Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Santa Barbara XC Map

Santa Barbara XC Map
After struggling with bus numbers, stops, transfers, schedules from my phone, I decided to make a map with all important information in one place. You can also download Waypoints and review them in Google if you're not familiar with them yet. Casitas Pass Overview was created by Tom Truax
Assuming you don't have a driver you still can fly XC and get back to your car using public transportation. Here is few options based on weather quality and other factors:
1. East beach is relatively easy destination I would not even consider it as XC flight, but view is breathtaking especially when you're over the ocean. You need to be P4/H4, stay below 1500 ft when crossing freeway 101, so you not violate Class C airspace and land on the sand, south from bicycle path. Its very likely that someone else will land there and give you a ride. If not go to Milpitas St, after you cross 101 take bus #2 toward Downtown SB, exit at Anapamu & Garden. Go one block north to Garden and E. Victoria St. take bus #22 to Old Mission. From there its 1.9 miles hike to Parma.
2. Padaro beach. If conditions better then sled ride, but not good enough for going through the pass you can fly to Pararo beach. It's also popular destination and you have good chances to get a ride from there with other pilots. If not from the LZ go north 0.3 miles, turn right to Padaro Lane and after you cross 101 you will see bus stop (Via Real & East Parado). Take bus 20 or 21 to Santa Barbara downtown. Exit at Anapamu & State. Take bus #22 toward Old Mission. From there it's 1.9 mile hike to Parma.
3. Ojai. After you cross power lines there are no landings for 7 miles or so. There're many articles about going through the pass, read them all, review as many GPS tracks as you can find. The only advise I would like to emphasis is don't hurry in this section or you end up landing in front of White ledge, which is not too bad if you make there, because you can hike 1-2 miles and re-launch. If you can make to Nordhoff LZ then you can take bus #16 to Ventura. If not then land as close to highway 150 as possible. There is a bus stop at 150 & 33 intersection, so you don't need to hike all the way to Nordhoff LZ. In Ventura you have 2 options. Exit at Pacific Mall if you have time or if its late and you can't catch last bus to SB at 5:31 pm, exit at Thompson & Oak and take Amtrak at 8:59 pm. If you use smartphone note that Google does not know about Vista Coastal Express that's the name of your bus to SB.
4. Fillmore (or Piru). Bus Vista Highway 126 is going from Piru to Ventura, there is also stop in Santa Paula if you bombed out there. Go to Pacific Mall and transfer to Coastal Express. If you're late take bus #16 to Thompson & Oak and take Amtrak.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Skyport to VOR to Ojai

Skyport launch
Eagle was coaching big group of students from San Francisco. I watched few launches, but it took them forever, so I squeezed on the right side of launch and got off right away. Few turns over launch and follow Bob and white UP glider to R&R. We climbed there to 5500 and continue west.
Westbound leg
Easy going to VOR where I turn around and go east. Day seems to be ok for big flight. I saw a group of gliders just few peaks ahead of me and assumed they would go through the pass, but it turned out they went for Padaro beach.
Just before power lines meet with Marty who was flying from Nuthouse in opposite direction this day.
Marty flying west
I also have hang glider friend who was chasing me since Montecito peak.
HG friend
Going through the pass was tough, I was getting lower and lower finally landing on the fire road at 3 pm and then hiking about a mile to re-launch. Made few phone calls and realized I'm the only one going through the pass, so retrieve will be epic.
Hiking to re-launch
First knob (on photo) was not good because of long glide out and chance to end up in bushed closed canyon, but next one seemed ok.
Re-launch options
After first unsuccessful attempt I decide to clear enough space from bushes and debris, which helped. In the air at 4:25 pm. Unfortunately no thermal activity, 10 minutes extended sledder toward Ojai. Hiked 2.5 miles to intersection of highway 150 and 33 to get bus #16 to Ventura. Missed the last bus from Ventura to Santa Barbara and try to use Amtrak.
Waiting for the train
Train was scheduled to arrive at 8:59, but was 1 hour late, so I arrived to Santa Barbra at 11, taxi to Parma and home at 0:30 am. It was a long day.

