Saturday, November 12, 2011

Nuthouse to Chief Peak and back, 16 miles

Nuthouse is hike up launch north from Ojai, CA right off highway 33. I know about it for awhile, but did not had a chance to try it before. Weather forecast for SB was so-so, and much worse for other sites, so I join Chris for Nuthouse flight. There were just 2 of us. We met at Nordhoff school at 10:00 and was on launch by 11:30. Hike took me about 55 minutes and Chris was 10 minutes faster. Its short, but very steep. I was first to launch at 11:55 and climbed quite well. After flight Chris tell me that I skip a usual scratch fest near launch. Since launch altitude AGL over the road is only 900 ft you have pretty much 1 chance to climb out, so picking a good thermal cycle is very important. In my case Chris was doing a good job to help me choose a right cycle. After I flew away it was his turn to launch. He was not that lucky and spent some time scratching before he join me. I waited for him near Nordhoff peak and we continue together. Tag Chief peak where I flew before and then I decide to flew back before west wind kick in. Chris followed and we both landed on Nordhoff school LZ. Here is short video of the day:

GPS track:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Crestline to Anza, 61 miles

Just the next day after my successful flight from Kagel to Glendora we continue with brave XC attempts. Typically there are several days in a row with a great XC weather and you never know which day is the best. If you not there you will have to wait 1 year for the next chance. I met with Jonathan and our driver Wally at Andy Jackson flight park LZ around 10. Since upper wind was out from the north our plan was to cross Banning pass and fly toward Laguna Mt. I launched from Crestline at 12:20 and climbed straight to 7500, which means that we were late again!!! My plan was to fly back range to Keller Peak since I never try this route before. It was quite easy flying with strong fat thermals. It took me 1:10 to tag Keller and Jonathan catch up just before the peak.
We climbed together in 1000 fpm, but he left first bitten by turbulence, while I have to take it to the top. I glad I did. Its long glider to get out from there and I use most of the altitude I had.
After crossing highway 38 I got low and have to ridge soar for 10 minutes before I get out.
Jonathan was already flying into the pass. There was a small fire south of Banning and smog was very helpful to see wind direction and strength. It was light west through the pass. My options was to tag little San Gorgonio, get high there and cross
OR start crossing early with less altitude. I figured out I will not be able to cross on 1 glide anyway, but starting early will give me advantage to take drift toward pass, so chose this option. I was following little canyon along Bluff St. and found a good thermal.
My assumptions was right, drift was moving me exactly where I need to go while I was gaining more altitude. Downwind after first one I found 2nd thermal and took it. Now I was at 10500 between Banning and Cabazon ready to cross I-10.
I experience a lot of sink and some cross/head wind, but came over Jan Jacinto foothills still very high 6800.
Then I jumped over higher terrain, but keep a good margin between me and peak. Landing toward the San Jacinto Peak was problematic only tree lading. My bailout was highway 74. Even if I can’t make all the way to highway there were some landable fields toward this direction. I got a nice climb just before Idyllwild to cloud base 12200. There was a cloud street to my left and lonely cloud over the other side of valley to my right. That’s where I made my first mistake, which put me on the ground. I opted to go to lonely cloud via Lake Hemet, where Jonathan landed not long time ago. Over the lake I was not confident that I can clear Thomas Mountain ridge and change my mind turning to the left to cloud street. I did not have enough altitude and did not encounter any good thermal to make it there. After cruising another couple miles along highway 74 I landed on the road side. Developing storm ahead was a good consolation.
Wally and Jonathan were there shortly after. 8 miles short of record, but hey successful crossing of the Banning pass is achievement in itself.

