Sunday, November 16, 2014

Skyport to VOR to Padaro beach flight

Flying in Santa Barbara
I finally opened Santa Barbara season. Sunday was a first day of pretty strong Santa Ana, wind was gusting 60+ mph at Camp 9 (Kagel). Originally Jonathan and Tom Truax was planning on going to Chief's Peak and do out and return to Santa Barbara, but for me it looked like too much north near Ojai even from beginning. After Saturday's morning weather update they both bailed, Chris G. also decided not to run his truck to mountains due to north wind, but Eagle's van was going at 9:45. Wind near Santa Barbara supposed to be from south-west down low shifting to north-west up high @5-7 knots and weak lapse rate. My expectations was for extended sledder, but it was a rare case when forecast was wrong in opposite direction. Light cycles at launch. Bob was first off and did not find anything near launch going to Antenna farm. Dave hook a thermal, but also decided to follow Bob to Antenna farm for unknown reason. I was lucky and launched right into decent thermal after Chris (Hook 3), easy transition to RnR where I got to 4800 ft and continue westbound. Neal (Aspen 5) and few other pilots followed. Easy run to VOR where we got stuck for 10 minutes because of the shade. Neal was slightly higher at this point and was leading all the way to the Montecito Peak where I was able to catch up.
Cruising with Neal
One of the concerns was north wind up high, but we was getting to 5500 and drift was still from the west (good). After Romero it become difficult to get over the ridge height, certainly not a day to push though the pass, so we both bailed to Parado beach.
Gliding to Padaro beach
Over the ocean
Thanks a lot to Chris (Hook 3) who gave us a ride back after lunch.

Here is my GPS track:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Marshall to Soboba and back, 65 miles flight

Good XC weather normally stays for 3-4 days with changing wind direction day after day. It's hard to pick one site and one route to fly when all sites looks great. After Friday's 6 hour flight to Antelope Valley I was tired and it was easy decision to skip Saturday and fly Sunday. RebarDan was thinking of flying to Mexico border again, but after checking morning forecast it looked like too much moisture south from San Jacinto and possible OD. Jonathan was going to fly Pine with Southside, but their truck was full and wind at Pine was too strong. SD was planning on Nuthouse, but hiking in 100 degrees was not very inspiring as well as going over the back from Topa Topa. I choose Marshall.

Sometimes you just need to show up on LZ without a particular plan and plan will materialize for you. I was at LZ at 10 and it turned out Marcello had 10 am shuttle going to Marshall and they all want to fly XC. $5 extra for retrieve and they promised to pick me up. Really? I decided not to scare them by telling that my XC may be "slightly" further then they used to. Anyway, Marcello wanted to fly to Soboba and I did not been there for years and thought it would be good to see new green LZ and chat with Jerome.
Pilots getting ready on Marshall launch
I launched at 11:29 am. Conditions were already quite strong, cloud streets over Crestline ridge, San Gabriels, San Jacinto and Elsinore. There were about 8 other pilots, but most of them did not take time to climb high and rushing to cross to Arrowhead. However, one pilot on Delta 2 (Gareth) flew with me. We climbed to 6300 ft and cross to Arrowhead, found another thermal to 6800 ft drifting back and then jumped back to main ridge near Strawberry Peak. We were getting some thermals, but could not get to the clouds. It was uncomfortable to drift with the thermals back over forest with only 7K, so I decided to fish for thermals out front. That almost put me to the ground, but I was able to find a good thermal back to 9300 ft and then 11K over Running Springs. Gareth did not survive this low save and landed next to highway 330.
Mt. San Gorgonio
Following clouds across highway 10
East wind through Banning pass was in forecast until 5 pm and RASP indicated convergence line way west from the pass. There were nice clouds over San Gorgonio and San Jacinto, but no clouds in between (as predicted). Few clouds start forming on SE side of Redlands and good could street all the way to San Jacinto from there. So, I just followed clouds to Soboba. There was a light rain near Idyllwild maybe 15-20 km from me and I had a concern that it may grow, but it did not. Marcello was still in the air and changed his goal to Elsinore, but landed short.
Looking back at Marshall
Banning pass
It was only 3:00 pm and I was at 10K over Soboba considering my options. Going further south or south-east was not possible because of the rain and going back looked easy, staying under the same cloud street. I even had a tail wind almost all the way to Harrison where I got low again. I want to get back to clouds on the back ridge to avoid valley SW wind, which is normally strong and it's hard to fly upwind. Overdevelopment finally started near San Gorgonio and clouds near Keller peak looked very dark ready to OD as well. I took a climb to 11K, which was more than enough for 15 km final glide. I encountered some SW wind after Arrowhead with considerably more over Marshall. Pushed upwind all the way to highway 215 to lose altitude and landed with minimal forward speed at 5:20 pm.

