Saturday, March 28, 2015

SoCal XC League: Marshall to Soboba, 34 miles

After flying from Marshall to Soboba and back last year I want to confirm that route works even without clouds and with moderate SW wind. Crossing I-10 between Redlands and Calimesa is far enough from Banning pass (with strong Venturi effect). Even if wind does pick up there is a plenty of space to land before the pass. After Redlands terrain is raising and line along this little ridge provides buoyant air, which is pushed from valley below by west wind.

Aaron was kind enough and agreed with the task, cloud base was good, but not epic, the best altitude I get was only 7K. It was great to see Len Szafaryn old time comp pilot decided to join us. We need PWC level pilots to learn from and I'm certainly missing flying with Eric, Josh, Dean and other top pilots. Flying his M6 Len was leading with Aaron and Peter close behind, then Mark, Me and Russ in the second gaggle. Our gaggle stop by at McKinley while lead gaggle skip it going directly to Harrison. While we was climbing Dmitry and Ziggy joined us as well and then both gaggles merged at Harrison.

Aaron decided to leave first, but flying more toward the Dam, not the route I want. Everyone else went directly toward Redlands airport and Brewery, climbing here and there, Aaron turn around and flew back to re-join the gaggle, but arrived much lower then everyone else. Lesson: don't get too far from the gaggle, especially when flying flats and route is not obvious. Len also could leave Harrison just by himself, with probably 10 minutes lead, but he choose to wait for a gaggle.

Our new lead gaggle was Len, Dmitry, Peter, me, Russ and Ziggy, but we split just before crossing I-10. I took more south line pushing upwind and Russ joined me, while everyone else opted for more direct line going south-east. Len and Dmitry did not get anything and pushed all the way to the ground landing near last way point (Fisherman's Retreat). Ziggy and Peter took a climb with strong drift toward the pass and become new lead gaggle of 2. We got separated with Russ and I took another climb, while he missed my thermal, pushed forward and landed too. Jeff, Tom and Paul took completely different line flying over Yucaipa.

There was interesting battle happening in front. Ziggy was now leading with Peter not far behind him, however Peter's line was better and Ziggy eventually stuck in the ugly looking canyon with power lines he could not cross and have to land. Peter made it first to Soboba with 2:42 time.

Crossing bad lands. Soboba visible ahead.
I spend too much time tanking up with altitude before crossing bad lands, so Peter was unreachable for me, I only hear him on radio reporting been on final glide to Soboba. I successfully crossed lad lands, but should probably take more direct line (faster and more buoyant based on Peter's track).
Banning pass, San Gorgonio (left), San Jacinto (right)
I had low save right over Gilman Springs Rd, climbing from 2500 ft to 5800 ft and then finishing second with 2:57 time. And two more pilots made goal. Jeff 3:06 and Tom 3:12, Ziggy was only 5 miles short and could easily win the day with one more thermal.
Peter, me, Jeff and Tom
Soboba Fly-in was in full action when we arrived. Cold beer was well deserved refreshment (Thanks Steve).

Results and Tracks:

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Marshall to Kagel flight, 63 miles

Finally I was able to link these 2 sites with a great flight. Usual 10:00 am meet up at LZ and we was ready to fly at 11:00, but conditions did not look optimal with some cycles coming from north and some from south. On the switch day I would like to have at least 20 min of consistent wind from south before launching, but this was not the case today. In fact poor HGs who choose to launch from Crestline that day was not able to launch because wind never switched. Despite north cycles I decided to launch at 12:22 (actually Tavis was 30 seconds ahead of me) with few other pilots including Russ, Eric and Paul. It was a good timing because north wind got stronger and other pilots including Ziggy stuck on launch for another 30 to 60 minutes. I climbed right to 8300 ft and start my journey westbound. Russ was first to cross, but stuck near Glen Helen and me, Eric and Tavis was able to catch up.
Eric crossing highway 15
Jonathan was rushing to Pine Mt., getting low there, flying all the way back to Cloud, recovering and making a second lap also catch up with us around that time. He choose deeper line toward Cucamonga peak and I joined him, while everyone else took more south line over the crest. Our line was better because wind was from the north and we stay on windward side, plus it was shorter. Then we all meet over Cucamonga except Jonathan who already crossed Mt. Baldy Rd. and had serious lead on us (does hang gliders fly faster or what?). We topped out around 11K and went over Ontario Peak. Beautiful scenery, especially snow on the peaks. I noticed blue Delta 2 flying deep line and was pretty sure that it's Ziggy flying with me. Only after we made it to Kagel I learned that it was Paul. Same glider, same color and the same flying style leaving thermals early and committing to deep lines without landable options.
Baldy Mt. (middle), Ontario (left)
There was north to north easy wind, so pushing upwind toward Baldy was out of the question. Next section was the most difficult part of the route, I know it very well from my previous Kagel to Marshall attempts. Surprisingly all of us made it though, but via different lines. Front points typically very windy and you can stuck there forever, so I and blue Delta 2 choose deep line, Eric and Tavis went to the front and Russ split the difference. We got a good climb with Paul after crossing highway 39, but still not enough altitude to glide directly to Monrovia on the back ridge and made slight detour toward Mt. Bliss.
Looking south toward Azusa

Monrovia Peak ahead
Now I was in the lead and pilots who took front line have to climb out from low altitudes and catch up. Time was 15:45 near Monrovia Peak and I start worrying about SW breeze. It could materialize any minute and that's pretty much end of the game. I pushed bar and stop taking thermals with few exceptions where they was absolutely necessary.
Mt. Wilson
As it turned out taking climb near Big T to 7.6K was important for making goal. It's near Big T where I first encounter SW breeze, strong and laminar air blocking thermal activity and slowing down my progress. I can't even clear Trash and have to go around and ridge soar to the top. But finally I flew by Kagel launch:

Jonathan was first to complete the route landing at 16:30 after tagging West Towers as well, I was second at 17:30, then Tavis 5 minutes later and finally Paul. Russ was only 1 mile short from LZ, he landed in front of Trash and hiked to LZ. Eric landed in Big Tujunga Canyon. I also met Greg Kendall (HG) near Monrovia Peak who flew opposite direction from Kagel to Marshall.

Me, Jonathan and Tavis at Kagel LZ
Tracks: AlexTavisRussGreg
Discussions: Kagel ForumCrestline Forum