Sunday, April 22, 2018

Palomar over the back, 39 km

Forecast looked pretty decent for Marshall and Laguna. Concern for Marshall was late switch from north and NE wind after San Gorgonio Mountain. There was nice convergence along I-10 and Joshua Tree after that. For Laguna surface wind looked a bit strong in the morning, but supposed to get lighter by afternoon and there was also light head north wind at the top of the life.

I picked Laguna just because it's been a while when I flew there. Wrong choice! it was blowing 20 mph gusting to 25 in a morning and we end up flying Palomar instead. This was my second time flying Palomar and first time going over the back. Dmitry outlined a pretty straight forward plan, go to observatory, get high, move to the back ridge, get high and so on.

Palomar launch

Pilots getting ready at Palomar
We launched around 12:00 into very nice conditions and went to 6K right away, but wind at launch switched to catabatic, so half of our group have to wait 20 min before they joined us. Base get higher and after good climb near launch to 7K we moved up a spine and got another climb to 8K, but instead of going to observatory we all split for unknown reason. Phil and Dmitry went west, other pilots east along the ridge and I just stayed in the same area.
Phil on Zeno
On glide to observatory
There was high clouds moving in, thin enough, but still reducing heating and thermal strength. After one more climb to 9K I glided toward observatory. Wind was around 5-10 mph from the north, so I have to fly up wind. As Dmitry predicted there was good thermal waiting for me at observatory. Climbed to 10.5K and went to north ridge chasing sailplanes. There was at least 3 or 4 of them marking thermals along the ridge. It's always intimidating to stay in the same themal with them. I can even see pilot was flying by and taking picture of me!
There was broken convergence marked by small pieces of clouds to the north, so I just try to stay as close to convergence as possible. It was quite turbulent in some places, got a full frontal at one point, ouch. By the time I came to Anza convergence fell apart and thermals was small and nasty. I did not want to push low into foothills and landed into strong 15 mph west wind.

Thanks a lot to Bill and Carolyn for picking me up, no one else flew OTB.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Marshall Free Triangle, 93 km

CSS-750 Launch
Forecast was for 7-8K day with fast north to SW switch, not epic, plus I had a time constraints and have to be home by 6ish, so was not even sure I was going to fly until last minute. Aaron was running XC League with task Marshall->Cajon->Barstow and open distance along I-15 after. I was not very inspired to join because:

  1. North wind in afternoon could put you on the ground early. West supposed to kick-in much later in the day.
  2. 9K cloud base was way too low for desert, I prefer to have at least 12K+.
  3. Blue day (no clouds), harder to find thermals and as result slower speed.
  4. Potentially long retrieve.

Have to drop my son to school in AM and only made it to LZ by 11:00. XC League already left and next shuttle was scheduled at 12:30, so I just hiked to 750 launch. Task start was at 12:10 and I wanted to join them at least for the first leg to Cajon. Almost made it in time, launched at 12:16 and found a climb right away, was maybe 10 min behind main gaggle. Climbed to 8K behind Pine Mt and flew to next peak after Sugar Pine. Watched pilots leaving OTB with OK altitude, but decided not to go myself (as planned), turned around and was hoping to fly at least to Keller and back.
Lake Arrowhead
I was at Keller by 2:35, so enough time to cross toward San Gorgonio. It's very spectacular and intimidating line, which I flew before. There are landings in the canyon, but hike out is at least 2-3 hours, not an option considering my time constrains, so I was a bit nervous even though start crossing from 10.7K.
Keller Peak (left) San Gorgonio (right)
Got a broken thermal at Constance Peak, but did not spend long time there and pushed to main ridge, worked my way up and eventually topped out at 10.9K at 3:25 and turned around. Since forecast was calling for relatively strong west later in the day, I did not have much expectations about return flight, but still want to push at least to Harrison to minimize Uber time and cost. Climbed back to 7K at Harrison and keep pushing back, mostly on 2/3 of speed bar. There was only 1 or 2 HG over Marshall, typically sign of strong wind, which in fact was quite strong. Took me awhile to land, could not find any sink near LZ. Finally landed at Andy Jackson at 4:58.
Andy Jackson LZ
My track:

Russ landed in Hesperia, most of the other pilots in Victorville, Aaron managed to fly 100 km past Barstow.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Kagel to Marshall, 100 km flight

Haytham ready to launch from Kagel
Post-frontal day with plenty of clouds, but a bit low cloud base round 6-7K most of the day. My wife offered to drop me off at beginning of unpaved road, so I can launch early and simplify retrieve. My PG friends from San Francisco Dmitry and Vladimir as well as Haytham joined me. We can't all fit into Prius, so Haytham have to hike from LZ, which he did even faster.