My track:

SD flew 110 miles from Nuthouse to Garlock (track) and Ziggy made it from Elsinore to Marshall.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Marshall to Antelope Valley, 72 miles flight

East wind is always welcome in XC pilots’ community. You can do a lot of flights you normally can't because of SW sea breeze. One of the options is flight from Marshall over the back to Palmdale and beyond. We had a decent number of pilots for mid-week XC: Jonathan, Dmitry, Ziggy, Russ, Kia, Jai Pal, and Dusty with Steve and Wally driving retrieve.
Pilots on Marshall
Early forecast was showing east wind at Palmdale all day, but normally forecast derogate and it was the case this time as well, showing 5-7 mph SW at 5 pm. We met at 10 am. Even Ziggy was in time, which is unusual. I launched at 11:14 and conditions were still very light, but starting early was essential to get to Palmdale before SW sea breeze will kick in. I jumped to Cloud Peak then Billboard then Pine with just enough altitude. Pine was super turbulent, got a massive asymmetric collapse and left it right away crossing to Sugar Pine. Left Sugar Pine at 7200 ft and continue to Cajon Mt. Decision point: 12:10 pm, 7500 ft altitude and everyone else still over Pine. Very doubtful position for successful Cajon pass crossing, so I turn around and flew back to Sugar Pine to meet with Dmitry, Russ and Ziggy. Jonathan was still low at Pine mountain, Kia and Jai Pal landed in AJX LZ.

Ziggy had some altitude advantage and hurry to cross Cajon pass along, landing at highway 15 and 138 intersection. Unfortunately my radio did not work properly. It was fully charged, but I can only listen, when I try to hit PTT it just shut off. Looks like it’s time to replace battery. Next loss was Russ. He had slightly less altitude over Sugar Pine and decided not to follow me and Dmitry. He was not able to get enough altitude later and flew back to AJX. At this time first clouds start forming over highway 138 marking convergence line. Here is another note on the weather. If I plan to fly through Cajon pass I stop at highway 15 and 215 intersection in the morning. Expected wind is 5-7 mph from the north. This day at 9:30 am wind was already from the south at 3 mph, which means that by the time we were flying across the pass south was strong. Ziggy reported south at 15+ mph on his landing. That's why convergence line was deep. Instead of direct cross we all flew back north and climbed to 11K before crossing. Now we had 2 options: (1) follow convergence, which was even more north-west or (2) follow normal route along Lone Pine Canyon Rd. I chose number 2 because it was more direct route and with 11K we should not have any problems crossing.
On glide across highway 15
Dmitry over Cajon pass
After next few climbs Dmitry opted for deeper line in the mountains, which proved to be faster, I should just follow him. Instead, I was flying my route and by the time he got to highway 14 near Palmdale I was 12 km behind. Main convergence line was deep in San Gabriels and we both did not want to fly that deep, but after Palmdale it was perfectly on the route. I got relatively low to 7K near highway 14 and flew SW toward convergence, where I got back to 13K and basically follow it for a while.
Clouds marking convergence over highway 14
Jonathan and Dmitry landed at Elizabeth Lake and Bouquet Canyon Rd. That's exactly the same place where I landed last time. This time I still had 11K here and only concern was SW sea breeze, which could introduce serious safety issues for landing.
Palmdale from 13K
Liebre mountains
Clouds were dissolving, which is another sign of the breeze. I picked my LZ near Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve park, far enough from the mountains to avoid any rotor and landed at 5:11 pm. Wind was around 20 mph from SW, not too bad.
My LZ neat Poppy Reserve park
Steve did a great job on retrieve, picking everyone in no time and providing cold beverages. We were back at AJX around 8 pm. That’s what I call magic September days.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Elsinore to Marshall, 40 miles flight

Elsinore launch
Last time I flew Elsinore was 7 years ago in September 2007. Weekend forecast for Marshall was great and there was also supposed to be fly-in at Marshall, so my choice in the middle of the week was obvious. However, Jonathan suggested Elsinore. Advantages was that it will not OD and you can fly with any altitude even with 6K you may have a chance, where at Crestline you need at least 8K to make it OTB (over the back), plus there could be OD in the mountains and desert. I hesitate for a while, I don't like Elsinore because you can bomb out there very easy, just slightly wrong timing and you land, no matter what you try to do. And that's exactly what happened with Jonathan. Jeff, Kia, Ziggy, Russ, Mike Everyday and few HG was flying that day too, Ziggy's wife Linda volunteered to drive retrieve. Thank you Linda!