GPS track:

Advice from Rob McKenzie concerning the Banning pass

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kagel to Glendora, 32 miles

Since Kagel is my nearest flying site I was dreaming of a long flight out from it. My farthest flight so far was out and return to Mt. Lukens. Next target was Mt. Wilson and beyond. Today was the day to make it. Jonathan picked me up in the morning and we headed to Kagel LZ, got ride to launch and I was first in the air at 1:20. I climbed to 5900 right away, which means we were late at least by 1 hour. Easy going to little Lukens where I stuck for 20 minutes and Jonathan had chance to catch up.
Then we flew together until the end of the ridge and he went straight across Arroyo canyon (highway 2) while I slow down to get more altitude before this critical transition. Up to this point there are many options for landing, but this canyon looks scary. It’s wide with power lines and other (east) side looks even worse. Long, gentle slopes and then houses to the right. The only friend is a steep ridge deep in the canyon Brown Mountain.
While I was trying to convince myself to continue I find a weak thermal right above highway 2 and drift with it across the canyon arriving almost at the top of the ridge. Tank up more and continue toward Mt. Wilson. Just before Mt. Wilson I met Jonathan again, he tagged it was coming back. There was nice cloud street behind Mt. Wilson shaped as arc into the wildness. That was my ticket to make Marshall, but I was not ready for such commitment and refuse it. Instead I keep going along the front range. On Monrovia Peak ridge I did not top out thermal, which was a big mistake. After this point it was pretty much final glide. I had an option to fly low over little ridge after crossing highway 39, but it was windy and I can’t see good landing spots ahead. On the other hand it was already 4:00 pm and day start to shutting down while I made only halfway to Marshall, so my chances to make Marshall was low. I landed on huge empty field, which looked nice from the air, but after all had a quite high fence.
It was interesting feeling when cars slow down to see better how I was trying to get over fence with my PG bag. Big thanks to my wife Karina for retrieve and Jonathan for ride to LZ.

GPS track:

Monday, August 22, 2011

NorCal XC league in Whaleback

Whaleback located near Mt. Shasta and its 10 hours drive to get there from LA. Well, scenery and flying conditions was excellent both days, so no regret, but next time I will add another day to avoid coming back home at 6:00 am and going to work at 8:00 am. We camped in Deer Mountain Snowpark (41.5707, -122.1307) for free. Can you believe in free camping sites? I was surprised too.
Launch (41.5353, -122.1526) just of unpaved road. Local club RVHPA did a good job to expand the launch, add setup area, expand parking and a vehicle turnaround as well as clear LZ from brush.

Sturday's task was LAUNCH-HEBRON(5km)-ASPEN. 90 km total. Nobody made goal with best result from Anderson Jared 75 km. He flew on the left side of the valley while most of other pilots including me chose right side with clouds (at least in the beginning). We all stuck in the large blue hole, but those how maximize glide instead of searching for thermals (like me) flew further.
My Saturday's GPS track
Saturday's Results

Sunday's task supposed to be shorter, so we chose Dorris, which most of pilots made yesterday as a goal. 50 km total. I was leading from the middle of the task, but was 1.07 km short of goal with my 8:1 glide was not enough to make it through strong sink. Darren Payne won a day with 8 pilots in goal.
My Sunday's GPS track
Sunday's Results

Here is video from the first day. Make sure to watch on full screen in 720p HD.

Site description

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hike to Kearsarge Pass

Trail head located in the end of Onion Valley road near Independence, CA. We have been here last year, but made it only half way to the pass. We also plan to come back in August for backpacking trip, so I want to check it out before. It took me about 2 hours to cover 4.5 miles to the pass with 800 meters ascent. There was solid snow after second lake, so path finding was slightly problematic. Here is view from the pass toward Kings Canyon:
More pictures from the trip

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Flight from Walt's to Bishop (Owens valley), 60 miles