Track log:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Nine Mile to Bishop

Igor and Mike (HG pilots) was organizing a trip to Owens, so I and my friend Dmitry from San Diego decided to join them. We all met Friday night at Boulder Creek RV camp, just few miles south from Lone Pine. HG want to fly Walt's, but Dmitry want to fly Nine Mile, so we took his car and drive to Nine Mile Saturday morning. When we hiked to launch at 9:30 it was already windy from SE (15 mph) and I had doubts about launching. By 10:00 am wind was pretty much the same (good), so I launched and Dmitry follow me shortly. We climbed easily to 10K and went north. Weather forecast was so-so with north wind in the morning switching to south in the afternoon. HG pilots at Walt's had to wait until 11 or 12 before they can launch, but we was 40 miles south and had advantage, it was already south here. However, along the flight we encountered north wind couple times, which made our progress quite slow. By the time we made to Whitney there was already signs of over development in the mountains and I try to stay out front. But real OD happened only at 4:00 pm and I have to escape from Sierra. I found a thermal near Big Pine and could get higher there, but OD looked scary and I decided to cross without necessary altitude and finally landed at 4:40 pm. Total distance 94 miles duration 6:40 hours. While I was hiking out to highway 168 one gentlemen offer a ride to Big Pine. Turned out he was a long time hang glider pilot, but retired 10 years ago and don't fly anymore. Dmitry landed closer to Bishop along 395 and also managed to hitch a ride to Big Pine where we met. Igor flew locally and landed at Diaz Lake. He took my car and pick us up at Big Pine, thanks a lot Igor. We got Dmitry's car on the way back, home by midnight or so.

Here is a video covering first part of flight from Nine Mile to Walt's:

Track log:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

SoCal XC league at Pine mountain

I was suggesting Pine Mt. for North California XC league for years, but Jug was deaf. Flying is similar to Whaleback and driving time from San Francisco (5 hours) just half an hour longer compared to Whaleback (4:30 hours). Now with South California league most of the pilots live in San Diego, so driving time (4 hours) also an issue, but very good opportunity to join for local Santa Barbara pilots.
Task was to Frazier Mountain and back, I bombed out at Lockwood valley, but that allow enough time for glass off flight, which was remarkable. Climbed to 13.5K and with 25 km/h tail north wind made it to Ojai in no time. Now with 8K over Ojai making beach seemed possible, but lower I get stronger SW breeze become. Finally I have to bail out to highway 33 landing on the huge abandoned field in strong, but laminar breeze.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Flight from Towers (Kagel) to Lukens

This is first time I was launching from Towers (near Kagel) and I don't recommend it for PG. It's cliff launch similar to Walt's but with much less space and bushes all over around. So, any failed attempt will put your glider into the bush, which will take at least 5-10 minutes to rescue. Advantage of Towers compared to Kagel is paved road and no gate, but again I would rather spend hour hiking to Kagel from the road then come back to Towers again. In case you still want to try Towers the best approach would be forward launch from the road and expect some major turbulence immediately if wind is not directly from SE.
Weather was not as good as expected, so we all landed in BigT wash with Jonathan and Tavis.