We agreed to meet at LZ at 10:15, but Ziggy was late by half an hour, so we got to launch around 11:00. Good cycles and few pilots was already in the air. I launched at 11:23. Only Jeff who launched early was able to climb high right away and flew north, but he decided to wait for us. Everyone else have to spend some time near launch with Kia and Jonathan landed on primary LZ. After we got to 4500 ft we start flying north and was getting better climbs, eventually topping out at 7600 ft. That was decision point. My plan was to fly straight line with 4 control points I put to my GPS to make sure I avoid all air spaces. Going further NW was off my route, so I stay in zero sink and start drifting north, took another small climb and cross highway 15.
Looking back at Elsinore Lake
All other pilots was keep flying NW toward Santiago Peak, excited by good climbs to 9K+. There are small hills on the other side of 15 and landable valley after, which I had on glide.

Crossing highway 15
My altitude dropped back to 4500 ft after crossing, but I found a good climb just before the valley, which took me all the way to 9600 ft and near the top nice looking clouds start forming. That altitude was enough to glide to Box Springs Mountain Park.
Lake Mathews
I did not encounter any lift of sink on glide, just stable, laminar air. Wind was south at altitude and SW down low. I pick my LZ near small hill and went for some ridge soaring session, which worked. I was able to drift north, but could not climb out. Eventually my altitude dropped to 300 ft AGL and I was on my landing approach when helper thermal knock on my wing's sail. Yahoo!!! Back in the game. The problem was that west wind pushed me 1.5 miles east from my control waypoint and now I had San Bernardino Class D ahead of me. Good news was that top of airspace was 3200 ft and I decided to adjust my plan and try to fly over it. After first climb I got only to 3500 ft, which was not enough. Second climb to 5000 ft gave me some time to find another thermal or push west to avoid airspace. Luckily I found another climb to 6200 ft drifting to the north.
Intersection of 215 and 10
San Bernardino airport
On glide to the mountains
At that point I need one more climb to make it to the mountains, which was easy to find. But task was not over yet, since I came to mountains SE from Arrowhead peak and need to fly 5 miles back to Marshall. Head wind was strong, climbs was rowdy, but it was my home area, I know it very well and it was just matter of time to push back. No PG over Marshall during fly-in with parking lot full of cars is not a good sign, and several, almost parked, Falcons (low pref. HG) did not add inspiration either. My ground speed dropped to 5 mph, but with speed bar I was able to fly out front and (guess it) can't land! because lift was everywhere. I try spirals, wing overs, try to search for sink. After half an hour struggle I was finally able to land. Jeff was able to complete the same flight also, but he took a serious detour flying around March AFB and San Bernardino Class D from the east. Thanks for the ride back to Elsinore Jeff.
Jeff landing at Andy Jackson
Bill Soderquist (HG) flew from Elsinore all the way to Cajon Mountain past Marshall via Yucaipa and all the way back to Elsinore.

Here is my track log:
Discussion on Crestline forum:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

SoCal XC League at Marshall

Andy Jackson LZ
I think this year SoCal XC League made a big step forward with longer, more interesting tasks and as a result I see pilot's skills really grows fast with a lot of pilots not only try to make goal, but also try to fly fast. This weekend was not an exception with task to Yucaipa. Aaron want to push it even to Little San Gorgonio, but wind was strong, gusting to 25 mph at Crestline when we was leaving LZ around noon, so we keep San G. for another time.


Another new element was 2 km start around BADGER and then 400 m radius around same point, which is considerably into the flats. Most of the pilots was so used to starts on the ridge that they did not pay attention and pay the price. Hurrying and tagging it without topping out before cost some 20-30 minutes low saves and one pilot even landed.

DEVORE waypoint had a 2.5 km radius, so you can tag it back in the mountains or out front. That's where Jeff lost his pursuers by flying in front. One of the factors was strong wind, so it was easy to fly back toward Pine and climb there, but getting back upwind was hard and slow with a lot of altitude wasted. On another hand front points had less wind, but lighter thermals as well.

I was in the second gaggle at this point, but at Marshall ridge was able to pass few gliders. Marshall to Dam was uneventful as usual. Drmitry and Aaron was behind me, but they was reducing gap after each climb, because I have to spend extra time to find thermals for them. Eventually we all meet together at Harrison and then split again. Dmitry took direct line to Dam, me and Aaron took line slightly toward the valley and also took a climb in the middle. That cost us few minutes, but also peace of mind that we will not bomb out hear the Dam.

Jeff was first in the goal 14 minutes ahead of Robb who was second. I was pretty sure that Dmitry would make it third, but he did not follow Robb low and decide to tank up at mountains, which did not work out and he landed short. I was third and Aaron got to goal 20 seconds later, however he got more leading points, so in the score he is third. Russ and Greg also made goal. Joe, Tavis, Mark and Ziggy was just 1-2 miles short. They all try to leave Dam without enough altitude (except Tavis, he had enough).