On glide from Kagel
Launched at 12:02 into light cycles and have to wait for 20 minutes for weather to develop. I jumped from cloud to cloud and even though base was ~5K no issues until Big T. Typically Big T works great, but today it didn't produce much and I have to stay and search for a lift. After Lukens got to 6.5K and even higher than nearby cloud.
Above the cloud near Lukens
Next section from Brown Mount to Monrovia Peak typically very fast and easy flight was super slow this time because of shade and enormous clouds with base lower than Mt. Wilson. After Monrovia it was all sunny again. Contrary with typical struggle in these low foothills after Azusa there was plenty of clouds mapping tops of the thermals.

Last challenge was crossing Cajon pass. Cucamonga peak was obscured by clouds and I only can get to 6.7K, which made crossing very interesting. There was also not much of a typical west tail wind. I get some bumps near 15 & 215 highways intersection down at 3000 ft (1000 ft AGL). Staying in bubbles I slowly drifted into the mountains working my way up. When low it's the best strategy to stay even in zero lift and wait for next pulse. 5.5K was more than enough for final glide into Andy Jackson LZ.
Marshall LZ
What's interesting about this flight is that I never get above 7K, so such flight is possible on a low base days, but speed would not be very fast. Thanks a lot to Frank for giving me a ride back to home!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Dream of snow

Not much snow this year in California and especially in SoCal, so I decided to travel up north and check out Tahoe Lake's ski resorts, in particular Squaw Valley and Kirkwood. Here is short video compilation of road landscapes and snowboarding at Kirkwood. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Walt's Point to Mammoth Lakes, 145 km

After our spring flights I was very comfortable to fly deep over the Palisades and fall didn't disappointed. In the beginning of the flight I was finally able to fly right over Mt. Whitney with Gavin performing awesome wind overs in front of the peak.
Mt. Whitney

Tulainyo Lake
After Big Pine we flew deep into Palisades, but after Mt. Tom we split. Gavin went straight over Wheeler crest toward Mt. Morgan and I stayed over Wheeler crest eventually landing  just before Mammoth lakes. Gavin flew straight line and was able to make it almost to Lee Vining.
Sierra Nevada Mountains

Landing near Mammoth Lakes
 And here is video

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Elsinore to Brewery, 60 km

I rare fly Elsinore, but when conditions is right it's a great site. This day was no exception. Launched at 12:00 and got to 10K over the lake transition was easy. Another 10K climb before Soboba and then getting super low near Yucaipa. Drifting with some lift postponed my landing, but not too much. After I connected with main ridge strong SW wind eventually put me to the ground, just 3 km short from Hangar 24 brewery.


Gliding from Lake Elsinore

Lake Elsinore

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Canadian Paragliding Nationals 2017

I was planning to fly in Canada for awhile, in fact we visited Pemberton for 1 day in 2013 during our road trip across Western America with my wife, but that was like preview or movie trailer. This year I had spare time in summer due to job change and a perfect chance to visit Canada for longer time participating in Canadian Paragliding Nationals 2017 in Pemberton, British Columbia and then The Willi XC Challenge in Golden.
Pemberton valley
First was logistical challenge, since flight to Seattle was half price of flight to Vancouver. I also decided to camp, so need to pack camping gear into my glider bag. It kind of worked out. I took a train from Seattle airport to downtown. It was very interesting feeling when I sit on the street with local Seattle homeless with my huge backpack waiting for my friend Andrew, who eventually picked me up and provided a shelter before we went to Pemby on the next day.
Flying south from Pemberton
Overall competition was great, we had 4 interesting tasks, but unfortunately all of them was in Pemberton valley. It's understandable, since sending 84 pilots to other valleys with potentially long hike out and long retrieve was a burden for organizers. You also probably don't want to meet Grizzly bears inhabited local forests. Safety was the priority because last time competition was organized in Pemberton in 2012 there was a fatality when John Clifford was drown after landing in Lillooet River.
Flying in Pemberton
My personal performance was great, overall I was 12 out of 84 pilots. The key was to always stay on full speed bar, no matter what. It took me few days to learn local tricks from my friend Igor, who scored 9th overall, flying on Skywalk Cayenne 5 and he was disappointed!


Golden valley was also very impressive with higher mountains and more possibilities for long flights. But there was multiple fires in the area, which become worse every day, so after few days, I decided to get back home early. Still managed to have few awesome flights.
Smoky flying 
Certainly have to come back for Pemberton and Golden exploration outside of comps venue, to be flexible and explore nearby valleys and areas.