I launched at noon today on a frozen runway in 15kt winds coming right down the runway at Skaneateles. It was 8 degrees F on the ground. Based on the weather reports, I did not think that the winds would get any higher today. Wrong! Anyway, I climbed with the engine to 1500agl (2500msl), then idled the engine and headed across the wind toward Moravia, hoping to make Ithaca.
I made it a few miles to near Murphy at Owasco while gaining a bit in what seemed to be weak streeting thermals. The slope on the east side of Owasco lake seemed to be kicking these thermals to the condensation level so I headed for the sunny west side of these cloud streets, and jumped from street to street until I had reached the south end of Owasco lake north of Moravia. I finally made 3000msl, and found the wind speed was increasing dramatically. I also found that I was able to climb up the face of these clouds, as though in ridge lift. Then I decided to try to head further upwind across the Cayuga Lake to visit the waterfalls at Taughannock State Park 8nm NW of Ithaca.
Unfortunately there was a giant blue hole to the west, directly enroute to the falls, so I lowered the nose to speed through what I thought would be heavy sink over the lake. As I ventured upwind at indicated 70kts I found myself climbing in rough 2kt lift, then smooth 5kt lift. I slowed to 50kts and found myself with only 18kt groundspeed. I was in WAVE!! The feared blue hole turned out to be weak wave which I rode to nearly 6000msl, well over the clouds! The clouds that I had been in were actually rotor clouds, as I found a pattern of those as I continued west to over the falls.
I pulled the brakes and slipped to 1500agl, circling the falls for photos. On making a decision to depart the falls, I considered heading for Fingerlakes Regional at Waterloo. Their AWOS indicated surface winds gusting to 25kts direct crosswind, so I decided to head home instead, where at least the winds were not cross. I worked weak ridge and thermal lift at the falls, finally reaching 2500msl and began to reconnect with the wave. I climbed to 3500msl in the wave, then pointed downwind toward Skaneateles.
I arrived at Skaneateles at 2500msl, landed in 20kts winds and hurried to the hanger. With the combination of strong winds and icy runways, it was a bit of a challenge keeping the ship on the ground and stationary. With the ship finally tucked away, I had time to reflect on the activities of the day. I am truly amazed at how active the atmosphere can be on a cold, windy and sunny day in Central New York. And I am very surprised that wave conditions can be so prevalent.