with rags - they'll chafe your sail if aught's amiss."
Boys are helping load the gliders, Wally checks their knots are sound,
Chili's cooking at the camp - Sue made enough to go around.

Traded stories entertain around the campfire evening long,
Crackling logs and popping beer cans, merry laughter, happy song;
After midnight tents are filling, soon just murmurs in the dark
And a scent of ashes drenched to put out any wanton spark.
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