Monday, July 8, 2013

High Sierra Trail

Map for Google Earth with waypoints: HighSierraTrail.kmz

Printable maps, based on closedcontour with highlighted trail:
High Sierra Trail Map. Part 1
High Sierra Trail Map. Part 2
Logistics was quite complicated because the start and end trailheads are 280 miles apart. My plan was to take overnight bus to trailhead and one of my friends offered to pick me up on the way back. Evgeniy pick me up at 11:30 pm and we were at Greyhound bus station at midnight. I bought tickets online, so just need to register my backpack (30 lb). Bus to Visalia was late arriving at 6:00 am, but I still had another 20 minutes to spare before next bus to Sequoia Park. It was easy to recognize this bus with park's logo. On the website they say that bus only goes to Museum, but since it was first bus and there was few park employees we drove all the way to Lodgepole, exactly where I need to get my wilderness permit. Buses inside the Park start operating at 9:00, so I had some time for breakfast. Then another 2 buses to Museum and then to Crescent Meadow and at 10:00 I was ready for adventure.
Crescent Meadow. High Sierra Trail start
Day 1. Crescent Meadow to Big Hamilton Lake, 16 miles
First miles are not very spectacular. Trail goes on the canyon's side with big mountains far, far away. It passes below Panther Gap and then Alta Peak on the right side.
High Sierra Trail beginning
There are few camp sites with bear boxes: Mehrten Creek, Nine Mile Creek but they're small and not worth stopping. Bearpaw Meadow is the first place where view improves significantly and could be considered for spending a night, but I continue.
Bearpaw Meadow
Kaweah Gap
Rain catch me at Lone Pine Creek and I first decided to camp there and set up my tent, but after an hour skies cleared up and I still have 2 hours to make it to Big Hamilton Lake, which I did. Lake was gorgeous, one of the best I ever saw in Sierra.
Big Hamilton Lake
First day after sleepless night and 10 hours on the trail was the most difficult on this trip. Hiking time 8:40, elevation gain 3700 ft.

Day 2. Big Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake, 14 miles
I woke up at 7:00, had a quick breakfast and on the trail by 8:00. Going over Kaweah Gap was slow. Spectacular view, which become better and better was a main reason to slow down.
Coming to Kaweah Gap
Precipice Lake
After gap trail goes down into Big Arroyo canyon and then climbs up again on to Chagoopa Plateau.
Big Arroyo canyon
That's where I run into another rain and hail. I was lucky to find small cave, to hide from the rain and after 1 hour of waiting continue east.
Hiding from the rain and hail
Hail melting on the trail
Second rain catch me on the plateau and I spend another hour under the tree.
Rain in Sierra
Waiting under the tree, Chagoopa Plateau
It was pretty wet everywhere from melting hail and rain. Finally, I made it to Moraine Lake to be the only one to camp there.
Morain Lake
It was not comfortable to camp on the wet ground and all my clothes were wet as well. At least I had second set of dry clothes. Hiking time 8:30, elevation gain 3500 ft.

Day 3. Moraine Lake to Junction Meadow, 14 miles
I had a similar timing today 7:00 up and on the trail by 8:00. Weather supposed to improve today with only slight chance of thunderstorms, which never materialized and I had easy, mostly flat section going north in Kern canyon.
Kern Canyon looking south
Another pleasant feature of the day was Kern Hot Springs. Actually, they were too hot, so I have to wait for 10 minutes before I can get in. Since Hot Springs located on the river bank I made few round trips between springs and Kern River with ice cold water. It felt almost like Russian bath in the winter.
Kern Hot Springs
Junction Meadow was my next camping spot. There was no one there again, except mosquitoes.
Junction Meadow
Kern River
Since there was no rain in forecast for the night I did not set rain-fly and enjoyed stars from the tent.
Hiding from mosquitoes in the tent
Hiking time 7:30, elevation gain 1500 ft.

Day 4. Junction Meadow to Guitar Lake, 12 miles
I woke up at 6:00. Despite low elevation, 8000 ft, it was cold night, hard to imagine how cold it will be at Guitar Lake at 11500 ft. Start hiking at 7:00 and was at Guitar Lake by 2:00 pm already, so I can finish the trail in 4 days if I want to.
Camping at Guitar Lake
After I set up my tent I went for evening hike to Hitchcock Lakes.
Hitchcock Lakes
There were about 6 other hikers camping at Guitar Lake, first time I was camping with someone else after Hamilton Lakes. Hiking time 7:00, elevation gain 4100 ft.