Record amount of snow this season delayed Horseshoe Meadows road opening, which leads to Walt's point PG/HG launch in Owens valley. I was calling ranger station since May to check when it can happen. Finally road was opened at June 8th. There was a big group of pilots from Crestline/Sylmar planning to fly Father's day weekend, but the best weather was for Wednesday 15th, so instead of waiting we decide to go for it. Wake up at 3:00 am, pick up Eddie our driver from Ventura at 4:30, back to home and meet with Jonathan at 5:45, made Lone Pine by 8:45. Our typical meet place in Lone Pine, High Sierra Cafe was closed this year, so we meet with Marcus (HG) and PG pilots from Tahoe on Whitney Portal road. At launch by 9:45. Day did not start until 11:00, so I had some time to walk around and get used to altitude. Since I had entire launch for myself I want to try new launch techniques. Tried reverse launch from plateau, but it did not work out, not enough wind. Then forward launch was successful. It’s harder to execute, but safer because you can stop easily as opposed to launch from steep rocky slope, which I usually do. Air was rough and turbulent from beginning, got few small asymmetric collapses, but major one was few miles into the flight. It started from 50%-60% asymmetric and reopened just fine, however I pull opposite brake too hard (hello hypoxia?) and spin a glider. Exit a spin fine after 360, still around 200 meters over terrain. I did not want to be deep after this point and headed out toward the valley where thermals were nicer. The rest of the flight was uneventful. Jonathan catch up after Onion valley and landed before Big Pine, Marcus before Bishop. There was SE/W convergence line running straight north through Bishop, but it stopped after 5-7 miles. There was massive development over Boundary Peak and clouds show NW out there. I opted to land just next to Marcus on nice, green meadow. 10 minutes later Dave, another PG from Canada joined us. Back to Lone Pine at 6:00 pm and back home at 12:30 am. Good, long day!

Flight from Walt's to Bishop in Owens valley from Alex Gagarin on Vimeo.
My GPS track:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mt. San Gorgonio via Vivian Creek

Left home at 4:30 am and on trail at 6:30 am. After initial steep climb to Vivian Creek trail follow creek in forest. There was a lot of snow patches after High Creek Camp, so it was easier to just go up hill instead of figuring out where the actual trail is. Meet a bobcat:
he was sitting on the trail and don't want to get out of my way, so I walk around and he keep watching me from behind the tree:
Another interesting observation was cloud development over the mountain. It was high wind day (40+ mph on summit) with a lot of lenticular clouds.

Cloud over San Gorgonio peak from Alex Gagarin on Vimeo.

Top of the mountain mostly covered with snow, but trail is well defined and there is no need for crampons or other special equipment:
According to my GPS round trip was around 19 miles (30 km) with elevation gain 5250 ft (1600 m) and it took me 6 hours to make it to the top and 4 hour to come back. 2.5 liters of water was just enough for the hike. Back home at 7:30 pm.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mt. Baldy via Bear Canyon Trail

Originally I plan to hike Mt. Baldy via Ski Hut trail, but it turned out that road was closed due to Tour de California bike race. So, I attempted Bear Canyon trail, which is more difficult with elevation gain around 5700 ft:
Trail head is next to visitor's center (34.237, -117.658). First section of trail is along the creek in the forest to Bear flats. Then pretty steep switchbacks through bushes. Most of the bushes was gone due to recent fire, so there is no shade. Its better to start early to avoid sun heat at this section. My start at 8:00 am was at least one hour late. After this steep climb there is forest again and view improved a lot (looking back):
There was some snow starting from 9000 ft elevation, but it was packed and there was no problem to get over even in my running shoes:
Top of the mountain (most of it) also was covered with snow:
It took me about 5 hours to reach summit and I used most of my water 2 liters. Then descent was peace of cake: 1 hour via Devils Backbone trail to ski lift, then use lift to get down and another 2:30 hours to hike back to car and watch Tour de California bike race:
15.7 miles, 9 hours total.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Home to Ocean hike

I was dreaming about walking from my home to ocean for couple of year, but finally did it. Its a relatively easy 20 miles hike with only 1300 ft elevation gain. It took me 6:26 hours to complete it.
I started at 5:50. During first part through San Fernando valley I had constant feeling that I'm in Mexico. Apartments looks exactly like Posadas, people on gas stations filling junk cars. Next part was Topanga State Park, which I crossed from north to south. Trail is a fire road in the beginning (with lots of bikes):
eventually turn into small trail on Temescal ridge:
After exit from the park I entered into completely different city with rich houses, different people walking on the streets and after another few miles arrive to the ocean:

Monday, April 18, 2011

NorCal XC league in Dunlap

A lot of new faces, probably over 30 pilots participated. Weather was not epic, but good enough to move around. We even made it out from Dunlap valley on the second day. First day we had a fishbowl task with 3 valley crossing and goal at ranger station. I tag all waypoints, but did not make it to goal unfortunately. I should probably stay on the west side of GRNY ridge longer rather than fall back to Dunlap valley. 4 pilots in goal with Josh win the day.
Sunday's task was more interesting LASTCH->AIRSTR->BIGCAT->SQVAL(3km)->SNDCRK(3km)->SQVAL. Cloud base was almost at launch altitude and a lot of clouds, so right strategy were to fishing for sun spots in the valley instead of usual ridge flying. Many pilots struggle and finally landed near first waypoint. I managed to get up slowly and flew toward launch where I find a strong thermal. Everybody else take a direct route with slow climbs. But after all we all arrived to GRNY at the same altitude. Timo and Josh were in the lead and gliding toward BIGCAT already. Our gaggle tag AIRSTR, but then we split. I find a better thermal and try to catch up with Josh. Timo was low scratching over BIGCAT where he landed eventually. Josh was climbing, but then he moved toward 49917, which was overcast. Jug joined me and after we topped out we flew toward ranger station. Slow climb there, but we managed to establish on BALD Mt. Jug had extra altitude and flew to SQVAL first. I waited 10 minutes or so for next cycle, climb and continue to SQVAL. There was several pilots over ranger station, including Josh who did not climb out. Ruth hill did not word very well, but I had low save over valley and dive into next valley toward SNDCRK. Landed on the same field with Jug.

NorCal XC league in Dunlap from Alex Gagarin on Vimeo.

My track log:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kagel to Lukens and back, 20 miles

Original plan was to fly from Kagel to Marshall, but day was too weak for such task. I started at 11:37 and first half an hour was straggling to maintain couple hundred over launch. Then Jonathan join me and we left for the east. It was difficult to establish on Big-T (as usual), but after 3 attempts I finally get up there and catch up with Jonathan. Then we glide to Little Lukens, get up there and continue to antennas. Most of the canyons until Lukens are landable, but next gap over highway 2 is wide and land there is problematic. It was obvious that we don't have enough altitude to jump toward Mt. Wilson, so I turn around and flew back. When I arrive to Kagel day turned on and it was easy to move around. Here is a Jonathan's video of the day:

My track log:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Snowboarding at Lake Tahoe

Its about 8 hours drive from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe, but with chains installation and slow traffic just before the pass on highway 50 it took us 10 hours. I was at Tahoe before, but never ski or snowboard, so this was my first winter trip there. There are 10+ ski resorts around lake and my choice was Heavenly because of close proximity to Motel 6 in South Lake Tahoe where we stayed. Well, that was a bad choice. Conditions was perfect with a lot of fresh snow, but resort does not designed very well, it takes forever to move from one side of the mounting to another. You have to unhook board because trails is not steep enough. There are couple good, steep trails on Nevada side, but there is no lift in the bottom. You have to walk along park boarder to lift for 15-20 minutes. So, I had a mixed feelings: on one side we enjoined by fresh snow and some good trails as well as gorgeous lake view, but on the other side I was disappointed, Mammoth Lakes so much better in terms of park design and trails available.

Monday, February 7, 2011

2011 Monarca Paragliding Open

This was my second Monarca. Conditions was perfect as expected, we flew everyday and only one task was cancelled due to strong wind. I was much more confident this time in flying and stay around 45-ish place whole comp, but did not tag a start cylinder last day, so drop to 57 (out of 109) overall. There is no results for serial class, but my estimation is 28 (out 76 or so). I had one scary moment when trying to get out from cloud suck on big ears and went to deep stall -> full stall -> cravat -> etc. It was my first cascade on Venus-2, lost about 150 meters, but finally exit fine. Good idea was to apply speed bar with big ears, which could prevent deep stall in the first place, but I did not realize how important its to use speed bar with ears at that time. Now I know. Here is a video:

Valle de Bravo, Mexico 2011 from Alex Gagarin on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year

This time we join our friends to celebrate New Year holidays in mountains near Big Bear Lake. Weather was great sunny with fresh snow, ideal conditions for snowboarding.

Big Bear Mountain Snowboarding from Alex Gagarin on Vimeo.