Friday, September 28, 2012

Nine Mile to Benton, 132 miles flight

Combined North and South California XC league meet was scheduled for weekend of September 29 and 30, but many pilots decided to come early that week to fly from Walt's point and new hike-up launch Nine Mile, which is 40 miles south from Walt's.
Nine Mile launch
Dean was the one who picked the spot up from Google Earth and flew with Aaron first time breaking his own California's open distance PG record. Well, next week or so he flew again with Jimmy and they broke the record again. September is not good time to set a records because days are short and conditions generally mild, but 2 out of 2 successful attempts prove the site has a good potential and many pilots including Timo, Jug, Steve, Jim, Josh and others was excited to check it out.
PG Pilots on Nine Mile launch
Its 25-30 minutes hike from the road (500 AGL) and you need to be ready by 9:30. Launchable window is 30-45 minutes when wind from "too light" becoming "too strong". There is no LZ other then hillside landing (Cactuses, Joshua trees, rocks, etc) or landing on the road. There is ugly looking canyon below the road and glide to main valley from launch is 8:1. Josh was first to launch around 10:00 am, then Jimmy and I was off at 10:13 followed by Dean, Jug and others. We spend maybe 15-20 minutes to get our first climb from 5500 ft launch altitude to 11K and game was on. Lead gaggle Josh, Jimmy and Dean disappeared beyond horizon immediately. The rest of the pilots leapfrogged for first 100 miles along the Sierra with many pilots landing after Big Pine. Here is couple good shots from that part of the flight.
Olancha Peak
Kearsarge Pass
Just before Big Pine I was flying with Steve and blue Omega 8 and we was pushing hard leaving thermals lower and lower and eventually I found myself peaking up LZ in the foothills with prospect to hike about 5 miles to the paved road. The best way to handle such stressful situation is to accept the fact you already landed it helps to calm down and concentrate a lot. Anyway, I run into a good thermal, drift with it and took my time to get as high as possible before "The Crossing" toward Black Mt. in the Whites mountain range.
Crossing Owens valley
Start crossing from 11.5K just 3 miles west from Big Pine and arrive with 1.5K AGL. It feels like wind was still little bit from the east direction, so I was not in hurry to climb and ridge soar few mile to the north instead and only then took a climb. By that time there was few rescue operations under the way. One pilot had a hard landing after low collapse on Sierra side, he was ok, but have to hike out for couple hours. Another pilot throw reserve near White Mountain and his friend top landed to help. There was also huge overdevelopment on the Sierra side and entire valley got into the shade, so flying become quite challenging.
White Mountains
My goal was to break 200 km, which I did and landed at 6:13 pm few miles south from Benton, with total 8 hours in the air, 212 km open distance, my personal best so far. Thanks to Joe for picking me up.
Landing near Benton, next to highway 6
Track log:

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