Imagine a hill or mountain of any size, with hollows, ravines, gulches or canyons running together from all sides toward the top. Now visualize a gargantuan tree growing from it. The tree is made of thermal lift. Its roots originate low in surrounding draws and grow together where the heads of tributaries meet. When two or more roots join they push each other UP, accumulating kinetic energy and flowing toward a large central current (the tree’s trunk) above the top. Lofting into cooler air, the whole bundle continues to expand and accelerate UPward. In this way one weak thermal scarcely wide enough to circle in down low may swell into a rampant, miles-wide brute high aloft.
Say you begin among tight foothills, nearly encompassed by rocks, with one sure route out and around the hill to safety. At first you need to turn tight and reverse directions like a barn swallow until your thermal merges with one from a neighboring ravine. Then you feel enveloping energy swell with each clawing step up the hill like the growth of cells in a newborn flying tiger. Grab its tail and hang on!
This same sequence of redoubling continues at ever greater scale until the biggest, strongest lift has been collected above the highest peak for miles around. If the mountains are steep with narrow crests (like we have here at Crystal), booming lift from opposite sides of the great watershed will collide overhead in huge volumes. Amazing. Above there the lift may quickly weaken, or continue yet another vertical mile depending on the temperature spread.
The flipside of this occurs later, when high ground cools first and these diurnal processes reverse, with cold air from aloft flowing down-slope, flushing into low areas, and away from hills. Winds are always named for the direction or place they flow from, so these are known as ‘mountain’ winds.
The divine reality of such soaring potential should have some kind of special name, and as no one was there to stop me, I’ve coined one. Okay, two. YGGDRASIL seems most appropriate by far, but it’s hard to say and nobody knows what it means. (Scrabble players, look it up!) So lest fellow pilots think you’ve got something stuck in your throat, here’s another, more emotive name: BIG CANDY ! If you have a better word for the ultimate over-the-top treat in any playground, serve it up!