Day 5. Guitar Lake to Whitney Portal, 15 miles
I woke up at 4:00, skipped breakfast and start hiking at 4:30. I was too conservative about my estimations and was way ahead of schedule.
Hitchcock Lakes at sunrise
Just 2 hours to Trail Crest and another hour to Whitney. Surprisingly there was AT&T cell phone reception on the top, so I can check my emails for last 5 days, pretty weird place to work.
On Whitney
After endless switchbacks to Consultation Lake
Switchbacks on Whitney trail
I finished hike at Whitney Portal at 2:00 pm. Hiking time 9:00, elevation gain 3200 ft, loss 6400 ft.
Whitney Portal
Trail statistics:
Total elevation gain official: 18000 ft (according to my GPS: 16300 ft)
Total distance official: 72 miles (according to my GPS: 62 miles)
Total hiking time: 41 hours

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mineral King Loop

Route: Mineral King -> Glacier Pass -> Spring Lake -> Cyclamen Lake -> Columbine Lake -> Sawtooth Pass -> Sawtooth Peak -> Mineral King
Hiking Mineral King loop map
I need to check all my gear before High Sierra Trail, so decided to do this easy loop as 2 days hike.
Sawtooth peak on the left
There is a non maintained (old) trail on the left side of the valley, very easy to follow up to the Glacier Pass.
North side of Glacier Pass
There was still little bit of snow on the other side, but easy passable.
Spring Lake and route to Columbine Lake
I camped near Spring Lake, which was a right choice, slightly lower elevation, more beautiful, some trees around. I was worried about next part of the route, especially from Cyclamen to Columbine Lake. In Google Earth it looked way too steep, but turned out to be ok.
Cyclamen Lake and Spring Lake
Sawtooth Peak from Columbine Lake
At this point I reconnect with established trail again, easy going to Sawtooth Pass.
Sawtooth Peak from the Sawtooth Pass
One mile traverse to peak was slow and took 1:30 there and 1:00 back. Its quite sandy, last few blocks before the peak require some climbing, but not too bad. Here is views from the top:
Monarch Lakes from Sawtooth Peak

Columbine Lake from Sawtooth Peak

Sawtooth Pass from Sawtooth Peak

Going down was fast. Official trail goes way to the west, but looks like most of people just going straight down, sliding on sand, took me just 40 minutes to reach lower Monarch Lake and good trail from there back to the car. Marmots was generous enough not to eat my car during my absence.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Epic day hike in Minarets

I did a Mt. Ritter last year and like it a lot, so I come back and check out some more lakes. Here is a map of my route:
Superior Minaret Cecile Iceberg Ediza Shadow lakes loop map
I started at 6:00 from Devil's postpile trail head. Beginning of the trail was not quite spectacular, but at least mostly in the forest and well shaded. View starting to get better after intersection with Fern Lakes trail where you can see Iron Mountain and adjacent valleys. I made Superior lake by 9:00. Eat my breakfast (25 min) while thinking of the best route over the ridge.
Superior lake
That's where fun part begins. Nancy Pass is just in the middle of this picture, easy class 2, but still took me about an hour to get on the top. 10:25.
Looking north from Nancy Pass. Minaret lake in the distance.
Going down was not fast either. I saw a big bear (very light brown color) maybe 100 meters down the ridge. He look at me for 10 seconds, but as soon as I start getting my camera turn around and run away. Next valley was still flooded, so main challenge was to find dry route, which was successfully accomplished. I made Minaret lake by 12:40.
Minaret lake
West shore was still covered with snow, but pretty soft at this time of the day. Finally I reconnect with the existing trail on the north side of the lake, no more cross country I was thinking, mistake, big mistake.
Looking back to Minaret lake
Cecile lake
East side still covered with snow, but I was able to come around this time. However worst snow crossing was still ahead.
Iceberg lake
Iceberg lake covered with snow
It was 2:20 pm still enough time to complete the route, so I took it slowly and carefully making each step, did not want to swim in the cold water, at least in the clothes.
Ediza lake with Mt. Ritter and Banner peak in background
Ediza lake 3:40 pm from there it was a matter of patience, the most interesting parts was behind and view started to degrade with several exceptions such as flowers and small water falls in Shadow creek. Exit via Shadow creek was much more beautiful that enter via Beck lake trail.
Flowers Shadow creek
Mammoth Mt.
Back to the car by 8:20 pm, 14:20 total time and about 20 miles on the trail, long, but very satisfying day hike. Back home at 2:00 am.