Overall great race! And here is few pictures including new LZ.
Yucaipa Regional Park
STATLZ in Yucaipa
Good place to pack your glider

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Seattle, WA

We started from Seattle Needle, observation tower in downtown, very crowded, but view was worth the waiting.
View from Seattle Needle
Right next to the Needle was Chihuly Garden and Glass exibition.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Next attraction was Pike Place Market, very impressive, good selection of food and goods as well as some local features, for example, flying fish.
On the way to Pike Market
Pike Place Market
First Starbucks
In the evening I decided to check out local flying site: Tiger Mountain. They have shuttles to launch, but we did not want to wait an hour and went for a hike. 2500 ft (780 m) elevation gain and heavy backup was difficult combination, but I made it.
Tiger Mountain launch
Nice 50 minutes glass off flight with a lot of lift near mountain, my best altitude was around 500 ft over launch, not enough for any XC attempts, especially considering forest on the slopes and city in the valley.
Tiger LZ

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pemberton, BC, Canada

We arrived to LZ around 10 and I got ride to lower launch right away, but got only a sled ride.
Pemberton lower launch
When we got to launch second time weather was on and few gliders were climbing well above us. There were about 10 pilots and we all climbed above mountain top with some pilots heading east and some NW along the range.
Flying NW from Pemberton
I planned to fly classic route to NW and back, which was easily accomplished. Views remind me of Utah, but with more dramatic and snowy peaks in the distance. Strong, big air thermals with easy predictable triggers.
Flying over the crest in Pemberton
Locals warned me about Whistler express, very strong wind from a neighbor valley and where to land if it occur, but it did not materialized. I had a few gliders flying with me all the time. Plenty of landing options in the valley, at least first 30 km, but further north hike outs could be epic. Great place to fly, next time I would try to stay there for a week or so.
Pemberton LZ

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vancouver, BC, Canada

For Canada you need to have Canadian auto insurance card. Our insurance company provides such card, but I find out about this too late to get it by mail (7 days), so we have to spend a night in Everett and pick it up in the morning from a local agent. It was great to see old friends and explore a city. We went to famous Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, which was interesting, but awfully overpriced.
Suspension Bridge in Capilano
Another suspension Bridge
Another place we was planning to visit, but did not have enough time was Grouse Mountain. Parking in the downtown was pricey as well. Did I tell that lunch was not cheap either? But besides the prices I like city and would like to come back and explore more.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

US Paragliding Nationals, Chelan

Since we left Jackson Hole early we opted not to stay in Missoula as planned and keep going as far as we can. Finally stopped at Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State park only 60 miles from Chelan, but in the morning our GPS navigator (Tom Tom) decided to challenge us providing a route via unpaved roads and wheat fields. I made it all the way to the river bank where "road" descends 2000+ ft. At that point I realized that if I get stuck further for whatever reason there is no way I can turn around and come back, so I turn around, shut off GPS and found right paved road just by memory, since I competed here in 2012. It was great to see many friends, who competed in 2014 US Nationals and fly 2 tasks with them. Unfortunately there was a fire south of us, which affected air quality significantly.

On Tuesday I opted not to tag last waypoint, which was deep in the smoke and by the time I arrived to goal task was stopped by this exact reason.
Climbing in smoky thermal
Wednesday task to Coulee City also was crossing large section of smoke, but we managed to climb above it and dropped into it only for few miles.
Flying above the smoke
Final glide to goal over Banks Lake
I made goal in decent time, but still slower than Dmitry, who become our National Champion in Sport Class (EN C wings and below), congrats!
Dmitry at goal

Monday, July 7, 2014

Jackson Hole, WY

On our way to Yellowstone I enjoyed watching Teton Mountain Range, thinking that at least 30 km to Jackson Lake or 60 km out and return flight would be a milk run. However, weather did not cooperate and by the time (around 10 am) when we arrived at Aerial Tram parking lot one of the local pilots informed us that it's already strong 20+ mph west wind on top, note that site is facing east. I opted not to fly and keep it for next time.
Jackson Hole

Yellowstone National Park

Another beautiful and colorful park, quite huge to see in one day, but we omitted east side with meadows and wildlife, which was right decision, a lot of wildlife including deer and bison on the west side of park as well. Too bad Boiling River swimming spot near the north entrance was closed. My favorite places would be Lower Geyser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs. Eruption of Old Faithful Geyser was also spectacular. And here is some pictures, which should tell story better than words.
Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone
Coffee Foam
Eruption of Old Faithful Geyser
Lower Geyser Basin in Yellowstone
Lower Geyser Basin
Bison in Yellowstone
Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
Yellowstone Lake